What Makes A Successful Hunt?

By Ed Turner

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? I 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 judged solely by putting another head on the wall.

A couple of cases in point. About 16-17 years ago while I was 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 were 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-year-old son 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 would be okay with me taking Adam out for the youth hunt. Plans were quickly made for Adam and me to take my camper about 35 miles away to Stewart County, Tennessee and try to find a deer for him.

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 7mm-08 BLR. Following the 60 yard 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 will never forget what Adam asked 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 had just shot a 180" deer in Alberta!

A picture of Adam and his first buck.
A picture of Adam and his first buck. Can you tell he's a happy camper?

Fast-forward a decade and a half to a bear hunt in Maine. A new friend who had not done a great deal of hunting seemed interested in my planned bear hunt to Maine. When I asked if he would like to accompany me, he jumped at the chance. My friend Barr saw a bear on the first evening's hunt, but could not get a shot. With encouragement from other hunters in camp, Barr went back out determined to take any good opportunity.

Well, evening four 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 genius 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 kill site and dragged the bear out to the truck.

I didn't got a 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 had not collected a large number of big game animals. Now, by golly, he had himself a fine Maine bear and nothing would ever change that!

We enjoyed that camp and met a few guys with whom we really enjoyed spending time. Custom rifle maker Bob Hart showed up in camp with a friend 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 about flying.

There you go, just a couple of hunts I have enjoyed where others' success meant more to me than my own. Hunting is not just a personal challenge with personal goals, it's something to be shared with others and enjoyed by everyone!

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