What makes a hunt a successful one? Do you have to harvest to make it a memorable one? Do you have to travel far from home to make any hunt a special one? Or does seeing someone within your party experience something special mean enough to call a hunt a resounding success!!? Well, I will have to say that I want to be successful (harvest an animal) as much as the next fella, but I've come to realize that success in hunting is not only judged by adding another head on the wall.
A couple of cases in point. About 16-17 yrs ago while still flying in the Army a very good friend of mine got word he was going away TDY for a while (TDY = Temporary duty). This was no big deal as all of us got stuck with some type of TDY from time to time. Well, actually it was a big deal as he had plans to take his 12 yr old son out hunting during Tennessee's youth hunt, which was only a week or so away. I knew his son Adam was very disappointed as this was his first season to hunt. I made a phone call asking if they'd be OK with me taking Adam out for the youth hunt and plans were quickly made for Adam and I to take my camper about 35 miles away to Stewart County, Tn. and try to find a deer for him.
Well, seems my pre-season scouting had worked well and within 20 minutes of settling into our ground blind on day one, Adam had dropped a deer using my BLR in 7/08. Following the 60 yd blood trail brought us a surprise as the deer was actually a spike horn, not a doe and Adam now had his first ever buck. We field dressed him, dragged him to the truck and then drove him to the check station. I'll never forget what Adam said (actually asked me) to me on the way back to the camper. He asked if we had to go home now or could we stay and hunt some more as he was totally enjoying himself. What was I gonna say? We stayed, hunted squirrels the next morning and had fried squirrel for lunch. I could not have been happier if I'd just shot a 180" deer in Alberta!
Fast forward a decade and a half to a bear hunt in Maine. A new friend who'd not done a lot of hunting seemed interested in my planned bear hunt to Maine and when I asked if he'd like to accompany me, he jumped at the chance. My friend Barr saw a bear on the first evening's hunt, but couldn't get a shot (bear fever, perhaps?). With encouragement from other hunters in camp, Barr went back out determined to take any good shot opportunity given after that.
Well, evening #4 found Barr and the guide arriving to pick me up well after dark. In the truck driving back to camp Barr handed me an empty shell case and asked me what I thought it was. Being the genious that I apparently am, I answered, "an empty shell case". Barr could contain his excitement no longer and finally blurted out he'd whacked a nice Maine bear that very night! Luckily the guide was able to maintain the truck on the road amongst all the backslapping and hollering and within 10 minutes we arrived back at Barr's site and then dragged the bear out to the truck.
Nope, Ed never did get his bear on that trip, but I'm sure you'd never have known that seeing the grin plastered on my face for the rest of that week's hunt due entirely to Barr's great success. Prior to this trip, my friend had not had the same opportunities to be successful hunting as I had. He'd not collected a large number of big game animals prior to this time. But, by golly, he had himself a fine Maine bear now and nothing would ever change that!
We sure enjoyed that camp and met a few guys who we really enjoyed meeting and spending some time with. Custom rifle maker Bob Hart showed up in camp with a Buddy and we had a heck of a time trading lies! Bob's friend, Mike, was also a pilot so we had a great time talking flying as well.
There ya go, just a couple of hunts I've experienced where others' success meant way more to me than my own. Hunting is not just a personal challenge with personal goals, in my opinion. It's something to be shared with others and enjoyed by all involved!
Adam posing with his first ever buck.
Barr(C) and Ed(R) pose for a quick photo with custom rifle guru Bob Hart(L).
Ed and new Buddy, Mike, stop BSing for at least a few seconds enroute to an evening's hunt.
Adam puts his back into pulling out his first ever buck! Think I was going to help him? Yeah, of course I did!