“Oooooooohhhhhhh, so you are that guy?” Probably our most frequently used dig amongst my hunting partners. We have all hunted with somebody that we thought was being a Turd Ferguson in the moment, or maybe something more serious like a safety or ethical violation. More often than not it’s said in jest, however racking up a ton of these infractions may get you kicked off the island. Disclaimer: the below is not aimed at the brand new or newish hunter. It is about those who have been in the game long enough to know better.
So where are these rules written? There are a few listed in the hunting regulations about ethics and gun safety, but this is only the tip of the iceberg. These standards change from one group to the next, and even more from hunter to hunter. I personally had to learn these tenants the hard way growing up. So in an effort to assist those new to this game of chasing birds with dogs and scatter guns, here are some of my favorites.
1. The Late Hunter. Some may think this is not a big deal, however it is one of my bugaboos. 99% of us work full time jobs, and we cherish every available minute in the field. So when a fellow hunter is late to the rendezvous, or never has their crap ready when getting picked up, they are essentially stealing time from us. Not cool. As a new or seasoned hunter, do yourself and the team a favor; prepare your gear the night before, and show up 15 minutes early. Around here, if you're on time - you're late.
2. The Snowden Hunter. I have seen life-long friends stop talking to each other, and family members be divided by wiki-leaking hunting spots. Some of you laugh but this is a major infraction. I have some chukar locations that have taken me over a decade to locate and figure out. Even more special are those honey holes that have been passed down via generations of relatives. Our crew has a very strict no-tell no-show policy. If we plan on introducing a new hunter to one of our drop zones, we must first obtain permission from the Grand Pubah who introduced us to said grounds. The worst thing you can do as a new member is show up the following week to the same place with another hunter. I have seen these types of infractions increase tenfold in recent years given so many peoples' addiction to social media. Everyone wants to be on FB, hashtagging, or on twitter saying “Look at me!” Although there are no state laws built around this issue - which in my opinion there should be - do everyone a favor and just ask to return to the spot. Better yet, do some homework and research, and add spots to the collective. It is called Buy-In.
3. The Got-My-Limit Hunter. Sometimes the planets and stars align, and you go three for three on roosters in one hour! Congrats new hunter, you rock today! Now you can focus on quail and huns, or even crack your gun open and lay it over your shoulder for the day. It is not when you say “Got my limit, I’m out!” The best part of why we hunt is still in front of you. Watching the dogs work, the camaraderie of your hunting partners, or just being outside out of the Matrix. I can guarantee those three roosters were the result of a TEAM effort, not your single-handed awesomeness. Stay and enjoy yourself since we get so few of these days each year. Even without a limit, don’t bone out. If you have personal stuff going on and can only hunt a few hours that is totally cool. Brief the team up front so we can plan our attack with you in mind. It can make some people's jaw super tight if they are scrambling across a near-vertical scree slope and see one of their teammate's truck driving off over the horizon unannounced.
4. The Dog Hacker Hunter. Oh. My. Lanta. This one can ruin a day - but it’s an easy fix. I often see these hunters brag on and on about how amaze balls their dog is even before getting in the field. Huge red flag. It is like bragging about your kids; eventually they will let you down, it’s just life. During the two-hour drive in, the Hacker has told you how his or her prize-winning pooch from champion blood lines will literally set the prairie on fire with his speed and skills. Then, as soon as we stop and super dog hits the ground, you are bombarded with a yelling and pleading barrage of verbal directions from the Hacker. It sound something like this: “Gus, get over here. Gus, here! Gus come! I have treats Gus. God dang it Gus! Heeeerrree!!!” This initial bombing run was just to get wonder dog Gus back to the truck to put his E-Collar on. As the hunting begins, it starts all over again. “Gus over! Gus Whoa! Get in there Gus!” Then the whistle comes out. You know the deal. Some humble advice: always under sell your dog. Allow them to show what they do, or don’t do. If you can handle this type of hunter more than once, you are tougher than me. What I usually end up doing is volunteer to go walk waaaayyyyy down the canyon to do the hard hiking and stay out of ear shot.
5. The Cheap Hunter. This could be your best hunting partner right now, and you aren’t willing to have the hard comms. Eventually this could lead to a falling out. This hunter is easily identifiable as it’s all based on patterns. If there is a pattern, there is a problem. Here are some of the tell-tale signs: they hardly ever drive; they are either asleep or have to use the bathroom when fueling up; they are always mooching shells; they only bring enough food/drink for themselves; they never offer to pay or say “I got the next one.” A senior hunter will sometimes earn this role, but as a newbie you could easily get excommunicated ricky-ticky for this type of behavior.
6. The SH#% Show Hunter. This person is just always a mess. They come stumbling out of the house in the wee hours of the morning looking like an unfolded lawn chair. A gear bag, gun case, boots unlaced, coat half-on, clothing or gear dropping to the ground as they scurry along to hop in the truck, which is immediately followed by them spilling coffee all over your seat. Then as if on cue, they remember something else they have to go back and retrieve from the garage. This is actually one of my favs because they are so easy to torture in a loving way, of course. It reminds me of a trip I had to Montana. I was taking a friend who I just started hunting upland birds with, but we had shared a duck blind before. We were going to be on the road for four to five days of hunting. The weather was extremely warm in September, and the forecast showed to be super steady over the next few weeks. I had a small laptop-sized backpack that contained fresh socks, drawls, light rain coat, and tees. This along with a gun case and necessities for my two dogs. I didn’t really know how bad this situation was because my buddy was driving. He picked me up, I threw my stuff in, and off we went. However, half way through our hunt, we were getting ready to head out for the day and we had a major stoppage. I was driving, and had been waiting for a solid ten minutes while my buddy was on the other side of the rig fiddle fartin' around. I couldn’t handle it any longer, so I got out and walked to the other side to see what the hell was going on! There he stood with piles of clothes, boots, coats, and duffel bags… it looked like a homeless orgy. My man literally had five different coats, three pairs of boots, and so on. Long story short - be prepared, pack accordingly, and always try and minimize your footprint as a rider in the shared hunting wagon.
7. The Obi-Wan-Kenobi Hunter. He or she acts as though their shotgun is a light saber, and they are going to single-handedly fight off the Empire. You are not a Jedi Master, you are a bird hunter. In my world, we call this “lasering” somebody. It doesn’t matter if you are on a hillside, in the cattails, getting out of a truck, crossing a stream, or swinging to catch up with a covey of huns, be mindful of your barrel at all times. Your barrel should never be pointed at anything you are not willing to destroy.
All of the above mentioned examples are in jest, until they are not. Most of these violations can be overlooked due to being new, however as I stated before, if it is a pattern, then it is a problem. As a new wing shooter, you can also use the afore mentioned articles to pinch your senior hunting partner to being nicer to you. You must be cautious, they might leave you on the side of a dirt road in the middle of the desert. I know this because one of my partners left me behind. In my defense, I was experiencing fight or flight, and shoved him onto a coiled Western Diamondback Rattlesnake that got the drop on us. You would have done the same, I am sure. On a serious note, ethical and safety violations are not funny, always: 1. Live and practice the rules of firearm safety at all times. 2. Adhere to all game laws. 3. Respect the game and land as we are their stewards. 4. Pick up your shot shells, pack out the garbage you find, respect property boundaries. 5. Most of all enjoy those birds. Proper field care ensures a tasty meal down the road.
I sincerely hope this helps you be a better wing shooting partner. If not, throw the above material in the trash and forget you ever read it. When in doubt, ask yourself "WWCFD?" If you do what the Cock Father does, you will NEVER be one of the hunters listed above. Word.
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