And 3 examples of hunting jerk situations
One of my all-time favorite movies is Lonesome Dove. I’m not sure if thats a profound statement or not, as I don’t watch a lot of movies. There is a scene in this movie in which Captain Call, played by Tommy Lee Jones, delivers an epic ass-whoopin to a guy who was trying to take Newt’s horse. After, he gets back up on his horse and says to a crowd of bystanders “I hate rude behavior in a man. I won’t tolerate it.”
Great line, especially in that context.
It’s in this spirit that brought me to writing this article. Experiencing rude behavior while hunting on public land just comes with the territory. I believe that as a whole, most hunters are not intentionally rude. But, there’s a but. A small percentage of them can be intentional assholes.
I am going to share some of my experiences. None of these will ever deter me from hunting on public land. Hopefully, they may shed some light to the hunters who may not realize they have some bad habits.
The Road Bugler
I am going to start with one of my bad habits that I have felt guilty about since last season. This way, you understand that I am well aware of my own mistakes. I am not above learning from them and in fact, feel that because of the massive amounts of jerk mistakes I’ve made, I am a leading expert in this!
I was hunting elk last September in North Idaho. The terrain here is extremely brushy, steep, and is full of old logging roads that can sometimes make finding roadless areas difficult.
One of my strategies when hunting a mountain like this has been to drive these logging roads and stop every mile or so. I shut the truck down and get out, wait a few minutes, and bugle. I have generated several elk encounters this way.
An elk will bugle back and I’ll drop in after him. Someone hunting Wyoming or Colorado probably wouldn’t understand this method. However, in the thick North Idaho woods, it has proven results. It’s certainly not my go-to strategy, but it’s a great Hail Mary.
I was doing this last year and stopped at a bend in the road. Around the bend was a pull-off and what I didn’t know, was another hunter had pulled in there to hike into the drainage.
I ripped off a series of bugles. You would have thought it was an elk-calling contest and the biggest ass-hat ever was up on stage.
After no response, I got back in my truck and pointed it towards the next drainage. As I pulled around the corner, I noticed the other truck. From the pull-out was a trail and about fifty yards in, the hunter was glaring back at me.
I felt horrible. I had completely blown out this drainage with wet coyote sounding bugles and ruined it for this guy. He was there first, and my lack of vigilance killed the evening for him. I was a total jerk.
The lesson; be more aware of my surroundings. Don’t stop on a blind corner and crack off bugles in case someone else is hunting it. When it comes to public land, I am a firm believer in first come, first serve on a particular area.
Hunters are a small group in terms of the overall population. We must respect each other. It can get frustrating when dealing with crowded hunting areas. Just remember, these are your peeps. Those of you reading this are my peeps. I wish I could shake the hand of every hunter, because we have a shared lifestyle. Let’s respect that during season.
This next example was over 15 years ago, and I’m still pissed about it.
I was hunting mule deer in a Washington State unit that had a fairly large minimum on antler size. This was a long time ago so I don’t remember the exact size, but I want to say it was a 5-point minimum to harvest. I could be way off base, but that’s what is in my head.
I found a 5-point buck running with some 2 and 3 points. It was wide open country with hills and valleys. I put the stalk on this buck all day. I watched them feed on a hillside as the sun went down and came up with a strategy to close the gap the next morning.
As the sun cracked off at first light, I was right on. The bucks were exactly where I thought they would be. I was able to work in on them, creeping through a dry river bottom. I found myself within range of the 5-point. He was a great buck.
Suddenly, one of the smaller bucks busted me. Although, he didn’t quite know what I was. They didn’t run off, they slowly moved off and around the hill at about mid-slope. Out of view.
No big deal, I could continue my river bottom stalk and connect with them still. They had not fully spooked and I was confident I could close the distance again.
As I came to the end of the hill, I left the river bottom and came to mid-slope. Again, they were right where I thought they would be. I needed to inch forward and close about forty yards for a clean shot.
