Achieving consistent elk hunting success can certainly be a process – one that often involves multiple failures along the way. Several factors contribute to this process, but one I feel is worth mentioning at the top of the list is a good hunting partner. A hunting partner can be a crucial piece of elk hunting success and, sometimes just as importantly, elk hunting “un”-success. Finding someone who will pick you up when elk hunting has you beat down, as well as contribute to your success, is a vital part of elk hunting.
I’ve had the pleasure (and sometimes, displeasure) of hunting with several folks over the years. Overall, the experiences have been very positive and I’ve formed some great friendships that have evolved far beyond hunting camp. I’ve learned a great deal about elk hunting from almost everyone I’ve shared an elk camp with, and feel I’m a better elk hunter today for those experiences. Before you hastily jump out on Craigslist and start looking for your next elk hunting partner, however, I would like to suggest three important characteristics to look for when searching for a good elk hunting partner. They are:
It may seem somewhat obvious if you have a good hunting partner, but finding someone who hunts the same way you do is quite important. If you’re an aggressive caller and they are a slow, methodical spot and stalker, there’s going to be some conflict. Or, if you prefer to pattern the elk and hang a treestand while your partner blows through bedding areas, there’s likely going to be some uncomfortable silence back at camp each evening.
It’s important to evaluate the style of hunting that best describes you. Be clear in your expectations when you begin talking to a fellow hunter about accompanying you. Is filling your tag the most important aspect of the hunt? Are you going to be passing up smaller bulls waiting for a big one? Do you hunt all day or come back to camp for midday naps? All of these factors can become points of contention if they aren’t clearly addressed up front.
This is the one area I feel has contributed more to my success than any other – being able to hunt with someone who wants me to be as successful as I do. I can vividly remember several hunts in high school and college where I would be set up as the shooter with a hunting partner calling from behind. Several times, I would look over and see my hunting partner sneaking ahead of me to set up on the approaching bull. This turned into a game of chess between hunting partners, rather than between hunter and elk, and never ended in success. Conversation were often uncomfortable as we tried to hash out who would be the shooter, while a bull screamed out challenges in the not-so-distant background.
Soon after graduating from college, I found a hunting partner that changed the way I hunt and opened my eyes to a whole new level of success. Expecting another uncomfortable conversation about who was going to get first crack, I nearly swallowed my elk call when he offered to leave his bow in the truck and just call. Within days, we were complimenting each others’ hunting style naturally, often arguing about who would get to be the caller. Successes were celebrated as team victories, and jealousy and envy were nowhere to be found. I feel my success more than tripled due to sharing in this new-found, unselfish elk hunting partnership.
The last key to finding a good hunting partner is finding someone you can get along with, especially when things don’t go as planned. Elk hunting can be filled with disappointment and challenges, and it sometimes takes the encouragement of someone else to help us dig deep and persevere. The last thing I want at elk camp is someone who is ready to throw in the towel before the last second of the last day – or, someone who finds the negative in every situation. Elk hunting is a physically demanding venture, but it is often the mental side of hunting that gets to most hunters before they fill their tag. Having a good partner that will make you laugh when you miss, or push you over the next ridge in search of a bugling bull, can be the difference between success and failure.
Over the years, I’ve learned the true value of a good hunting partner. The characteristics I’ve outlined don’t do a lot of good if they end up being possessed by only half of the team, however. If you expect to find someone with these qualities to hunt with, it’s important that you carry your weight as well. Once you find a hunting partner that hunts like you do and is more excited for your success than their own, you’ll be well on your way to producing not only consistent success, but lasting memories for many elk seasons to come.