Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Opening Day Etiquette and the Lack Thereof

My demeanor goes from enjoying nature, to disgust, to anger. Read on for the details.

Last Saturday was the firearm opener for deer in many of the SoCal units. Brett and I were hunting in D14 near Big Bear and we had a less than excellent day due to some inconsiderate hunters who lack hunter etiquette. This is a bit of a rant and if you are offended, you are free to move on if you don't like what I am saying, but as everyone knows, I speak my mind and I speak the truth.

First off, the rifle opener is almost always going to be packed full of hunters no matter where you go. I completely understand that and I am at peace with the fact I may have to adjust my plans if my spot is already taken. Now, if only everyone else figured that out, too. We made it to our spot at 5:00 AM and had only passed one other truck on the way up the mountain. It was pretty crazy how few vehicles we found. We were the first ones at our particular trail head. As we began pulling our packs and rifles out of the truck, another truck pulled up next to ours and asked us if we were with Larry or Lenny's group. We said no, he repeated himself, and again we said no. We turned our headlamps on and began walking into our spot. When we arrived at the location where we would split up, Brett took one fork at the trail and I took the other. 

By the time I arrived in the area I was to hunt, it was still pitch black. I saw no other headlamps and heard no other sounds except for a pair of small owls above my head. I still had an hour before sunrise, so I leaned up against a tree and let my eyes adjust. One of the owls flew off, but another flattened against a branch and rustled around. I turned my flashlight in low to view it and it was just looking at me. It flew to a closer branch and stared at me, cocking its head back and forth comically. Even though I have seen many owls in my years of hunting, it never gets old. It was such a cool experience!

The sun rose and by 6:35 AM the first shot rang out. At 6:45 is when the drama began. Down the trail about 150 yards, I see movement. With my naked eye I can see it's another hunter, wearing all black and blue, no orange at all. I am standing in plain view and he looks right at me. I turn on my flashlight so he there is no mistake that I am standing there. He evens raises up his binoculars to look at me and then proceeds to walk in my direction. I figure he is going to cut in at any time. Boy, was I wrong! He crept closer and closer and by the time he got to 60 yards, he climbs the hill and posts up behind a tree looking in the same spot I am. Really dude? So, I walk out on the trail so he can plainly see me and walk back to my spot. He comes back down to the trail and walks ten feet from me and starts asking questions. Unreal!

Mr. Inconsiderate: "Are you with Paul and Lenny? You are with our group, right?"

Me: "No. I am not with your group. I am not with Paul or Lenny." 

Mr. Inconsiderate: "Ok, so you are Paul, right?"

Me: "No, I am NOT Paul. I am not with your group."

The hunter doesn't even hear what I am saying and stares blankly at me as he describes that he ventured too far and needs to cut in behind me. 

Mr. Inconsiderate: "So did you come in with Lenny?"

Me: "No. I am NOT with YOUR group. I am in a separate group and the rest of my group is wearing blaze orange and is on the next ridge." 

Mr. Inconsiderate: "Oh, so you are not with our group? Oh, well sorry, but this is where I need to cut in. We have had this plan since last night and I need to follow it."

Mr. Inconsiderate. Enough said.

Where he decided to cut in was directly behind where I was hunting. Not down the trail, directly behind me, thus ruining any chance of a good hunt for the morning in this spot. Before I could say anything, he was off hiking behind me and what was I going to do? He was incredibly inconsiderate and showed no etiquette at all. Whether you have a plan or not, plans change due to unforeseen circumstances and you need to adjust. He should have hiked back to where he needed to go in originally.

If this were me hiking into an area where I was going to put on a drive and I found another hunter where I needed to go, I would find another way around. I would not go in and ruin their hunt! If it were the only trail head around and he needed to get into the forest that would have been a different story, but this is not that situation. Nor was it dark and he walked up to me. He walked right up to me in broad daylight. Unfortunately, that is the reality of inconsiderate hunters on public land.

