Successful elk hunting can be a process — one that often involves failures along the way. Several factors contribute to this process, but one I feel is worth mentioning is a good hunting partner.
Finding someone who will pick you up when elk hunting has you down, as well as contribute to your success, is vital.
I’ve had the pleasure (and sometimes displeasure) of hunting with several folks over the years. Overall, the experiences have been positive, and I’ve formed some great friendships that have evolved far beyond hunting camp. I’ve learned a great deal about elk hunting from almost everyone I’ve shared camp with, and I’m a better hunter today for those experiences.
Before you jump on Craigslist and start looking for your next elk hunting partner, here are three important characteristics to look for:
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SIMILAR HUNTING STYLES
It may seem obvious if you already have a good hunting partner, but finding someone who hunts the same way you do is important. If you’re an aggressive caller and they are a methodical spot-and-stalker, there’s going to be conflict.
If you prefer to pattern the elk and hang a tree stand while your partner blows through bedding areas, there’s likely going to be some uncomfortable silence back at camp each evening.
It’s important to evaluate the style of hunting that best suits you. Be clear about your expectations when you begin talking to a fellow hunter about accompanying you. Is filling your tag the most important aspect of the hunt? Are you going to be passing up smaller bulls waiting for a big one? Do you hunt all day or come back to camp for midday naps? All of these factors can become points of contention if they aren’t addressed up front.
BE A TEAM PLAYER
This is the one area that has contributed more to my success than any other — being able to hunt with someone who wants me to be as successful as I do. I can vividly remember several hunts in high school and college where I would be set up as the shooter with a hunting partner calling from behind. Several times, I looked over and saw my hunting partner sneaking ahead of me to set up on the approaching bull.
This turned into a game of chess between hunting partners rather than between hunter and elk, and it never ended successfully. Conversations were often uncomfortable as we tried to hash out who would be the shooter while a bull screamed out challenges in the not-so-distant background.
Soon after graduating from college, I found a hunting partner who changed the way I hunt and opened my eyes to a new level of success. Expecting another uncomfortable conversation about who was going to get first crack, I nearly swallowed my elk call when he offered to leave his bow in the truck and just call. Within days, we were complementing each others’ hunting styles, often arguing about who would get to be the caller.
Successes were celebrated as team victories. Jealousy and envy were nowhere to be found. My success more than tripled because of this unselfish partnership.
HUNT WITH OPTIMISM
The last key is finding someone you can get along with, especially when things don’t go as planned. Elk hunting can be filled with disappointment and challenges, and it sometimes takes the encouragement of someone else to help us dig deep and persevere.
The last thing I want at elk camp is someone who is ready to throw in the towel or someone who finds the negative in every situation. Elk hunting is a physically demanding venture, but it is often the mental side that gets to most hunters before they fill their tag. Having a good partner who will make you laugh when you miss, or prod you to hike over the next ridge in search of a bugling bull, can be the difference between success and failure.
Over the years, I’ve learned the value of a good hunting partner. When you find a hunting partner who hunts like you do and is more excited for your success than his or her own, you’ll be well on your way to achieving not only consistent success, but lasting memories for many seasons to come.
Boise’s Corey Jacobsen is an eight-time world champion elk caller and a founder of Elk101.com, a website devoted to elk hunting education and instruction.