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July 04, 2008

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Testing Your Mettle

There are very few things I believe in absolutely anymore, but one of them is, if you want to see what someone is really made of, go big-game hunting with them. There is something about the combination of wilderness, physical effort, the high likelihood of failure, and the constant presence of Murphy (he of the law) that brings out the best and worst in people.

Those who reveal themselves to be prize s***s will usually do so when someone else shoots something really terrific--particularly if that person is a beginner, or inept, or otherwise undeserving. You will see an instant personality change in the prize s**t. He will cease speaking, keep to himself, snap at his fellows, and insult the undeserving nimrod.

"Pure luck," he will say, or "Did you know what you had when you pulled the trigger?", or "You'd never do that again in a million years."

The other condition that turns some people into prize s***s is BEING OUT OF TOUCH, or its corollary, NOT BEING IN CONTROL OF EVENTS. When they discover that their Blackberrys and cell phones are no longer functional, they come unglued. They are the ones who go stomping through the woods, cell in hand, trying to find a few bars, wondering what is going on, and how the earth is managing to spin on its axis without their constant input.

Years ago, Gary Sitton and I were on a trail ride in western Montana, taking in some of the most wonderful scenery on earth. On the horses ahead of us rode two younger men, jabbering nonstop about computers. Gary and I just smiled at each other; we knew we were in the presence of fools.


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SD Bob

After reading that last comment about fools and computers, I was hesitant to comment but then again the writer wrote using one as will eveyone who reads this so a little use must be okay? Sounds like a young know it all boss must have given Dave some ill will to stir him up too! His diatribe reminds me of a time some friends and I went on a guided musky fishing trip to the Ontario waters of Lake St Claire. Our "legendary" guide spent more time calling girls to set up breeding appointments followed by calls to his friends to announce his prowes. We hooked and caught zero fish.

Happy Fourth of July Everyone!

Black Rifle Addict

Humm..does it seem as time goes by we lament less about business as usual and some of us have learned to just stop and smell the roses?

Ralph the Rifleman

It's said some people watch things happen, others make things happen, and others wonder what happened! I fall into the watch group.
Happy 4th everyone!


I LOVE looking at my cell and seeing 0 bars! The boss can pound salt if she wants to interupt my outdoors time, I ain't that important! I treasure the time away from computers, phones, blackberries, faxes and the weenies who can't envision being separated from such techno-wonders!

As for those twinges of jealousy when some newby scores on a nice buck; I am guilty (as are many of the rest of you) to be sure. Do I turn into a complete A$$? No.

Jim in Mo.

My ex father in-law was exactly this sort of person. We hunted alot together and if it happened to be 'my' day I could see the envy ooze out of him. I just couldn't understand that. I enjoyed the day even if he got every darn thing.


This applies to fishing, too...except if you own the boat, winner or loser, you get to choose who walks back!

Brian T

Those prize s***s never learned how to really take a day off. A day in the mountain forests is a day not counted in my life span. I'm delighted when my hunting buddy shoots well, when she shoots better than I do. The game harvest is a bonus, remember that. Now, let's go home, have a slurp and a game dinner.

Dr. Ralph

Some people fall apart after three days in the woods... that's about the time I start feeling like I'm in my natural environment. So much nature, so many varieties of plants, animals, and no contact with the outside world unless you count my three sons who are with me.

As far as jealousy I gave it up after my first three bucks and my greatest joy would be if one of my children could out best their old man... I honestly believe I can derive more pleasure from my kids. Seeing that look on their face when they shoot a doe is priceless, if they shot a monster buck it would make me cry tears of joy.

Will Becker

There are all kinds of people, I've found in my sixty seven years.Some are a joy to be around,especialy if everything is going their way.Then there are those who are happy even if you are having all the luck.I hope I'm the latter.


I learned a good lesson early on in my long guiding career here in AK. Never snap-judge a client in the first 1-3 days of his hunt. I was proven totally wrong enough times when a client was completely changed by the end of the hunt - some for the better and some for the worse.
I must comment, however, that by the time I retired in 2006 I was dismayed at the 'bring the office to the hunt (spike camps!). When one of my guides told me that his client, hunting brown bear, would spend 30-40 minutes daily on the spotting knob talking to his office on his sat phone I, initially, could not believe it. I became more used to such reports as my career came to a close. One client, upon shooting a brown bear, promptly reached for his ever present sat phone, called his secretary in Dallas, firmly instructed her to call my wife in Willow, AK, and instruct wife to get in touch with me (700 miles away at the Lodge) immediately - he wanted to be picked up NOW so he could leave. Somehow, even tho I got the message from my wife, it got lost as he did not get picked up for a couple days. I have been told that Icelanders do not take to 'herding' very well.
Lost a client? at that point I didn't care!

