When it comes to hunting out West on public land there are no secret spots. No matter how secluded or hard to reach someplace is there are countless people who have that exact spot pinned or have already hunted there. However, there is often unspoken respect and spot ownership for specific honey holes that someone you know has found and proven over the years. Though this is not often talked about, it should be because understanding how secret your hunting buddy has made a spot will keep it better for longer and maintain your relationship with that friend. Once a good spot gets into the wrong hands, everyone in your town, county and online forum will understand exactly how, when and where to hunt. The following year could have two to three extra people or 20 to 30 extra people hunting it because you let it slip and word got out. Ultimately, the animals will move to another spot and the new spot will become the new honey hole; however, it’s not fair or respectful to the person you know who put the boots on the ground year after year to finally discover a consistently good spot.
There are some very common problems that occur amongst friends and hunting buddies that may not be fully understood or talked about prior to the season. Before going hunting this year, it is important to talk to your hunting partners about spot ownership and what rights you all expect to have as well as the secrecy you expect to maintain as to where you are hunting. Finding good spots that have less pressure in the West is hard and a lot of hunters are looking for an easy way to get into animals with little to no effort. It is this desire to be spoon fed a great spot that is the reason you should not be telling people exactly where you went, especially if you are successful. A lot of people you tell have the mentality that it’s public land so no one can stop them from hunting it. While this is true, in my opinion, people who hear you talk about specific drainage and then hunt it do not make good hunting partners or good people. Public land might be public land, but if you are stealing someone’s spot without asking them, it shows laziness and lack of respect for that person. These issues get a little more complicated when you are hunting with someone either in a partnership or a mentor/mentee relationship. Below is my take on how spot ownership should be managed for specific relationships. You may have different ideas and that is okay because, ultimately, as long as you are communicating these ideas with the people you are hunting with then you shouldn’t be damaging any relationships.
When it comes to an equally experienced hunting partner in a new spot, it is my thought that the “ownership” is shared between the two or more partners who discovered it. It is important that the partners have a conversation and discuss future hunting rights and whether the spot can be shared or not. If the partners always hunt together, it is not an issue; however, if they plan on hunting with other people in the future, it is an important conversation. It is vital to understand how secret the newly found spot needs to be to maintain a good relationship. Ultimately, if one partner chooses not to hunt there year after year, then they, essentially, give up their rights; however, it’s still a nice gesture to let them know that you plan on hunting with someone else there and get their blessing. Anyone who has a really good spot out West knows that they are few and far between and constantly getting discovered. The more people who you bring to the spot successfully, the more people hear about it, which will help it get discovered quicker. If you have success, it doesn’t take long for your second cousin and your sister’s boyfriend to want to know exactly where you hunt. The last thing you want is for someone who is unwilling to do any scouting or planning to be sitting on your favorite saddle opening morning of season.
When it comes to a mentor to mentee relationship, the mentor understands that they will be sharing knowledge, skills and spots with the mentee and it is his or her wish to do so. Almost all mentors want the person they are taking hunting out West to be successful and share helpful insight and experiences of the past with that person. When it comes to the hunt out West, the mentor typically does the scouting or knows the area well in hopes of getting the mentee a chance at a bull, buck or whatever quarry they are chasing. In a lot of cases, the mentor is not looking for a partner year after year, but, instead, wants to bestow a good experience on the mentee in order for them to spread their wings and do it themselves the following year. After hunting with a mentor, it is important that the mentee doesn’t commandeer the mentor’s spots as their own. After all, the mentor was showing good will and giving their time in order to try to help the mentee. In my respectful opinion, the spots that the mentor showed them are the mentor’s spots and the mentee has no ownership of them. It shows a lot more respect and personal drive if the mentee asks the mentor to help them find a spot for their next year instead of going to the same spot. If the mentor offers up his spot to the mentee it’s then okay for the mentee to hunt there; however, showing the effort to find a spot that you can call yours is half of the experience. With tools like GOHUNT, it is becoming easier and easier to e-scout and be successful year after year in new spots.
Ultimately, when it comes to spot ownerships and the relationship between hunting partners, communication is key. I might sound like a counselor, but no spot is worth damaging a friendship, partnership or mentor/mentee relationship over. Be respectful of other hunters and especially ones that you spend time in the mountains with and you will make out a lot better. If you need help, then ask a more experienced hunter to assist you in finding spots, but don’t take their spots. If you are a hunter who has a lot of success and people are asking you for advice or where you go, tell them that you are not going to tell them where you went, but be willing to sit down and help them e-scout. Ask them the right questions and let them answer them for themselves with your guidance. This selfless act of sharing your knowledge and skills will help them be successful and keep your spots to yourself.