The Blueprint for a Good (or Bad) Hunting Buddy

The Blueprint for a Good (or Bad) Hunting Buddy

It’s hard to say exactly what makes for a good hunting buddy, but as they say with defining pornography, you know it when you see it.

A hunting buddy is, obviously, a practical asset. An extra set of hands, another pair of eyes, a strong back, an extra driver, another contributor to the gas fund. But a good hunting buddy is so much more. They’re a sounding board, a counselor, a cheerleader, and a compatriot in whatever miseries or joys your hunt doles out.

As valuable as a good hunting buddy can be, falling prey to a bad one might be even worse. The fishing writer John Gierach once wrote something to the effect that the river is full of only two groups of people; your fishing buddies and the assholes. But what happens when your fishing or hunting buddies and the assholes are one and the same? And even more troubling to consider, what if that buddy is you?


I’ve got a pal; we’ll call him Bob, who once got eight hours into a drive to meet a friend for a week-long Western hunt. Then out of the blue, his buddy called and canceled the whole dang trip. Eight hours in! That is a bad hunting buddy.

Fast forward to another hunt with these two and an agreement was made between them not to hunt a prized beanfield except during the evenings, when conditions were best and when each of them could cycle through and get a chance to hunt this primo location. Early one morning, several days in, Bob’s buddy says he wants to spot and stalk in a new spot. They head off in their separate directions, but Bob shoots a deer and happens to head to the road early. Early enough to spot his buddy pulling away from the forbidden bean field. Bob confronts the pal, who at first lies about where he was, and then finally admits that he did in fact hunt the beanfield behind his back. That is a bad hunting buddy.

This version of the bad hunting buddy is the selfish one, the guy more focused on their own schedule, their own plans, their own success. When you shoot a big buck, he’s jealous. When you need a hand, he’s busy. The flip side to this guy, the good version, is the hunting buddy who is truly selfless. The one willing to sacrifice their time, energy, or efforts for the greater good. The one in it for the team. This reminds me of another friend of mine, who I’ll refer to as Frank.


Frank and I were on a hunt together last year in September. It was one of those hot, early-season archery hunts where everything is seemingly out to get you. The mosquitos, the briars, the testy cow moose and calf standing in the middle of the trail in the predawn gray. Between the sweat, stings, and scares, it’s not an easy endeavor. And that’s not to mention the eight miles of hiking we had to do daily to get in and out of our public land hunting spot. Frank had a lot of things he could have complained about. But he never did. Frank was up early every morning with coffee in hand, a smile on his face, and the words to the latest dance-pop hits on his lips (singing along with me, I should add). When the hunting was slow, he never faltered. And when he missed a giant buck—twice—he just grit his teeth and kept on hunting. No bitching. No heavy head. No negative energy. This is a very, very good hunting buddy.

A good hunting buddy is like a portable generator providing the energy necessary for a good time and a successful hunt. If that fuel source stays strong and positive, you can weather any storm. But if instead your companion turns to negative town, things can go south quick. This guy—the hunting buddy who gives up after the first mishap, who gets quiet and sultry when someone else has success, who has already given up hope just a few tough days in—is like a leech. This character sucks the good vibes, hope, and chutzpah out of a hunting group faster than any bad hunting luck could.

If an intervention isn’t possible, the best thing is to scrape this person off the side of your foot, wipe off the blood, and keep moving. And if a tiny voice in the back of your mind is reluctantly whispering, “that might be you…” then YES, it is you. Change your ways or prepare for a long, lonely life of solo hunts. No one wants to share a camp or fire or cross-country road trip with a bad attitude.

The Full Package

This all brings to mind another hunt a few years back with Frank. We arrived at a shared hunting spot several hours before dark on one of those picture-perfect cold, clear November mornings. Hopping out of the truck, now parked in the landowner’s driveway, I packed my gear and headed off to set a new stand before daylight.

Meanwhile, Frank hurriedly organized his own equipment while nervously stewing on the prospects of a potentially all-time great rut hunt. As sometimes happens with this particular friend of mine, his anxious excitement was so intense that his bowels became frenzied as well. With no time to spare and too far a distance to run out of the landowner’s yard, Frank grabbed a plastic grocery bag, squatted behind the truck, and took care of things. When finished, he tied the handles of the bag into a double overhand knot, I imagine him chuckling at this point, and then carefully placed his package behind the truck tire with a grim sense of satisfaction. He didn’t panic. He didn’t falter. He simply assessed his situation, used the available resources, and continued on with a smile.

Hours later, smack in the middle of the best window of the best morning of hunting we’d had yet that season, I called Frank and told him I’d just arrowed a giant. Was he disappointed that buck hadn’t come his way instead? Did he want to keep hunting to take advantage of the great conditions himself? No and no. Only minutes later, he was out of the tree and on his way to help, as happy as if he’d shot a buck himself and not worried about sacrificing his day of hunting. It was a decision made as effortlessly as grabbing that plastic sack just hours earlier.

And that’s the thing about a good hunting buddy. When you find the right one, it’s effortless. This kind of friend is an extension of you, simultaneously making you more than you ever could have been on your own. All the while making you laugh, cry, and occasionally cringe along the way. That, my friends, is something worth hunting for.

Feature image via Captured Creative.

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