Solitude can be nice…
But as with most good things in life, it’s harder to really excel at something when you’re by yourself.
We may tell ourselves that we work better alone, and that may be true for some people. But at a certain point, we can’t grow anymore without someone else to give us that gentle nudge to improve.
Without new and different ideas or a challenge to push ourselves, we stagnate and fall short of the potential person we could have been.
It’s the same for learning to hunt. Without a hunting partner, we can only get as good as we know how to hunt.
Many hunters grew up with a family hunting tradition and whole community of people behind them, which encouraged their interest and helped them develop their skills. But if you didn’t have that experience, finding a hunting partner is a good way to fill that void.
Without a sense of community, any mistakes you make might discourage you and push you closer to quitting. But with a hunting partner, you can help each other through the pitfalls and encourage one another to keep going.
And although hunting can be a refreshing solo adventure, it’s nice to experience the outdoors with a friend once in a while. Let’s look at some ways you can find a hunting partner by next fall.
The Process of Gaining a Hunting Partner
You know those pushy salespeople at stores that just barrage you as soon as you pass them? That’s exactly what you don’t want to do.
You have to date people a little bit before you ask them to marry you. If you start by sharing stories and asking simple questions, you’re more likely to get a ‘yes’ from them when the big question comes.
Also important, realize that not everyone will want to hunt. Don’t take it personally if someone you really like (or even love) says no. It just might not float their boat.
How the Conversation Should Unfold
Start the conversation by sharing a story about you and the outdoors; either a refreshing, adventurous, or humorous one, depending on the person. Then invite them along for a scouting trip or shed hunting excursion one day, which is really just a walk in the woods. See if they enjoy being outdoors and especially watch their reaction if you flush an animal from cover. If they are excited by it (even if they’re scared out of their wits), you might have a shot.
Now it’s time to pop the big question. It should go without saying, but don’t ask “Hey, would you want to be my new hunting partner?” That’s a definite red flag for most people.
Instead, try saying, “I’m going grouse hunting this weekend. Would you want to come check it out?” Alternatively, try, “I’ve been thinking about going to this hunting seminar this weekend. Would you want to go with?”
This is a good way to phrase the question because it doesn’t require a huge commitment and it’s very informal-sounding. If they aren’t comfortable, they can easily say no without feeling bad.
Where to Find Hunting Partners
First and foremost, you need to find someone you trust and who trusts you. It turns out very few people like walking into a remote area with a stranger who’s holding a gun. Crazy, right? Keep hunting safety at the front of your mind at all times and trust your gut.
Let’s start with family members first, since you probably know and trust them the best. If you didn’t grow up hunting with them, maybe you could be the catalyst that changes that and starts the tradition. Try asking your parents, siblings, cousins, etc. – whoever you think would be a fun hunting buddy.
But like many millennials (myself included), you might have moved away from family to a bigger city and it’s just not practical to hunt together very often. Feel free to still start the conversation with them, but you should also try to expand your search.
The next group you should try is your existing pool of friends. They might be in the same boat you are. Maybe they’ve been wanting to learn to hunt so they can gather their own wild game meat, but they’ve been too busy or nervous to try it. Or maybe they’ve been waiting to find a community to support them. That’s your cue.
Casually bring the subject up one day and gauge their reaction. If they’re interested in the idea, you could propose to go through the whole process together, from taking a firearm safety course to actually getting out in the woods. Everything will seem easier with someone there to back you up. Plus, it’s a nice way to spend time with your friends while also accomplishing something else.
Co-Workers and Neighbors
Depending on how tight you are with your co-workers or neighbors, they might overlap in the ‘friends’ category above. But as you get to know new ones, share your outdoor stories, passion for eating local food, and desire to start hunting. If they’re not directly interested in hunting, they may have siblings or friends who are and be willing to connect you. You’d be surprised who shares your interests. Over time, they can develop into good friends and work their way up the chain.
Firearm Safety Course
If you have not gone through a hunter education course or firearm safety course yet, you will no doubt find several other people who are in the same boat you are. Whether you hit it off with the other participants, parents of youth participants, volunteers, or the instructors themselves, it’s fairly likely you’ll find someone who can at least connect you with a hunting partner.
If you’ve already gone through your hunter safety course and you’re still looking for a hunting partner, you might want to try a more concentrated group. Many governmental agencies offer mentored hunts and hunting lessons to recruit new hunters. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, for example, offers wildlife clinics and mentored deer hunts for adults. Try attending one of these events if there’s one near you. Similarly, join a local chapter of a hunting organization, which is full of other hunters who are likely to help out.
This works so well because everyone there is interested in hunting, likely a first time hunter, and probably looking for a hunting partner too. If you engage and interact with the other attendees, you might find out someone actually lives just down the street from you. Then you’re off to the races. If nobody really clicks, ask the instructors/mentors if they know anyone else searching for a hunting partner.
Last, there are more and more legitimate online venues for finding a hunting partner every day. One example is HuntingBuddyFinder.com. Members join from all across the U.S., develop a profile with some basic information, and then contact one another about hunting partner opportunities. It’s a great option if you just don’t know anyone in-person, but would like to expand your search.
Considerations for a Hunting Partner
Now that you know where to look and what to say, you might be eager to start. But pump the brakes a little. There are some very important things to consider first.
Compatible Personalities and Lifestyles
While some relationships work out even if both parties are polar opposites, it will tend to work out better if you have at least a few things in common. For example:
- Your new hunting partner should ideally have a similar personality so you don’t end up annoying the crap out of each other in the woods. If one is punctual and one habitually late, there will eventually be fireworks.
- It also helps if you have similar lifestyles; someone with a few kids and demanding job might not have the time it takes to hunt with someone who is single and has a ton of spare time.
- You should have similar ethical intentions. Different hunting ethics are a surefire way to split a hunting partnership up in short order.
- Physical fitness is another important consideration if you plan on doing lengthy or strenuous hunts (e.g., elk or sheep hunts). You should be able to comfortably keep up with each other for the best results.
- Finally, it helps if you live somewhat near each other, as that’s just one more excuse to check off the list before it becomes an issue.
Test Drive Before You Buy
When buying a new vehicle, you wouldn’t just sign the papers based off of the description, would you? I hope not. More than likely, you’d want to take it for a test drive to see how it matches your expectations.
Similarly, you should take short scouting hikes, an overnight camping trip, or do simple hunts with your new hunting partner before you do a cross-country trip somewhere. This gives you time to see how well you work together before you encounter a stressful situation. Small game hunts, such as rabbit hunting, are the perfect introduction. Look at the first couple hunts as a learning opportunity for both of you.
Ready to Start Looking?
In the beginning, it can feel like you need a hunting dating site or need to post a “hunting partner wanted” ad to get any traction. But if you approach the right people with the conversation points above, you should be able to find someone.
I hope this post inspires you to start looking for a hunting partner now. As you can see, it takes time to cultivate a relationship like this. It might seem awkward having these conversations, and some of them might be a little weird.
But if you don’t put yourself out there once in a while, you’ll never know what opportunity or hunting partner you might miss.