I stuck around for another couple hours going up and down the trail as not to mess up Brett's hunt on the adjacent ridge. The best part of my morning was spotting a very large, and beautiful bobcat at 130 yards. He was a lucky cat as I still had 5 more days before he was legal!

When Brett and I met up at 9:00 AM, he talked about getting to his spot and hearing some noise right in front on him. He saw an ear flicker and knew it was a deer! Unfortunately, it was a doe, but she walked right toward him. She stopped at 18 yards and then two other deer came up behind her. You guessed it, two more doe and they just lingered around for a bit. I'll bet Brett's heart was racing! On our ride up the mountain I had cracked a joke about how the deer would be at 20 yards because it was rifle season. It turns out I was darn close!

He then proceeded to tell me about two guys from a hunting party who hiked in behind him (after the sun came up) and walked right by where he was hunting. He couldn't believe it. He was also wearing blaze orange and they were not. Go figure! Then I told him my story and he shook his head. This is why some hunters get upset and blog about things like this. People constantly say that we need to stick together as hunters, but I disagree when it comes to situations like this. Not only is it rude, but there is a major safety issue here.

Waiting out the afternoon while watching a distant hillside.

In the afternoon, our plan was similar to the morning hunt. We each hiked into a certain spot to sit for the night. I positioned myself above a canyon where I could see up the trail and the canyon. I felt like the evening watch could be productive, so I moved some rocks around, set up my rifle, and waited. About an hour later, here comes Mr. Inconsiderate again hiking up the trail. This time I was 150 yards beyond where I was in the morning and he spotted me right away. He lifted his binoculars to check me out and I did the same. I let him know I could see him, even if he was wearing black. I refused to look away and that's when he got on the radio and began chatting with his group. It took him about three minutes to decide that hiking toward me was a bad idea and not the right thing to do. So he hiked a different way, right? He walked toward me about 50 yards and then hiked up a small hill. I figured he would crest the hill and disappear, but I was wrong. He skirted the hill walking right towards me again. This time I made sure to get right out on the trail and walk toward him a bit. I wanted him to know how uncool it was what he was doing. Almost immediately he saw me, glassed me, and cut into the brush and disappeared. I noticed this time he had his orange meat shelf flap pulled over his pack. I watched for another 15 minutes and saw that he indeed was gone.

I slowly made my way back out the way I came in. I scoured the hillsides, the crevices, and under the trees. Nothing. No deer. The sun began to set and I heard someone coming down the hill. Sure enough, there was Brett with another story for me. He had set up on a point of the ridge and from down below, another hunter hiked up toward him. He looked right at Brett (you couldn't miss his blaze orange), and sat down right in the middle of the valley. He was directly in Brett's shooting lane! Needless to say, there wasn't much we could do at that point as it was time to head out.

We hiked back out to the truck and shook our heads the entire way. It was a harsh learning experience, but I know we will not only have plan A and B, but also C and D in the future. To the guys who disregard safety and etiquette, I hope you have a great season, but wake up and think of your fellow hunter. We are all out there to hunt, have a good time, and fill our freezers. Don't be so selfish and think about others. Time to go back to the drawing board and avoid people like that as much as we can.


  1. What a shame. Unfortunately, there are always guys like that though. Sorry you guys had a crummy opener.

  2. Yay. Public land.

    Time to find a remote spot, Al. I mean REALLY remote. By the time you're a mile or more from the road, you start to leave behind the rude, the arrogant, and most of the stupid. By the time you're five miles in, most hunters are as committed, and generally as experienced, as you are.

    But even then... there are a lot of people in CA. A lot of them want to be in the same place as you do.

    In the meantime, keep at it. Educate when you can. Some people just have no clue. No one has ever told them these things. I try to keep that in mind, but that didn't do much to reduce the blood pressure when things like this happened on public land.

    Good luck.