column By: Bryan E. Bilinski | August, 19
I just got invited to go on a pheasant hunting trip to South Dakota. The three guys who invited me I met at a conservation organization banquet fundraiser. I barely know them, but they seem like good guys. Since this will be my first big-time bird hunt, do you have any advice to help me prepare for this hunt of a lifetime? Thanks in advance from the Buckeye State.
Dear Mr. Buckeye,
Whether you are taking a trip a few hours from home or heading cross country, I promise you, without the right ingredients and regardless of your best intentions, many factors can make the trip you are so excited about turn sour, real quick.
Some of the best advice and preventative medicine I can give you is this: “Prior planning and preparation prevent poor performance.” For any trip, no matter the duration, take nothing for granted! Any small detail of a trip left unaddressed can make a pleasant hunting experience turn into an ugly one in the blink of an eye.
To prevent problems before, during or even after your trip, take into account the following points.
The Master Plan – First, compose a written master plan of action that everyone agrees to or have a meeting with all parties involved well before the departure date. This simple effort may prevent a disaster from occurring or friendship-ending issues to develop. Confirm everyone knows and understands their responsibilities as a member of the hunting party. Assume nothing!
Dates of departure and return: Who is driving and who rides with whom? Trips that are only an hour from home don’t require the same logistics as a trip to the prairies does. Multiple safe drivers are needed to help break up the trip and circumvent the fatigue of a long drive. Also consider spending one night halfway there and back at a preplanned hotel en route. Driving straight through may be a bad decision and could turn you into zombies when you arrive.
Expenses: Money concerns end many marriages in divorce – and the same can be said about hunting trips! Determine if the owner of the vehicle is to be reimbursed for expenses such as mileage, normal maintenance, road repairs, towing and even professional cleaning of the vehicle after the trip. How is the money going to be collected for the fuel costs? Who will be in charge of keeping a log of the expenses?
Lodging: Who is in charge of making the lodging reservations? Are there enough rooms reserved for all the hunters involved? Are the accommodations acceptable to everyone? Costs, deposits and who is bunking with whom all need to be predetermined. Anyone snore? Are dogs allowed in the rooms? If not, where are the pups going to sleep?
Meals: How does the hunting party want to take its meals? Cook individually or as a group? Live out of coolers on sandwiches? Enjoy three squares a day at local restaurants? If everyone’s meals plans are different, the house divided may fall.
Alcohol: Excessive consumption of alcohol during an excursion has probably deep-sixed more hunting parties than any one other factor. As the number-one gun safety principle states, alcohol and firearms don’t mix. Ever!
Key contacts or guides: Who is in charge of making sure hunt contacts or guides are aware of the hunting party’s arrival and departure dates? What are the guiding costs? How are tips going to be handled?
Hunting methods: What methods of hunting are agreed to by your group? Is everyone going to hunt together or are you going to divide and conquer? Predetermine how you are going to hunt available cover so all will enjoy the experience. Often, the types of dogs used dictates who hunts with whom and how the hunting grounds are covered.
Captain of the hunt: This assigned person should work to see the master hunt plan is adhered to and reviewed daily. The party should attempt to coordinate in harmony. Issues must be addressed before they fester. Everyone who takes a trip wants to enjoy the experience, shoot a few birds and take home some fond memories.
Reciprocate on hunting trip invites: Since you got invited on an established hunting trip, then a nice gesture is for you to organize a future trip that you can invite these gents to join you on next year. Assuming the trip went well, this gesture is a great way to say thank you and create lasting friendships.
I hope these few thoughts and concerns will make your first bird hunting trip both rewarding and memorable. Remember that all your pretrip planning will pay big dividends and hopefully stop “the bird hunting trip from hell” from ever happening.