How to hunt successfully with family and friends
We were 6 days into a backcountry mule deer hunt in Colorado. My brother and I had been looking forward to this hunt all year long. This was a newer type of hunt for us, taking place up above tree line, and setting us in pursuit of velvet high country bucks.
Backcountry hunts are hard though, and sooner than later, our anticipation and excitement turned to something different. Something darker and more poisonous. The rigors of this adventure we’d dreamed about for years was waning in a bad way and affecting our relationship. He was mad at me for being too serious and I was mad at him for not being serious enough.
You may be best friends or tight-knit family at home, but being out in the field can challenge your relationships if you aren’t mentally ready for a hunt.
It was ugly, and both of us hated every second of it. Hunting with family and friends should never look like this, but sometimes what is truly important gets lost in the weeds of the hunt. Here are some things to ponder over, should you find yourself lost in the thick of it.
Why So Serious?
Serious hunters, the ones that get it done on a regular basis, tend to be serious in the field. It’s what keeps them on track, driven, and focused. If someone wants to get good at something, it’s natural to start taking it more seriously. There is a threshold here though. A point in which that seriousness starts affecting the ones around you. Whether that is not paying mind to your significant other come hunting season or holding resentment towards your brother in the field.
As you plan your hunt, and when you’re out in the field, think about how serious your friend or family member is about hunting. You might have to dial it up or down to be good partners.
The key to all of this, is walking a line. There needs to be a balance and a realization that your loved ones are more important than any hunt you’ll go on. They are your support system and the ones that can impart the friendly reminder that….you ready for this? This hunting thing is supposed to be fun. A way for us to shake off the city and take a load off, all the while testing our moxie on both the animals and the country they call home.
Not everyone is going to have the same level of drive or enthusiasm as you, and to ignore that, is to ignore your relationship.
What is Success?
On the very surface, success in hunting is usually associated with filling those tags. While they are indeed our tickets to the fun house, they are not the only measure of success. The pulling of a trigger literally lasts a second. One second out of a weeklong hunt is not a whole lot. So much else happens on these hunts, and with the right perspective, these things are undoubtedly wins.
It reminds me of my first bear hunt. At the time, a friend and I knew absolutely nothing, but were nonetheless putting in the work, somewhat aimlessly might I add. We spent some truly quality time together out there and even managed to see a bear. While I didn’t fill that tag, we walked away from that adventure reinvigorated, both about bears and more opportunities to hunt together in the future. Just thinking about the conversations we had on the way home gets my blood pumping.
A filled tag isn’t the only success you can find in the field. Getting closer with friends and family is a trophy all its own.
Another thing that comes to mind is my Dad. For years and years, he took me out as a youngster with him deer hunting. The amount of deer that I probably spooked because of noise, movement, etc. is more than I can recall. He didn’t care though. Old Dad never got a deer when I was a kid. What he did get though years later was a clinically-obsessed-about-hunting son. He made it fun and never put a lot of pressure on me, which is important to note for parents out there. The success was never about the hunt, but more so the big picture.
As a person walks the path of a hunter, it’s easy to get caught up in the hunt. Relationships are ruined, fist fights are had, and soon what is truly important drifts from view. In these moments, it’s important to look back and remember your why.
Remember why you’re out there in the first place and what continuously pulls you towards the mountains. It’s the love and memories made that does it. The laughs you have with a friend around a fire or the feeling of your heart beating through your shirt during a close encounter with that huge bull elk screaming in your face.
And then there is the camaraderie that you share with others. When someone lifts you back up to your knees after missing, or when the two of you tightly embrace when met with a filled tag. I’ve been fortunate to take some first timers out in the field in the last few years. Folks that are some damn good friends, but never hunted too much. When I see their wide, saucer-like eyes after showing them, say the bucks we’re hunting, and hear the undeniable excitement in their voice when we talk about it? That right there is a reminder of my why and the start of theirs.
On the morning of that sixth day in the Colorado backcountry, my brother and I awoke with a new goal. No more stress. No more arguing about what we should or shouldn’t do. Our number one goal from that point forth was to have fun. We simply wanted to enjoy this amazing place that we were so fortunate to call home for a week and to do it together. That evening I shot my first high country mule deer and it was a hunt that my brother and I won’t soon forget. Tears were shed, apologies were made, and we left refreshed.
There’s nothing like the memories you make with friends and family while out hunting.
The mountains have a way of shaping us and on the hike back to the truck lead by our headlamps that night, we felt the weight both in our packs and our minds. Those pure and raw moments will live on well past the hunt and hold lessons that we’ll remember for the future. As hardcore as some of us are in the field, the quality time in quality places with quality people is the real trophy.