Dick Mcplenty

I work an on call job for a rail road so I understand the power behind a cell phone.Its allowed me to spend countless hours outdoors even though I'm on call.Without it I'd be married to a land line.

However,the guy that just has to talk to every idiot they know constantly on a cell or laptop even though they are on vacation,is the guy that misses out on life.

Currently the local school district is having a legal battle with a parent who is pissed off that her child wasn't allowed to take a cell phone on a science field trip.Teachers had a cell in case of emergency,but students weren't allowed.You wouldn't want to actually learn something on a field trip,when you could instead play grab ass text messaging each other.

Technology has done more to ruin americas wild places,then just the hassle of some idiot talking in the middle of the woods on a cell. Technology has allowed people to pour into the western states and live, because they can do business away from big city.And wild places have suffered from all the subdivisions and exspansion.


I have a different perspective than most people on testing someone's mettle. I retired after about 35 years as a Registered Nurse in very busy metropolitan Emergency Departments, many times in charge. There, you see what people are really like, when their world is literally crashing down around them and you. You also start to understand why so many kids act like they do when you see their parents behave horribly in their "emergency", (usually not a life and death situation, but an inconvenience)
In the most trivial of situations is where we usually hear the phrase "I could die out here and no one would care cuz you're taking so long".
My usual response was "I'm sorry it's taking so long, but most of the staff is in taking care of someone that we are trying to keep from dying."
Nothing brings out the true person like a stressful situation. Most ER Nurses would rather see the RBS (Really Bad Sick) patient and do what needs to be done than take care of those not so sick, but by and large most ER patients are the not so sick.

As a more seasoned (some would read old fart) hunter, there are very few things more gratifying for me, than taking a "NEW" person, someone who has never taken a deer, teaching them the "stuff" required to know to be a successful hunter, and then watching their excitement and pure joy as they take their first buck.
Even if I don't get one, it is worth it for that experience, helping to mentor the next generation of hunters.

One of the things I like about where I killed my last few deer is there is no, absolutely none, cell phone coverage. There are no bars unless, you hold your mouth just right, (or climb a tall tree) for 20 miles. Ain't nobody gonna call me when I'm there. That is one of the reasons I go, to decompress and get away from all of the stresses of the BUSY LIFE.

There was small plaque in an office I saw once "Everyone who enters here brings Joy. Some on their arrival, others on their departure."
I have gone bird hunting with some of the latter over the years, (but ONE TIME only).

jersey pig

i knew i liked chuck for a reason, i too used to work in an emergency room until i moved on to bluer pastures. i love my 2 week trip to maine every year and in no small way becasue i have no contact with the outside world for an extended time. and as for the "undeserved" taking an animal, good for him, and why ruin the memory of the guys (or gals) lifetime by beng a jealous ass.


I’ve never begrudged “the other” hunter/fisherman. I have begrudged a hunter that uses me as his pack animal to retrieve the meat of three-animals he shot between two and three miles from camp.

I called a halt to couple of guys’ strong request after spending one whole day packing and butchering instead of hunting…and I threw my lower back out.

All in all, I’ve been rather lucky. I’ve yet to be stuck with any hard cases.

Dr. Ralph

National Anthem... Whitney


Why on earth would anyone begrudge another hunter a sense of accomplishment? I honestly can say I have never seen such an attitude in our camp.

Maybe that's because it is a family camp, and my uncles' friends' kids, who began hunting with me in our teens, are still my companions. We've known each other for 40 years, and newbies are welcome and more or less vetted by the time they set foot in camp.

They even know I am a pinko liberal and are pleasant around me. That may be because my Dad is the last surviving original owner; maybe not.


