There’s nothing better than being in a hunting camp with a bunch of friends during deer season is there? Just the entire experience is hard to put into words; the cooking, getting everything ready, the card playing, the bets on whose going to shoot the best buck, the list goes on and on. Sometimes it’s the only time of year you see old friends and even relatives.
I’ll never forget my junior year in high school a whole group of my Mother’s relatives loaded up and traveled down to southeastern Oklahoma to camp out and deer hunt. We were hunting a large WMA property and we had one very large tent where everyone was sleeping. It was a tight fit with bunks crammed in next to each other.
At the end of the first day’s hunt I was really tired. I’d been walking all day and even though I was young and in shape that country was pretty rugged and it had put a whooping on me. As I crawled into my make shift bunk I started to smell something pretty rotten. I mean it stuck to high heaven. I tried to ignore it, but after several minutes I just couldn’t take it any more. I had to find out what this smell was. As I opened my eyes my Uncle Albert was sitting there with his sock foot stuck up under my nose. He had pulled his boots off and decided I needed to get a close whiff of his nasty feet. I can still hear him laughing along with the rest of the group as I jumped up and started to yell in disgust. That was a great moment that weekend. I’ll never forget seeing the look on my Uncles’ face when I realized what he was doing. Moments like that are truly priceless aren’t they?
I’ve always enjoyed deer hunting with friends. I still do. However, when you start talking about trying to shoot a big buck, a mature buck, this friend thing sometimes just doesn’t work. I hate to use the term ‘trophy hunting’ but that applies here. You could actually say, ‘just trying shoot bigger bucks’. That is probably a better way to put it.
My progression from being a really lousy deer hunter to a much better deer hunter was a slow one. Once I caught on and really started to have some success, my progression rapidly sped up. The bottom line was I simply wanted to start shooting bigger bucks. My hunting buddies didn’t.
I would bust my tail looking and finding better places to hunt and as soon as my buddies would tag along the same old thing was happening; they would shoot the first bucks they would see. It’s not that I minded them shooting a buck. That was the entire point of being out there. But if you’re shooting all the young buck’s off a property the chances of there being older bucks in the future is not very promising.
I had one deer hunting buddy in particular that I went hunting with constantly. We really covered a lot of ground together over the years. We spent a lot of time together hunting deer. We shot a lot of bucks and does. I remember the year that I sat him down and we discussed at length the kind of bucks that we were going to shoot. The property we were hunting was one that I had found. It was a property where I had built a relationship with the owner and had worked hard to not only get on the property but had scouted and done all the foot work locating deer and knowing what they were going. In other words, it was my baby from A to Z.
We had both agreed to not shoot really young bucks like forked horns or spikes. That was the agreement. But on the opening morning of rifle season I was setting in my spot for the morning watching a 2 x 2 mill around with a doe. I was hoping a bigger buck would enter the scene. The doe seemed to be receptive to the young buck. A hot doe can bring a dozen bucks in when she’s really ready to breed.
All of a sudden – KaPow!!!!!!!! A rifle shot rang out and both deer bolted into the cover. I jumped up and saw my buddy standing over in the timber. He had fired at the deer.
“What are you doing?” I barked at him.
“Well I was shooting at that buck,” he barked back. “I wasn’t seeing any deer where I was setting so I decided to walk around and I saw the buck and I shot at him. What’s the big deal?”
I didn’t say anything else to him. I just knew our days of hunting together were over. He had broken his trust with me. That was a tiny, very young buck. I mean he was a small forked horn. I knew that my friend just couldn’t resist shooting the first buck he saw. That’s OK with me. But not on a property where he was strictly there on my invite.Also he basically had fired a shot in my direction. He had a very large area to hunt on his own. But he decided to walk over to where I was hunting instead. He never saw me when he fired.
That shot ripped almost over my head. I’m not sure he cared. He just had to fill his deer tag. That was the most important thing. He had done similar things with me before. That was the last straw with me. I never hunted with him again. Ever. We still remained friend, but our friendship did not include any hunting trips. In fact after that day, I did all my deer hunting by myself, alone.
A few years later I stopped by his office to see him. He had two bucks mounted on his wall. Both bucks were very small 8 pointers. I’m sure they were giants to him. I was happy for him that he had shot them. They weren’t the kind of bucks that I had come accustom to shooting.
When I left I drove home to where my wife and I had just bought our first house. At that time I had 18 whitetail bucks hanging on the wall. They were all 140 class bucks and up. That was just the beginning of my trophy whitetail hunting collection, which today includes over 150 bucks.
Did I miss my friend’s companionship? Of course I did. Was I glad I decided to go on my journey hunting deer without him? Of course I am.
When it comes to shooting bigger bucks you may just have to go it alone. If you’re going to have a serious hunting buddy, he’s got to be on the same page as you are when it comes to what you’re going to shoot. If not, you’re asking for some serious frustration and problems.
Hunting camps with friends is great. I still love it. But I don’t do much of it when I’m trying to put a big mature buck on the ground. No thanks. I’ll just go it alone. You might have to do that as well.
Good deer hunting to you my friend!
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