Secret Bowhunting Tip #4: Hunt Alone
As a young hunter I frequently hunted with a buddy, whether it was out of fear of being alone or just to have some company. But in most cases we both failed to get a deer. Consequently I quickly learned to hunt alone.
The main reason why you shouldn’t hunt with a partner is because it doubles your scent, noise, and visibility to the deer. And since a partner will probably be chatting about something, it actually triples the noise you’d normally make.
An equally important reason to hunt alone is because another person is prone to challenge crucial decisions you might make when relying on your hunting instincts. Oftentimes, and for no logical reason, I’m suddenly compelled to go left instead of right. But my hunting partner is simultaneously compelled to go right! Or maybe I feel strongly about traveling uphill, but he thinks we should go down. So instead of making a simple, subconscious, instinctual decision to do anything, you stand in the woods arguing your case. Finally you reach a compromise, and instead of going left or right, you go straight ahead into failure.
The problem with compromising—or splitting the decisions equally—you shoot each other in the foot. Your God-given instincts are rendered useless. You cease to be a predator and become a lemming. That’s the main real reason I hunt alone. Other than elk hunting where you might need a caller, or if you happen to be mentoring a youth or novice hunter, I can’t think of a single situation where it would be beneficial to hunt with another person.
That being said, each year I participate in other people’s hunts, whether it’s my son, my wife, a friend, or a family member. It’s important to pass along bits of the wisdom or woodcraft to the next generation. But these are special cases, and I’m usually not the one hunting anyway.
Sometimes, out of pity or just for fun, I’ll let someone tag along with me on a bowhunt. Some people just haven’t learned to hunt alone, or maybe I’m bringing someone to a new area and want to show them around. What I’ve noticed with most “buddy-hunters” is that they’re usually stubborn know-it-alls. The reason they don’t hunt alone is because they haven’t learned that they should. These people sometimes heed my advice, but for the most part they go right back to doing their own thing, but rarely having success. When I hunt with these people, I have little expectation for success. Sometimes I don’t even take my bow out of the sling.
One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in life is that you can’t help people who aren’t willing to help themselves. You can lead them to the best areas, but they’re gonna make the same mistakes they always made: underestimating deer, making too much noise, moving with the wind instead of against it, over-packing, resting when they should be moving or moving when they should be sitting.
When hunting alone, safety is a much greater concern. Some areas—such as the High Uinta Mountains—are just too big and rugged to venture into alone. One false step and no one will ever find your body. But that doesn’t necessarily mean I should hunt with another person. I’m really camping with them. In the morning when the hunt begins, I’m going out on my own. In dangerous areas it’s good to have someone else in the general area—just not right next to you.
In two decades of bowhunting, I haven’t arrowed a single animal with someone standing next to me. Bowhunting is not a team sport. If you have a regular hunting partner, that’s great. Just make sure you set out in opposite directions when your hunt begins.
Click here for the next tip: Secret Bowhunting Tip #5: Enlarge Your Consciousness