As far as people begrudging other people's accomplishments, it not just hunters that do that. Many times those that are the "old veterans" at various profession feel threatened by the new young Turks coming in and will sabotage them in every way so they (the more experienced) look better, though only in their own eyes.
In whatever we do, be it healthcare, the military, hunting, fishing, sports, etc, I think we have an obligation to the next generation to mentor them and "show them the ropes" so they can carry on after we're gone. There is not a single one of us with proprietary knowledge in our field. We all learned from others who were willing to teach us, to show us little tricks to help us get to where we are or want to be.
It is sad when other feel that the 'cruits, NG's (New Guys) should not succeed lest their manhood is threatened. I unfortunately have known entirely too many people of that ilk.
When I was working ER, there were a lot of Nursing Students that would be assigned to work with me. I then would take all of the RBS (Really Bad Sick) FTD (Fixing To Die) so these new kids could see what is was all about. I never had anyone complain, they all felt they had had a fantastic learning experience. That what it's all about.


We aren't on call, like the rail road worker, but we do run our own business (manufacturing). While this gives us the freedom to set our own hours, it also requires our daily attention to some details. Some pre-planning and mobile technology make it possible for my husband to spend at least two more days per week in the field. I should note that we are in Idaho with a 30 day archery season for elk and deer. Grouse starts the second day of archery season, and there's fall hunts for both turkey and bear. Then there are the rifle seasons. Hunters have a lot of opportunity here. There are only a handful of spots--known as phone booths--where the phones even come in, so we get to choose when we are in touch. He'll check his e-mail and messages, send bids, order materials, nail down permits, over the lunch hour when we'd be in camp anyway. By the time he heads home, the materials are in the shop ready to go, the check is waiting in the mail, and all his sub-contractors are set to install. We don't call anyone over the weekend. But one hour a day during the week will keep our business afloat and enable us to maximise the time we are able to spend hunting every year.
My input to the business is less critical--I mainly keep the computers running--so I head out to camp a day or two early. The advantages of the technology are obvious then. While the phone won't help if I have an emergency down in a draw, if I don't check in, somebody will be on their way to find out why. I also can tell someone where I plan to hunt each day.
The internet access can also be useful when weather starts moving in to check satellite photos. Things can change rapidly at higher elevations in late October. I saved myself from being stranded on the mountain for three days on the wrong side of a freak three foot plus snowstorm by checking the weather online.
I also have a topo program on the laptop. We are often huddled around the screen scrutinizing the terrain of a promising new area. That has saved us some problems, too. For example, what looked like a easy hunt from the first part of a trail turned into a nightmare switchback climb making it impossible for us to retrieve game.
After saying all that, the technology can absolutely be over used. And we have been given some grief over the years by people who feel the way Mr. Petzal does. These people usually are retired or have jobs, where they take the time off, then return to a regular paycheck. Our pay is as regular as the work we put in.
Happy Fourth, everyone.


The cell phone is akin to having a leash around one's neck. Some get into that, I don't. I lived 35 years without one and have realized that if my work (Sheriff Dept.) did not require me to have one, I sure wouldn't. If a person can exist for most of their life without an object, most likely he can exist the length of his days without said object. Having stated that, the immediate need for the ability to communicate looks to be another in a long line of "instant gratification" fixes required by the latest generation. Needs will be met, recognized or otherwise, by those who would sell themselves for perceived profit...


I'm with you Dr. Ralph. I would gladly pass on the biggest buck of my life if it would give a kid a chance to take his first deer, even an 80# doe.

Hemingway covered the envy factor quite well in "The Green Hills of Africa". It is worth a read.


I'm with you Dr. Ralph. I would gladly pass on the biggest buck of my life if it would give a kid a chance to take his first deer, even an 80# doe.

Hemingway covered the envy factor quite well in "The Green Hills of Africa". It is worth a read.


Sorry about the double post. My electrons confused me.

Peter H.

ive never been on a hunting trip..been hunting plenty of times, both coonhunting and deerhunting back in Michigan. And couple times hog huntin...which I hope to do more of now that i live in Florida.

I have been on a several day fishin trip to Cananda...north of Toronto i believe. really fun. caught tons of panfish...bluegill and perch...which we were able to fry of our fill of everynight..and package the rest. Thats still some of the best panfish ive ever eaten.

Peter H.

incidentally the past few years i have missed 4 deer ....in a row.....ya...one of them was the nicest 8 point i had ever seen...160 yards with a .308 remington auto woodmaster that was sighted right on..should have been no problem right?...wrong...i missed. and sadly it wasn't rifle :(

Jim in Mo.

The first deer hunt I took my son on I said a small prayer he wouldn't get a big buck. Didn't want him to think it was that easy and the rest of his hunts would disappoint. My prayer was answered. He didn't get anything. The following year he got his 80# doe and he was beaming. So was I.

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