By TIM E. HOVEY
A few weeks back, WON published a fishing piece on party boat fishing etiquette. The article described the unspoken rules of being a team player while fishing on a recreational fishing boat. From camping in front of the bait tank, casting over others and not doing the tuna shuffle during a drift, the piece outlined the definite “don’ts” when fishing in a confined space with strangers. To avoid any issues on my next fishing trip, I read the article with interest.
I started to think that maybe a similar piece could be drafted to describe the examples of “not being that guy” during a hunt. More specifically, how to act when someone has decided to include you on a hunting trip. This piece will simply outline the common mistakes new hunters may want to avoid when being included on a day hunt.
When it comes to bringing new people into hunting, a huge part of the responsibility does lie with the host. Just like with multi-day fishing trips, your inner voice knows if the person you’re including on the trip is a good fit, or simply filling your required roster. Bringing new hunters along is no different, and that screening process is important.
Much like with fishing spots, hunting locations are a heavily guarded secret and often specifics are held close to the vest. For this reason, if someone decides to share a hunting experience with you, you should definitely obey the following steps if you ever want to be asked back.
TRY FINDING THEM YOURSELF
It seems to me that in the current world of constant connection, everyone wants to take the easiest path to get what they want. This at times can be seen on outdoor forums where individuals new to hunting will simply ask for locations to hunt. This is equivalent in the fishing world to asking for numbers (waypoints) to specific locations. You just don’t do it. And chances are, the forum responses will light up with very colorful suggestions illustrating your error in etiquette.
Back when I spent a lot of time on forums, I’d occasionally get asked where I hunted or where I got into certain species whenever I posted a story about a successful outing. My standard response would be to post up a photo of California. Just like with fishing spots, hunting spots are hard earned through tanks of gas, extensive scouting, boot leather and just plain-old effort. To expect to be led to these areas without putting in your own time is rude and won’t get you anywhere. Study the habits of the animals you’re chasing and get out there and try to find your own secret spots.
KNOW YOUR GUEST
If you participate in an activity long enough and have some success, you’ll start to receive requests from almost total strangers to tag along. Unfortunately, in the hunting world, you have to choose your participants carefully. I don’t frequently include those that I barely know into the fold, but if I do, that first trip is less about hunting and more about evaluating the new person’s gun safety, personality and overall likeability. I know it sounds more like a job interview and may sound a bit unfair, but it’s the way I’ve handled bringing new people along and it has worked for me. If you’re going to spend the whole day in the truck with me, I better like you or it simply won’t work out.
The flip side of the internet forums is that you can also get a bit of history on those that share your passion. You can review past posts and see how others hunt. Are they hard-chargers that really get after it and go from sunup to sundown? Do they head out late, come back early and spend more time goofing off than hunting? Honestly, I enjoy a pace
that lands somewhere in between. I enjoy the pursuit, but I’m all about having fun as well. Reviewing those older forum posts will give you a glimpse into to who exactly will be sitting next to you for the day.
So, you’ve made it through the review process. Texts have been traded and a date for the outing has been set. You’ve decided on a meeting location and it’s time to meet up and head out to the wild. That first trip will more than likely be a get-to-know-you trip and will involve a little target shooting to assess gun safety and maybe a little small game hunting. If you want to leave a good first impression, employ a go-with-the-flow attitude and just enjoy the day out. Constantly suggesting a change of plans or repeatedly asking to be shown better spots will definitely cut the trip short. And you should probably know, it will be years before I show you any “good spots.”
DON’T BE LATE
One of my biggest pet peeves is being late for anything. Consequently, I don’t much tolerate waiting for people. In today’s world, a simple text or call saying you’re running late is good enough to keep me from leaving. However, if someone has offered to take you out and show you a few things, have the courtesy to show up on time or better yet, a little early. Much like if you’re late at the dock for a fishing trip, my wheeled vessel will leave you in the parking lot if I have to wait too long.
PITCH IN FOR GAS
Sharing the cost of gas during a trip seems so obvious but believe it or not, I’ve seen people never leave their seat or reach for their wallet when we pull into a gas station. An almost unspoken rule of sharing a ride is that the passenger either pitches in or at the very least, offers to pay for gas. I once had a guy say, “Well, you were going to be out here anyway,” when the gas issue came up. I looked at him and smiled, knowing that he would never hunt with me again, and I haven’t seen him since.
Just know that the driver is doing you a favor when it comes to taking you a long, and in all reality, he really doesn’t have to. When a trip expense presents itself, whether it’s gas or food, make the offer. My hunting buddies and I have gotten to the stage where the passenger either pays for gas or food, but not both. And really, at times, the offer is all I’m looking for. And remember, you will never be asked when it’s time to share the cost, but you will always be observed.
Occasionally, I’ll hunt in areas that have access gates. These gates are usually used to keep cattle from wandering and should always be left as they were found. When it comes to opening and closing these gates, that task falls on the new guy. If the person in the passenger seat is unfamiliar with the specifics of gate duty, I will remind him once. The trip will go faster, and your host will appreciate your effort. In short, you should do whatever you can to make the trip seamless
THE BEST FOR LAST
If someone takes the time to show you some spots, it absolutely goes without saying that you should not return to these areas without the host, or God forbid, take your buddies there. All of the citizens own public land and you’re not forbidden on returning, but common sense and outdoor etiquette dictate that you just don’t do it. Or at the very least, ask first.
I once had an individual continually beg me to take him coyote hunting, but due to some unsavory history, I always passed on including him. Last year my adult daughter wanted to get a tattoo commemorating her first harvested coyote. I actually designed the artwork and she wanted it to include the latitude and longitude of exactly where we were on that special day. Somehow this individual found the tattoo post on my daughter’s Instagram account and actually took down those numbers. He then posted a photo of himself standing near our spot. Long story short, if you walked up to any of my immediate family and asked them who the idiot clown is, they would all know who you’re talking about.
Most of these unspoken rules are simply common sense for normal, polite people. However, I’ve run into a few individuals that were obviously holding the door when those attributes were being handed out. This is the reason I keep my hunting circle small, and my current hunting buddies are the sterling examples by which others are measured. If you want to get asked back, be respectful, pay your way and open and close a gate or two.