"Know thyself." — Socrates
I glanced over at him from the passenger's seat and frowned. He was doing it again. As soon as he started one of his long-winded, boring stories, he also slowed the truck down and we hobbled along at a snail's pace.
We were going hunting. We needed to get down the road. Time — and the turkeys — would not wait for us. I gritted my teeth and tried to endure his driving and the monologue.
Because I had nothing better to do than grind another layer of enamel off my choppers, I decided to go over my hunting buddy's long list of shortcomings. I impaled him with a cynical stare and pretended to listen to his tale. Listing this guy's legion of faults was going to take some time.
I tuned his tedious narrative into the background, and then something occurred to me. In noting my partner's many sins in the field, I might come up with a list of ways to be a better hunting buddy. I allowed myself a self-righteous smile and started compiling the list while he droned on.
For heaven's sake, be the guy who is usually on time. Few things are more aggravating than having to continually wait on the guy who can't be on time. Hunters know success in the field often depends on being in the right place at the right time. If you are late for pre-dawn meetings, you may find yourself being left out of the mix. Usually getting there on time only requires you to get out of the rack 15 to 20 minutes earlier. Get up and get your feet on the floor — you are going hunting!
Unless you are going to a barbecue, nobody likes a hog. This one is as old as the bubonic plague. No one wants to be around the guy who constantly helps himself to the first shot, the best stand and the first place in the chow line. I have seen this surface quite a bit in the duck blind and the bird field. Don't be so quick on the draw all of the time. Take note as to how many birds, doves or ducks the other members in your party have taken. Experienced hunters know sometimes just pausing for a second or two will allow the guy next to you in the blind the first shot. Be the guy who pauses and watches his buddy make (or miss) that shot. If it is a less experienced or younger hunter, by all means give him the shot. If he downs the bird, tell him that is one more you don't have to clean.
If you need help, ask for it. If others need help, give it. Unless you are a solitary, grouchy old turkey hunter who often hunts alone (such as I am), hunting is often a gregarious activity with several members involved. This is when the sport is the most fun. Deer hunting, duck hunting, a big pheasant drive or an afternoon following the squirrel dogs can often involve several people.
It's OK if there is a foreman or huntmaster to organize the whole thing, but everyone should be included and given a task. Deer hunters know the real work begins when the venison hits the ground. If possible, be the guy who shows up and helps with field dressing and dragging out that buck. Again, if the one in need is a recent devotee to the sport — and especially if it's a youngster — give him or her a hand. You don't have to do everything. Just help out a little. I promise they will appreciate it. Oh yeah, do I even have to mention about helping out around camp with cooking, washing dishes, firewood and other chores? I didn't think so.
I was jolted awake when my amigo drove into a pothole in the road big enough to bury an average-sized moose. Furious, I looked over to let him have it and was shocked to see the guy I was listing numerous faults for was none other than me. Yes, it was me — the guy I thought was so lovable and everyone wanted to have around and go hunting with.
Was it possible that I was guilty of some of these shortcomings as a hunting partner? Fascinating.
How about you? Is it even remotely possible you could be guilty of some of these transgressions?
If you have been hunting for very long, you know this is a very incomplete list. Boys and girls, my brothers and sisters in camo, we are going into a new hunting season, full of wonder and excitement. Many of you think it took forever to get here; some of you know it will be gone before you know it.
Maybe this year each of us can strive to be a better hunting partner. Help out a less experienced hunter, share some of that wisdom and take a kid hunting.
How would you like to be remembered when your chair at camp is empty?
"The Trail Less Traveled" is written by Larry Case, who lives in Fayette County, W.Va. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.