When the Guide Becomes the Guided

I'm sure a number of us have hunted with our fair share of colorful guides. I've mentioned a few of my personal favorites in the course of other posts - one in New Mexico who liked to blast Queen's greatest hits from his truck stereo when picking up a downed deer; one in Wyoming who believed CWD was an anti-hunting government conspiracy. But for the most part, in the area of outdoor skills most of my guides - men and women, young and old - have been just great, and I have no real complaints.
Except for one. To protect her identity, I won't mention the state she's from or the game we hunted and will henceforth refer to her simply as, "the guide."
To be fair, I'll first say that the guide meant very well. It was her first time guiding, and she tried very hard to do right by my hunting partner and me, who'd been invited on the hunt. She was good-natured, easy to get along with, and full of great stories, like one involving an ancestral orphan who was brought to the country generations earlier by a pioneering group of Spanish monks.
She didn't do anything too outrageously terrible, but in the area of, well, guiding, she left a bit to be desired. Trouble struck on the second day of the hunt when we set out in the truck before dawn. We planned to ride about 20 minutes to a particular area, then walk to a spot and set up. We left in plenty of time to be in position by first light, but didn't quite make it. We got lost. Granted, without even a dirt road to follow, it's hard to know which particular tree or embankment to turn at in the dark. But as the sun came up, we were still finding ourselves in unfamiliar fields, turning down wrong tree lines, backtracking to a familiar spot, making turns, second-guessing turns, and trying the whole thing over again. It was hard to be mad because she was obviously mortified by the situation and apologized with nearly every breath -- this was clearly hurting her more than us. In the end, we finally made it, and enjoyed a few hours of calling and wildlife watching.
The next day some uncertainty seemed to creep into her approach. We'd abandoned a spot earlier that morning and set out for another, but she couldn't decide where to go. She considered one spot, then another, and finally deferred to my hunting partner and me, asking where we thought would be best.
Instead of being frustrating (OK, I'm not that pure of heart, it was a little frustrating), the whole thing turned into a kind of learning experience. I'd been known to follow previous guides around with an air of blind faith, trusting they knew exactly where to go and when to get there. But without that firm hand of leadership, I was forced to think for myself. As this particular hunt progressed, instead of blindly accepting a suggested spot, I surveyed each new area we approached and decided for myself where best to set up.
Personal triumph came the last day, when a type-of-game-which-shall-remain-nameless wandered into exactly the area I'd eyed up as the perfect location. Unfortunately the guide had my hunting partner and me set up about forty yards too far away with a tree in between, but hey, at least I knew my good call had been confirmed, and my spot-picking abilities were getting better.
I lost touch with the guide, but I'd like to think she's continued guiding and is much better these days. Likely the whole thing was a learning experience for her too. -K.H.