Choose your hunting partners wisely

With daylight waning and several miles still to go, Don turned our borrowed side-by-side north on what my digital map indicated was a road and hit the gas. Our goal was to get him home in time for a family dinner.

If we accomplished that minor task, it would keep us out of trouble. So I grabbed the hang-on-for-dear-life bar and held on tight.

Our day began early Monday. It was just after daylight when we left town to go scouting for my bighorn sheep hunt. Given the number of birthdays that have come and gone since my first, and the mandatory waiting period that goes into effect after drawing this tag, there is a good chance my sheep hunt will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. So, doing a little preliminary work could make all the difference in the outcome.

Don Nash and I have been hunting and fishing together for more than a decade, but we have known each other for about 25 years. Together with our friend Paul Mona, we have shared some memorable outdoor adventures and experienced success and frustration along the way. It is through those shared experiences that lessons are learned and lifelong friendships are cemented.

Bill Camp, an old family friend, used to say, “Choose your rut carefully. You might be in it for several miles.”

Anyone who has spent time driving in the outdoors knows the wisdom in that warning, and with a little creative editing, that counsel also applies to those you invite into your hunting camp. Choose your hunting partners carefully. You might be with them for several days.

While quality hunting partners make for good times and fun memories, a poor choice in partners can cast a shadow over your entire camp. What otherwise would be an enjoyable adventure can quickly become something worth forgetting. Do yourself a favor and get to know someone before you invite them into your camp. Then follow your instincts. Oftentimes they will be correct.

At first, it seemed as if that little road Don and I took would be the solution we needed, but it didn’t take long for us to figure out we needed a better navigator.

The road dropped through a shallow wash and climbed over a small hill with a narrow peak that I thought would cause us to become high-centered. From there, the road quickly devolved into more of a trail that passed through a lengthy stretch of unending whoop-de-dos. Then the trail suddenly disappeared, and we found ourselves following a narrow wash. Well, trying to. It wasn’t always easy to see.

Somewhere along the line, Don turned and shouting over the motor’s roar asked, “Are you nervous?” Then he smiled and put a little more pressure on the gas pedal.

As we neared the main road that led back to the pickup truck, the trail suddenly narrowed where it entered a mini canyon of sorts that was just big enough for a four-wheeler to pass. There was no way the side-by-side would make it, and there was no way to go around. We had no choice but to backtrack.

“That is one of the reasons we go scouting, right,” Don said as he turned the side-by-side around. “You have to know where the roads go and where they don’t. That way there are no surprises when your hunt begins.”

The clock was ticking, so back we went along the narrow wash and through the whoop-de-dos. There were 153 of those little neck-snapping hills, 306 if you count them in both directions.

We explored several other roads as well as the whoop-de-do corridor, but perhaps our most significant discovery was a natural water tank or tenaja. Given the tracks that we saw near the tank, it is probably something we should keep in mind as my hunt unfolds.

When all was said and done, we shared a good scouting trip, saw some new country, found a few rams and still delivered my friend on time for his family dinner. That’s what friends are for.

Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions are his own. Find him on Facebook at @dougwritesoutdoors. He can be reached at

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