I had been so focused on my stalk and was about a mile and half from the truck that I didn’t realize where I had gone. As it turns out, the main highway took a sharp bend inward toward the hill. I noticed an old Dodge pickup stopped in the middle of the highway.
They were watching me inch forward on this buck. I continued. The deer had no idea I was there, but were watching the Dodge with about half interest. I closed the forty yards and had a great shot. I raised my rifle and scoped the big muley.
A shot rang out, the buck dropped. Here’s the kicker… I never pulled the trigger.
In perhaps the most blatant display of disrespect that I have ever seen in the field, the guys in the Dodge pickup, in the middle of the highway and fully aware that I was there, shot that buck from underneath me.
You remember those cartoons as kids where Yosemite Sam or Donald Duck would lose their shit so bad that there would be steam shooting up from their heads and you couldn’t understand what they were yelling? That was me.
It is important to understand that these days I am a lot calmer. I surprise myself with my patience and ability to work things out with people I have differences with. Back then, I was fresh out of the military and had a temper that could sink ships.
They gutted that deer and drug it back to the highway faster than a drunk on free peanuts. I was right there, yelling like a drill instructor and threatening to beat some unethical asses. It was ugly and they got the message.
First of all, what they did was illegal in the State of Washington (I believe in all states). You cannot shoot game from a state highway. Secondly, they knew I was stalking that buck. I didn’t own that deer, but neither did they. I was legal, and in terms of ethical hunting standards, had rights to the opportunity before us. Personally, I would never, in a million years and twice on a Sunday, ever shoot at a buck that I could obviously see another hunter stalking on. Period.
Again, my temper has matured these days. I did call the game warden but do not know the results. We must police ourselves if we value this lifestyle. On a higher note, I switched units and harvested a different great buck that season.
Ownership of Public Land Real Estate
Every one of us owns our public land collectively. However, nobody owns it individually. This is all a part of a public land doctrine that every American should cherish.
A few years ago, I had just figured out the whole Escouting thing. I would spend hours on Google Earth coming up with plans A through Z. I would screen shot areas I planned to hunt. Obviously, this was before my trusty OnX app.
One morning during season, I was on my way to what I thought was a promising plan-A area. It was before sunup. I had never been to this spot before. My plan was simple, hike up the bottom of this drainage until the thermals changed, then up and over into a vast roadless area. I was sure that I was the first, and only madman to drum up this scheme.
My heart sank as I saw another pickup parked at the bottom of this drainage. How could this be? Who was this genius that beat me to this spot??
I parked and got out anyway. Both doors on this truck opened and a guy about my age stepped out of the drivers side. From the passenger side emerged a roughly ten year old boy.
The dad was visibly upset. He quickly told me that he had been hunting here for years and was parked here first. He demanded I go elsewhere. This was his spot!
My initial reaction was a bit hostile in my mind. I am not fond of people who try and take personal ownership of our public lands. But, remember how I mentioned above that I am much calmer than the Highway Robbery days? No more explosive Yosemite Sam reactions.
I don’t want to negatively impact anyones hunting experience. This guy got up there before me with his son, and clearly was passionate about this area. I knew he didn’t own it, but I also knew that in the great State of Idaho, we have millions of acres of public land. I really didn’t need to go far to plan-B.
I told him I had no problem moving along. I gave his son a fist bump and told him I expected him to let me know if they need any help packing out later on. The conversation ended with smiles and shaking hands. I left, and I felt good about it.
This is perhaps the most important lesson. Sometimes as hunters, we get this narrow field of view. We see through a limited lens and get caught up in small, particular areas that are insignificant amongst the scheme of the landscape. Especially while archery hunting.
One of the biggest things I have done in the last several years that has almost completely eliminated my crowd frustrations is better planning. Don’t just have a backup plan, have several backup plans.
This way, when another hunter has beat you to your first planned spot, it is not a total disaster. It does not ruin your hunt. Remember, those are your peeps simply pursuing the exact same goal as you are. Most likely, you would become great friends if you got to know each other.
It’s a huge relief. See you on the mountain!