Out of Bounds

How Many Hunting Pals Do You Need?

A good hunting companion knows better than to criticize another hunter’s dog

By Rob Breeding

There’s a meme that social media algorithms are programmed to drop in my feed. It goes like this: I like coffee, hunting and maybe three people.

I like more humans than three, but the algorithms aren’t far off, and I have receipts. 

Ranch Girl recently convinced me to take a personality test. Now I’m skeptical of contrivances designed to categorize the multitude of human personality types into a handful of convenient categories — contrivances such as social media algorithms, for instance — but this test was too complex for easy manipulation and the results were so close to the actual me that I had to grudgingly accept the truth.

Maybe I’m not so unique as to defy categorization after all.

Compared to Ranch Girl’s, my roll of friends is shockingly brief. And people I enjoy hunting with? That’s a pretty exclusive list. Earning a spot requires meeting many non-negotiable provisions. 

The first is you must be patient with your dog.

I’ve no tolerance for a hunter who yells, berates or otherwise overreacts to any perceived failure of their pooch to perform flawlessly. Corrections or taking advantage of teachable moments are essential, but if you’re a monster to your dog you’re probably not a friend anyway, or will soon be shortlisted for former-friend status.

I won’t forget the first time I hunted with the Dog Whisperer. I’ve never seen anyone quite so gentle with his hunting dogs, and he was guiding at the time. Those dogs didn’t hunt brilliantly because they were well trained, though they were. Instead, those dogs hunted with a fervor suggesting they regarded letting down the Dog Whisperer tantamount to a crime against canine kind. 

A good hunting companion also knows better than to criticize another hunter’s dog. You may decide you don’t care for how another’s dog hunts or the way the hunter handles them. And life’s too short to hunt with someone whose dog management leaves you angry and frustrated at day’s end. So instead, split up, then regroup later to share embellished tales of canine perfection not tainted by canine reality.

When asked, I will offer advice, though this must be delivered judiciously. Sometimes the only critique I’ll provide is to say, “Jade and I are headed over the hill to hunt the next valley. See you at the truck in an hour.”

My friend, the Outdoor Writer, has a rescue English setter that came from a guide who couldn’t use the pup. The dog works country thoroughly and sets rock-solid points, but sadly, that pooch also points anything with feathers. 

Tweeties, meadowlarks, sparrows. If it flies, that setter lies. 

The first time or two we’ll walk over to see what’s attracted the dog’s interest and chuckle. But it gets old and we usually split up, while also staying close enough, just in case. We’ll meet up later to compare notes. 

The Outdoor Writer doesn’t care much about killing birds these days anyway.  He’s happy to just go for a walk with his dog. If he especially wants a bird or two for dinner, he’ll crate up his pooch and we’ll work together behind mine.

And finally, you must be motivated by a love for wild birds and the places that sustain them. Call it a disorder if you like, but when I learn game birds thrive in a place, my awe for that place grows exponentially. If the only thing that matters to you is how deep your truck springs sag as you set up your tailgate shot at the preserve, well, scroll back to where I discussed former-friend status. My hunting pals love habitat.

Ranch Girl’s test was right that I have a short list of close friends. Those I keep matter. Those I also enjoy hunting with have survived an even more rigorous disqualification process.

I like them almost as much as I like my dog.

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.