Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hunting Buddies

As the season slowly, yet inexorably draws near, I find myself looking forward to so many things. Endless roads leading to spots both favorite and unexplored, and the small towns that punctuate the countryside. Shouldering a gun and making an impossible shot - or not. And witnessing fine dog work and the incomparable feeling that I get when my focus and predatorial instinct become one with the animal locked on point at my feet.

But without hunting buddies, the experience just wouldn't be as fulfilling. Part of what has always drawn me to upland hunting is the social experience -- it's not a solitary sport, unlike most other outdoor pursuits that require stillness (not my forte) while freezing one's ass off (also not my forte). 

Whether it's the Patton-like strategy sessions before assaulting a field, or the debates over dog breeds or shotgun shell payloads, or the tendencies of the fairer sex, or the inside jokes, or the merciless teasing, or the slap-happy humor in a small-town bar or around a campfire -- they are are all a part of the experience for me.  I suspect most uplanders are drawn to the sport for similar reasons. 

There's a strange dynamic at play, too -- almost socialistic -- among upland hunting companions. Dogs, trucks, guns, ammo, trailers, training, food, whiskey -- even fleabag motel rooms are shared for the common good. And unlike the current experiment that's taking place in Washington, this model of "shared sacrifice" seems to work pretty well in the fields and forests. I guess that's probably because you and you alone can choose your hunting buddies.

These fraternal bonds are borne of shared passion, hard work, and a common experience. And given time, the friendships go far beyond the field. The photo of Jon and Wes posing proudly behind a limit of roosters was one of the first times we had hunted together, five years ago. Since then, I've stood with Jon at his wedding and Wes has literally given me the shirt off his back when I split my chin open (long story).

Dan and Terry were with me the day I had to put down my first-ever pointer, and they helped me through it like no one else ever could. Through open-heart surgeries, job changes, and only God knows what else, we've been there for one another.

I've been blessed with a great group of friends I've met in countless ways, but none are as close as the ones that I call my hunting buddies.

And when all is said and done, that's why I cannot wait for September to get here.


  1. Great post. I have spent many Sunday mornings in a duck/goose blind wit hunting buddies, and feltm closer to God than in a church pew!