I am somewhat of a loner—I have taken more than 20 bowhunting road trips and on the majority of them, I’ve gone it alone. I partnered up with my buddy Ron on three occasions, twice to North Dakota and once to Missouri. I have found there are pros and cons to both scenarios. Let’s take a look at both sides of the equation and hopefully help you make an informed decision on your next trip.
Many people like to have someone to share the highs and lows of hunting with them. It can be nice have someone lay a high-five on you when you put a good buck on the ground after days of working at it. The enjoyment of sharing the things you love with another who has the same passions cannot be overstated.
Many of the best partner relationships are those in which the two are quite opposite in many ways. If you are the kind that has a really hard time rolling out of bed at 5:30 a.m. for the sixth cold morning in a row, having a partner that is consistently up and singing in the shower at five might be the right guy to keep you moving. Any partner that isn’t at least as passionate as you are is going to be a drag on your success.
Another thing to consider is your partner’s skill and knowledge level. If you are from the Eastern United States and hunting in the Great Plains for the first time, it would be really helpful to have a partner with experience hunting that habitat to shorten the learning curve. Anytime you have a strength where your partner has a weakness and he has a strength that compliments your weakness, you have the makings of a successful partnership.
Sharing expenses is a huge plus when it comes to hunting with a partner. Paying for half a motel room and half of the gas can make or break your ability to afford an out-of-state hunt. Keep in mind that having two guys and one vehicle can hinder your options, and may mean you stand by the road in the dark while he finds his way back to the truck from his stand. Even by taking two vehicles (I’ve done it both ways and two vehicles are much better than one) you still at least share expenses of lodging and some other small expenses.
The safety value in having a partner is another issue that must be considered. Having someone nearby who knows right where you are and can come at the ring of a cell phone is very reassuring. Convenience is another big one. Having someone to take a photo is just one of dozens of small things that add up. Having help to gut and drag a deer, haul and put up stands, check trail cameras, and accomplish other tasks is a great asset.
Sometimes a guy that you get along with just fine in a non-hunting context has a few irritating habits that don’t surface until you’re in the field. It might not be a bad idea to take a weekend scouting trip and look for signs that this relationship might have some issues that need to be dealt with. Does your partner snore? That can be huge to some people.
Here’s another very common scenario: you go on a weeklong hunt with your buddy and he shoots a deer the first day. Now he’s missing his wife and kids and he’s sitting in the motel watching game shows while you hunt each day. The pressure to leave early mounts by the hour. What if you were the guy who killed early? How are you going to handle that situation? You’d better have a well-communicated plan ahead of time.
Here’s the biggest negative of all for me. I have done a pile of these out-of-state hunts and I have learned that getting a buck or not almost always comes down to a very limited number of good spots. Often it’s one location where you just know it’s going to happen if you put in your time there. With a partner, you have two guys, yet one spot that is clearly the best spot for any given day with the wind and other prevailing conditions. Who gets it? I hate to sound selfish, but I want to be in that spot. It’s hard enough to kill a mature buck on road-trip hunts without having to split up the premiere locations.
I love the feeling of accomplishment that comes from doing it all on my own, but I am really fortunate that my occasional partner Ron is a great guy who loves to get away and have a fun hunt without putting a lot of pressure on himself or me. I enjoy spending time with and we seem to be able to give and take back and forth with minimal problems. I’m grateful for the hunts we’ve had together and we’ll have some more I am sure.
Each person is different and even each hunt can offer variables that adjust the priorities of the pros and cons. Look at each hunt individually and analyze the options. Whichever you choose, good luck on your next hunt.
Follow Bernie’s bowhunting adventures on his blog, bowhuntingroad.com.
Images courtesy Bernie Barringer