We define a break in hunting etiquette as "an action by one male to another male friend which violates understood social expectations, especially where the transgressor obtains a slight advantage in comparison with a relatively large inconvenience imposed upon the aggrieved party."
The world of hunting is full of them. Here are some of the most egregious examples.
Not Breaking In Your Boots Before a Trip
This problem has caused more blown hunts than bad weather and angry spouses combined. You make plans to pack into an elk spot that's eight miles into a designated wilderness area for a weeklong hunt. You urge your partner to get into shape, do some jogging, and for God's sake, make sure his new boots are broken in. Really, really broken in. You suggest that he wear his boots to work everyday, however warm his feet might get, and to take some long hikes and even do some jogging in them. When he shows up at the trailhead you see that his boots are still so new and shiny that he'd be able to return them without a hassle from the sale's clerk. You mention this to him, and he says, 'œYeah, but they're really comfortable. The guy at the store said that they're kind of built to be already broken in.' The next morning, it takes forever to get out of camp because he's dinking around with bandage duct tape as he tries to pad his mutilated heels. That day, you cover a third of the ground you might have. All the while, you listen to him complain.
This was a much bigger problem for me back when I was a college kid in Montana whose only interest beyond hunting and fishing was drinking in bars. You'd be out at the local watering hole downing beers and/or cocktails, and you and a pal start talking about how the lakes and ponds are beginning to freeze up and the ducks are really starting to congregate on the river. You agree that it'd be a great idea to get up really early and do a float for waterfowl and maybe set up some decoys — even though really early is just three hours away. You go home and load everything up: the canoe, paddles, decoys, some food and extra clothes because your buddy never packs properly. Then, you get two hours of sleep and wake up with a splitting headache. Never mind the headache, you hop in your truck and drive to your buddies. You wait. Then you honk and wait some more. Then you knock and wait. Then you pound on the door and wait. Then you pound on his window and wait. He finally comes to the door and says, 'œMan, I forgot that I have something I'm supposed to do this morning.'
Not Putting Your Time or Money -- or Mouth -- Where Your Heart Is
This is perhaps the biggest offense of them all. It happens when a guy loves to complain about losing his hunting spots. Or not seeing much game. Or finding that the good areas are too crowded with other hunters. Or that his state's hunting laws seem to be coming from PETA rather than biologists. But he doesn't belong to a single conservation organization. He votes for political candidates who want to drill or develop crucial pieces of wildlife habitat. He's afraid to argue the proper side of controversial environmental issues for fear of looking like a tree-hugger in front of his co-workers. He doesn't give financial or volunteer support to sportsman's groups such as Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
or the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
because he blew all his time and money playing golf over the summer.
Giving Away Spots
This is a version of No. 1, and happens almost as often. You take a buddy to one of your hunting spots a few times, and eventually he gets the hang of the area. Since you're going to be busy for the next few weeks, or out of town, you tell your buddy to go ahead and hit the spot while you're away. No problem. Then, you get home and you realize that your buddy has been hunting the spot with his buddies, and now those guys are doing the same thing with their own friends. This dick move leads to hunting spots that aren't good for anyone. Of course, I'm not saying that you shouldn't share your spots with your friends. But I am saying that you shouldn't think that agreements of exclusivity are implicit. Be clear. If you don't want your buddies to tell their friends about your spot, say something tactful. I find that the following sentences works well: 'œListen, dude. Never take anyone out here. Ever.'
Bailing on Game Cleaning
Because I'm such an ardent proponent of eating wild game, and have such strong opinions, I've been stuck with the cleaning duties more times than Cinderella. This offense always starts the same way: You have a great day's hunt and get a limit of geese, squirrels, pheasants, quail, rabbits or whatever. Your buddy is totally gung-ho during the hunt, but afterward you notice that his enthusiasm is beginning to wane. He looks sleepy and distracted. You start plucking birds and your buddy suggests that you should maybe just breast them out in a hurry. You remind your buddy that the state's wanton waste laws prohibit you from discarding the legs. He suggests that maybe you maybe just skin them instead of plucking them. You say that it's better to pluck them, as it's less wasteful and they taste better and it's thus well worth the investment of time. He says that he's now running late, and that the missus is going to be pissed as hell as him. He takes a couple of the plucked birds as his share and leaves you with the rest. You pluck, alone, for hours.
This one is best explained through a short story. A buddy of mine from Fairbanks has a great story about an acquaintance asking to be taken along on a grouse hunt. The acquaintance insisted on driving separately, and followed my buddy to his secret grouse area along an obscure 4x4 trail just outside of town. As they geared up to head into the woods, the acquaintance got a text message announcing some 'œemergency' that had summoned him back to town. The next day, my buddy drove out to hunt a nearby area before work and noticed that the acquaintance's vehicle was in the exact spot that he'd shown him the day before.
Saying, \"I Know I Got That One!\"
This offense is more generally the realm of bird hunters, where there's a good chance that multiple guys are gunning at the same bird. It usually goes like this:
You and a couple buddies are pushing a patch of pheasant cover. Throughout the morning, one of your buddies misses a number of easy straightaway shots. He gets a little annoyed and discouraged. Later, a bird kicks up far out and off to the right. The bird does a quartering away crossover. You draw a bead, calculate a huge lead, and the bird drops from the sky just as your buddy's gun goes off. He then cries out, 'œI know I got that one! I was right on him.' While your initial tendency might be to say no way, and cite the number of easy misses that he's racked up so far, it's better to treat his claim with little or no acknowledgement. Try saying, 'œWell, there, Sharpshooter, you best run over and get your bird.'