Don't Ask, Don't Tell

It’s been said that loose lips sink ships, with the idea being that what you don’t say can’t hurt you.

Of course when someone else tells your wife you have a couple of girlfriends on the side, the story changes. Therein lies the dilemma of the outdoorsman: A lot of the joy of hunting or fishing is the time spent with your buddies.

I’ve always said that who I hunt with is more important than where or what I hunt. It’s always exciting to share the stories with buddies about what you’ve seen while on stand. In this age of cell phones and the ability to text, you can actually do it in real time. When someone in our group reports seeing deer moving, it’s like a shot of encouragement that causes me to focus more. When someone actually connects on a deer, we all get as excited as if we’d done it ourselves.

The downside of reporting a big buck sighting is that now you’ve let the cat out of the bag, so to speak. His location is no longer a secret. And if someone in your group has no shame, there’s a chance you might be seeing a lot more of that person in the near future. While we’re all tempted to mosey on over to the new hotspot, most of us honor the old “finders keepers” code and let the lucky guy who saw the deer first give it his best shot. But within every group of hunting and fishing buddies there are always a few folks who give into that temptation.

In our pack of knuckleheads we have such a guy. For the sake of this story we’ll call him John, because that’s his real name. John starts every season saying: “I don’t really care if I kill a deer or not. I’ll probably just hunt near the lodge.” And he means it—until someone spots the first big buck of the year. Then, in a flash, Mr. “I’ll just hunt near the lodge” is calling U-Haul and moving into the new hotspot. I haven’t read the hunter etiquette book lately so I can’t state what’s the proper amount of separation between hunters, but I’ve sneezed while on stand and heard John say, “Bless you.”

For years we just accepted it as part of the deal. In fact, we joked that we should take advantage of his Achilles heel and send him on a wild goose chase, but we never did-until this past fall.

In mid-September I was the last of our group to arrive at the lodge on a Friday night. As I was driving not 300 yards from the lodge, I had to hit the brakes as a stud 10-point whitetail bounded across the dirt road in front of me. Knowing that John always hunted near the lodge early in the season, I had to find a way to “lead” him toward greener pastures. When I entered the lodge I said, “I almost ran over a 160-inch buck!”

“Where was he?” John asked.

After a slight pause I said, “In that cutover right after you turn in off the highway.” Forgive me, Lord.

“That’s weird.” John said, “We hardly ever see deer up there.”

“I know” I replied, “but he was there, and he’s huge!”

The next morning as we drank coffee we started sorting out where everyone was going to hunt. “I think I’ll hunt that old cut-over right off the highway,” John said. What a surprise. When asked where I was going, I said, “I’m pretty tired. I might just hunt the field next to the lodge.” Oh I love it when a plan comes together.

Well, I did end up hunting the field next to the lodge, and I saw two raccoons and a spike buck. And on the edge of the cut-over next to the highway, dumb old John shot what would become our club’s deer of the year. Of course it wasn’t the 10-pointer I’d seen. No, this buck had 16 scoreable points, including a 6-inch drop tine.

From now on I’m just keeping my big mouth shut.

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