In the past year I have hunted both solo and with partners for elk, whitetail and coyotes. At times when hunting solo I found myself wishing I had someone to share the experience with, while on other hunts I felt like strangling my hunting partner for making so much noise on the way in. This blog provides a list of pros and cons for solo hunting.
Pro: You don’t have to listen to anyone.
Harrison and I have hunted the same areas for years. We each focus on wind and weather fronts while targeting mature bucks. Yet, when we try to hunt together we inevitably end up disagreeing on the right approach. One of us believes we should leave a stand for later in the season or that the wind will educate the deer, while the other fully embraces the opposite. The ability to completely control a hunt provides a huge incentive for going solo. When you want to stay longer or get up and cover ground the choice belongs to you instead of a two person democracy. You can mediate this issue by working out a system in which one person has complete control over certain hunts. For example, the Drury brothers split up who decides morning and evening hunts, yet we would all like to control both.
Pro: You can be half as loud and twice as fast.
During the first week of elk season last year I hunted with two other guys. The only thing we had going for us was that we sounded a bit like a herd of elk moving through the forest. With whitetail hunting as well it always seems like the other guy makes all of the noise. Solo hunting allows you to be half as loud and also not give yourself a headache listening to your partner break every stick possible. Additionally, you don’t have to spend time debating or discussing options. You just go.
Pro/Con: No Sharing
Most hunting parties have a system worked out in which they rotate the shooter and the caller. When hunting solo you always get to do both. This creates both costs and benefits. It’s nice to share a hunt with your buddies but also may leave you empty handed at the end of the season wondering if you would have been better off alone. For animals such as pronghorn, mule deer or whitetail, which provide limited quality opportunities and don’t respond well to calls, you will have a better chance going at it alone. For callable game such as elk, ducks and coyotes, your chances will improve when adding a single partner. Hunting with more than two likely diminishes success rates for all species except pheasant, coon and occasionally elk.
Ask yourself why you hunt. Is it to shoot trophy animals, experience the outdoors, push your limits or some other reason? A clear understanding of what you want to get out of a hunt always leads to better results. No doubt solo hunting introduces a new level of difficulty by removing companions that would not only help you find and kill animals but also keep your spirits up. I spend a fair amount of time by myself throughout the year, and I still struggle on hunts when I don’t have contact with others. If you want to get away from it all, solo hunting offers exactly that. If you want to hunt for a long period and enjoy the hunt, you may want to go with someone else.
Con: Recovery and Pack Out
I learned this one from experience. I shot my bull last year and failed to find it until I returned to the area a week later and followed the smell of rotting flesh. I am sure the probability of finding that bull would have gone up dramatically with an extra set of eyes. Additionally, packing out the meat would have only taken one trip. You can bivy in easily while solo hunting but make sure you have a well-developed plan following the shot.
No doubt filming hunt is much easier with a partner. If you don’t believe me watch last years coyote hunting episode compared to the whitetail hunt. Effectively zooming in while also focusing on setting up your shot is incredibly challenging. Having a partner there to not only film but also range the animal helps out a lot.
Consider a Hybrid
Hunters have a third option, which can combine the best of both solo hunting and group hunts. During elk season I would hunt the mornings with a partner, when it was beneficial to calling, then make a solo stationary stand in the evening. By creating a hybrid between the two styles you can get the best of both worlds.
In the end it comes down to personal preference. Some guys really enjoy solitude, while others thrive on sharing the experience with their buddies. Consider the animal you’re hunting, your goals for the hunt and how you personally handle spending extended periods of time alone. Good luck, Stu.