Most serious big buck hunters I know work alone the majority of the time. Shared properties, shared stand locations, competition between hunters, and unknown/uncontrollable hunting pressure can make things difficult when you are targeting bigger bucks. While I do hunt alone often, I find an entirely different level of satisfaction in sharing the hunting experience with a friend. A hunting partner and I have both had great success and overall increased enjoyment teaming up and working together.
It takes a certain dynamic between two individuals to make this work. I’ve heard far too many stories of friends, family, and hunting partners having “fall outs” over hunting big bucks. Common issues are one hunter gets jealous of another’s success; having different styles of hunting, or maybe having disagreements on management principles as well as many other potentially negative scenarios.
When deciding to team up for big bucks with a hunting partner a few key things should be in place to make it work.
1) Similar Styles: Hunting partners don’t need to have exact same hunting methods, but having similar styles will make things easier. If one hunter likes to haul bait out to his property every other day and the other hunter takes more of a low impact approach it can lead to disagreements or even arguments, thus ruining the experience you are trying to create. By having similar hunting styles there are no surprises, you communicate better, and you’ll have a good idea how you both will handle each hunting situation.
2) Good Communication: Sharing information and ideas on habitat, tactics, stand locations, access routes, food plots, etc brings two minds together and gives the feeling of a team that both have equally contributed and it also will improve the overall quality of your hunting.
3) Enjoyment in another’s success: This is an important one and one that seems difficult for a lot of people these days. You have to be willing to give up some opportunities for yourself that your partner will have and vice versa. Learning to enjoy the team approach and having a genuine happiness for your partner’s success is vital.
4) Make it fun: Don’t take it too seriously. No one likes hunting with the grumpy guy that’s always complaining. Be willing to try new things, make mistakes, learn from each other and laugh. Camaraderie is a great thing!
5) New opportunities: Having this attitude with a hunting partner will open more hunting opportunities in the future. Essentially you double your contacts, double your effort in trying to gain new hunting ground, and double the effectiveness of your scouting. My partner and I started out with a small farm in Hillsdale County and now it has grown to other properties in southern Michigan, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, and Illinois that we have access to.
My partner Mike Lackman has tagged some great Michigan bucks in recent years. A few years ago Mike took a great buck utilizing a team approach with myself on a southern Michigan private farm. We had a great stand location but poor access didn’t allow getting in/out of the stand without bumping all surrounding deer. We put our heads together and came up with a plan. Together we stacked some dead brush along the access route so deer couldn’t cross our scent trail or get down wind and ruin our hunt. Next we planted some sorghum along our access route which created a visual barrier allowing us to access the stand without being seen. In addition to the access trail the actual tree we were set up in needed a lot of work. It was a short bushy tree and you could only get up about 9 feet. We built a platform and added cover into the tree using camo netting and artificial Christmas tree branches to break up our outline while on stand. All in all we spent about 3 days prepping this particular stand and its access. The end result was this buck taken on the opening day of archery season the following fall. By putting our heads together and getting creative we turned this once unhuntable spot into a great stand location that has high success potential every time it’s hunted. The smile says it all, and mine was just as big.
A few years ago Mike and I set out on a new adventure out of state. Together we knocked on dozens of doors hoping to get access to bow hunt on private property. Luck was on our side and we gained access to some great ground in a just a few days of knocking on doors. We spent 3 days scouting and prepping stand locations. Using our two heads together we looked at every angle and possibility and our stand locations ended up spot on. I took this buck out of a stand location that we both zeroed in on after much deliberation.
After I tagged out I didn’t spend the next two days watching football in the hotel room, I spent it scouting for Mike. I continued glassing morning and evening trying to zero in on a hot spot that Mike could capitalize on. On the last day of the hunt Mike hunted a spot where I had seen a few good bucks during my scouting missions. He tagged a great 8 point near that spot on the last day of the hunt before we headed back to Michigan.
This is just a couple of the many successful hunts we have shared over the last several years. Aside from the big bucks we’ve taken there have been many more laughs and memories shared that has really become my biggest enjoyment when it comes to this great sport of hunting.