I must have led a sheltered life, because I am always surprised when I run into unfriendly people in the field. I usually make it a habit to talk to hunters I run into, and while I’m sure many have lied through their teeth to me, they are almost always friendly and accommodating.*
The other day I arrived later than I wanted to at a public hunting area (wrong turn), and I got to my spot just after another group had pulled in and started uncrating dogs. They had me beat, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to say good morning. The guys, three younger guys from a couple of counties north, could not have been nicer. I was welcome to hunt the field too, or to join them. We talked for a while. There were three of them, with three dogs, two of them young, and I decided adding me and Jed to the group might turn it into a circus. I wished them well and drove to another spot where, once again, someone had just arrived ahead of me. At first I was going to leave the area to them, but it’s 300 acres – much bigger than the previous place – so I pulled in, foolishly thinking there was enough cover that we could co-exist.
One of the two hunters, a man a little older than me, set me straight fast. I didn’t realize a non-resident license granted ownership of public hunting areas, but apparently it does. I asked which way the two of them were headed.
“I’m going this way, he’s going that way, and we’re hunting the whole thing,” he said, eyes narrowed to unfriendly slits. “I’ve got four dogs to run so I’ll be here all morning. We’re here for four days and never hunt the same place twice. You can hunt this tomorrow.”
I mentioned I had one dog and only planned to run him for an hour or so because I was hunting him into shape.
“You can go clear in the back if you want, that’s up to you,” he said. “Clear in the back” was where the corn was standing, and not where anyone wanted to hunt, which we both knew. What do you do? I said I had other places to hunt and turned to leave, at which point the guy who had just kicked me off a public hunting area had the nerve to call me brother as in “Have a good hunt, brother.”
Jed and I had our one hour hunt elsewhere. We bagged one rooster (he was young, dumb and cackling sixty yards away when I stepped out of the car), and had another pointed in a cattail marsh in six inches of water that flushed behind me and escaped unshot-at. Jed bumped a third bird, and we called it a pretty good day. Next morning the wind blew 25 miles an hour out of the north, the kind of blustery day that makes pheasants wild and pointing dogs wilder, and I thought about my “brother” who was in for a cold, frustrating hunt while I sat out of the wind, tucked in marsh grasses, and shot ducks and geese. Living well is the best revenge.
When meeting other hunters on public land in situations like those above, instead of acting like the guy that told me I couldn’t hunt you are:
1.Welcoming, and you offer to hunt together.
2.Friendly. You’ll share the area but not offer hunt together.
3. Standoffish. You just want to hunt and be left alone.
4. You are that guy.
5. Some combination of the above, depending on the situation.
*this doesn’t count running into other waterfowlers in the dark. Usually when someone sees someone else’s lights getting too close, colorful yelling is the accepted method of communication if exaggerated flashlight waving doesn’t work.