Hunting: A Competition Among Sportsmen

Hunting: A Competition Among Sportsmen
Sean Delonas Illustration

The ram was in no hurry. He was picking his way along the top of a ridge while my wife and I were easing up a ridge parallel to his. We were only 200 yards apart, and I wanted a good look at his horns. He seemed oblivious to our presence and never looked in our direction. Finally, he turned his head, and I saw all I needed to see.

“Cover your ears,” I said. I settled my rifle on my backpack, which I had arranged on a rock, and found a comfortable prone position. After flicking off the safety, I started the trigger squeeze when a shot rang out from far below. I saw a bullet hit two feet under the ram. The animal took one bound and disappeared. I couldn’t believe it. I was a split-second from making the shot when the other hunter fired. He was at least 600 yards away—and this was before the interest in long-range shooting. The hunter climbed up to our position and apologized. He said he hadn’t seen us, even though I was wearing a blaze orange vest. I shared a few choice words with him that I won’t repeat here.

That incident stands out as a prime example of competition among hunters. All of us compete with one another when we’re in the woods. Of course, there are exceptions, say, a dove hunt in Argentina where thousands of birds are in the air all day long and it doesn’t matter who is standing where. But by its very nature, hunting is the best where people are the fewest. Often, successful hunters are those who get into the woods first or stumble onto the quarry before someone else. Some of that competition can get downright nasty, such as the time our group slogged along in deep mud, carrying heavy loads of duck decoys to our blind far out in the marsh. Another party of hunters carried no decoys and set up just far enough from our spot where they’d get first crack at the ducks we were calling.

Because of this rivalry, hunters often go through all sorts of shenanigans to outwit others. I have a honey hole for cottontail rabbits that is truly amazing. It’s a one-acre pile of old pipe, culverts, timbers, and all sorts of miscellaneous junk discarded from a nearby oil field. It’s tucked back in a draw and holds dozens of rabbits. You can shoot a limit of 10 with a scope-sighted .22 and not walk more than 10 yards. The bunnies sit boldly in the snow where they can easily jump to safety from an incoming eagle or coyote, but they haven’t learned the perils of a speeding bullet. The only hunters I’ve taken there are visiting pals from other states who would never return without me. I’ve never taken a local hunter there for obvious reasons. One day, while driving through the oil field to my spot, I passed a truckload of local rabbit hunters. They followed me at a distance, staying with me through all the forks and turns, so I led them on a wild goose chase. After a half hour of this, I stopped at one of my lesser spots, plinked a rabbit, and continued on my way. They stopped to hunt, and I circled back to my spot, far enough away that they wouldn’t hear me shooting.

But the most elaborate scheme of trickery I’ve encountered was on public land in New Mexico where I hunted DIY elk for years. I drove down a well-used forest road and saw tents pitched at the mouth of three big draws I liked to hike up and hunt. Disappointed, I drove on to another spot and walked up the mountain. I was on a trail when I saw a hunter walking down toward me, carrying an elk quarter on his back. I congratulated him on his success, and while making small talk, I told him that there were more hunters than usual in the area and mentioned all the tents. He grinned and told me that he and his buddies had set up those empty tents to keep other hunters away. I’ll admit I had to laugh in admiration of their creativity.

Among the outdoor sports, you can be successful in crowds when the fish are running and everyone is catching them. You can enjoy camping in a crowded campground if you’re a social person and like people. But if you’re a hunter, the last thing you want to see is someone else’s pickup parked in “your” spot. As I like to say, all is fair in love, war, and hunting—maybe.

Recommended for You


5 Bucket List DIY Hunts

Craig Boddington

Craig Boddington picks his top five over-the-counter hunts to add to your bucket list.


Booth Babes from the 2012 SHOT Show

PH Online Editors - January 18, 2012

Companies in the outdoor industry know how to get our attention. We know, it might seem cheap,...


Sub-Gauge Shotguns for Turkey Hunting

Larry Case

Smaller and lighter, sub-gauge shotguns are making a resurgence in the turkey woods.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Cheeseburger Poppers

David Draper shares his recipe for making delicious cheeseburger poppers with wild game in this edition of "Fare Game."

Camp Chef at SHOT Show: Elk Venison Slider Burgers Recipe

Have a freezer full of ground elk venison from your fall hunting trips? Never fear, the folks at Camp Chef have a great SHOT Show recipe that is lean and mean, easy to prepare, and a crowd-pleasing favorite!

2018 Petersen's Hunting Episode 9: Aloha Axis Deer

Host Mike Schoby joins his buddies Jon Dubin and Jeff Johnston on the island of Lanai for a deer hunt Hawaiian style!

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

North America

5 Great Last-Minute Public-land Hunts

Joseph von Benedikt

Didn't draw? Here are five great places you can make a last-minute mule deer hunt.


Is The 6.5 The Perfect Hunting Caliber?

Mike Schoby

We evaluate the 6.5 in a real-life case study.


Is the .308 the Perfect North American Big Game Cartridge?

Richard Mann

From trajectory to penetration to recoil, we evaluate this cartridge for the big-game use...

See More Stories

More How-To


Hunting: A Competition Among Sportsmen

Jim Zumbo

If you're a hunter, the last thing you want to see is someone else's pickup parked in 'your'...


How to Field Judge a Pronghorn

Joseph von Benedikt - September 12, 2018

It can be tough to mentally score a live antelope on the fly. Check out these tips for...


Preparing for a First Deer Hunt

PHTV Adventures - July 25, 2018

Mike Schoby gets his nephew, Mitchell ready for his first-ever deer hunt, which includes a...

See More How-To

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save.

Temporary Price Reduction.


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.