The Hunting Buddy

By Earl Taylor

Vivek Murthy, a former surgeon general of the United States, has said in recent years that the most prevalent health issue in the country is not cancer or heart disease or obesity. It is isolation. Murthy’s comment is good news to us who are overweight; finding a friend should be easier than losing 40 pounds. But perhaps not. Finding a true hunting buddy is difficult.

There are some people I am not able to be around for very long. They talk too much, or they can’t sit still long enough to allow the hunt to take its course. Hunting and fishing take time, it takes patience, and it takes persistence for the right outcome. I would not seek out this person to be my hunting buddy for life. Hunting buddies are developed slowly; there has to be a large dose of trust between both men. And trust is built by both parties when they perform as expected.

What makes a great buddy in the timber or a bass boat? When do you know when you have a buddy and when you just have a one-time encounter? I know immediately after the first hunt whether someone has potential to hunt with me the second time. Here are several character traits I want to find within someone I am willing to share my boat with or sit in my deer blind.

• Compatibility- Hunting buddies, must have the ability to understand and work alongside each other. I stay late in a treestand. I wait until the last minute before descending the tree. I have had hunting partners leave their blind or treestand before it gets dark and walks back to the truck during prime time; I don’t choose to hunt with them anymore. If the Apostle Paul couldn’t work with John Mark, it seems ok that I can’t hunt with just anyone. I don’t do deer drives during shotgun season for this reason- trying to coordinate a bunch of strangers into a cohesive hunting unit is near impossible; it is like herding cats. They don’t know my ways or my thoughts, and I certainly don’t understand their ways. Give me a small push drive with just one hunting buddy, and it always produces.

• Availability- My hunting buddy needs to be on the same type of schedule and has similar priorities as me. When it is time to hunt, there are no excuses. Hunting time is hunting time; it is not football and hunting. He needs to have a similar commitment to the hunt. Casual hunters frustrate serious hunters, and serious hunters frustrate casual hunters. Both partners need to have a similar drive.

• Reliability- Everyone has a sweet honey hole that produces every year, and a hunting buddy needs to be able to keep his mouth shut. A great hunting partner should be able to be counted on to help drag out a harvested animal or track a wounded one without even having to be asked. He volunteers to set up camp, clean up camp, and contribute to the camp. He pulls his weight and does not expect to be waited on or handled with kid gloves. A great hunting buddy is no prima donna.

• Morality: There are hunters who smoke and drink, and there are others who don’t. There are those who swear and tell questionable stories, and there are those who don’t. Regardless of which camp you are in, your hunting buddy should be cut of the same type of cloth. Nothing is more uncomfortable than being around someone who believes and acts totally different than you; and that goes for religion or politics.

• Flexibility- Life is busy. Work is demanding, and sometimes the family’s needs must be met. Being flexible also allows both buddies to adjust to unforeseen events. It helps both to understand that there is a life outside the timber. It creates an alibi to say, “I can’t hunt today.”

• Accountability- Both men need to have similar values and live out those values. If one buddy is always living on the edge of breaking the law or a regulation, while the other is “by the book” always, there will be conflict. Both need to be able to hold each other accountable to respect and obey all regulations. Both need to be safety conscious and handle any weapons with care. When someone handles a firearm sloppy-like, I don’t want to be walking near him.

• Finance-ability- Both persons need to have similar financial resources. If one has a champagne taste for a fishing outing, and the other has a beer budget, the relationship will not work. One buddy can’t expect to cover the other buddies hunting expenses. Poor works well with poor and rich works best with rich and we should all be fine with that.

I recently headed to my cabin to fish and hunt. For the first three days, I did this by myself. It was nice and quiet, but I missed the comradery that comes with having my brother here at the same time. When I limit out with trout, there is no one to share the fun and eat the fish with me. When I shoot a turkey, there is no one to take the picture or slap me on the back.

Dr. Richard S. Schwartz, author of, The Lonely American: Drifting Apart in the Twenty-First Century, says the following:” Study after study shows that those who were more socially isolated were much more likely to die during a given period than their socially connected neighbors, even after you corrected for age, gender and lifestyle choices like exercising and eating right. Loneliness has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke and the progression of Alzheimer’s“. What is Schwartz saying? Very simply: Having a friend is good medicine!

Men need shared experiences in order to relate to each other. Look at the army. Look at the football field. Men who fight battles and endure pain together are bonded together for life. Men can’t talk themselves into a relationship with each other; they have to do something together before a bond is built. Women are different; women need to talk to maintain and build their relationships. Women need face to face time or at least phone time. Not men; men need action and a challenge to be connected at a deeper level.

Typically men are not talkers. Men like doing stuff. Men like building. Men like sitting in a bass boat together; but men don’t talk much. When men arrive home, the wife usually will ask what was talked about with your fishing buddy, “Nothing,” says the husband. “We just had a great time fishing.” And probably his answer is more accurate than you might think. Quiet works for men. That isn’t to say women don’t display those traits, but in large part there is that obvious divide.

Seldom do you see pictures of men hugging each other when standing behind a line of dead deer; men stand shoulder to shoulder, looking straight ahead as if they are imagining the next great battle (hunt). That is the way we are wired. At 50 years old, there is no chance to join the army or play on a football team, so we hunt with someone and encounter hardship and adverse weather conditions together.

My definition for the word buddy is a like-minded companion. If you have one who shares your outdoor adventures, you are blessed. You can expect a long life. If you have not found one, begin the scouting process of finding one who has the seven character traits listed above. You can be on different skills set levels, but you cannot be at different character levels. As they say in grade school, “character counts.”

If in the future when your wife comments about you spending too much time in the fall with the buddy, you now can say, “It is either him or Alzheimers. Which can you live with?”