I wrote this story for another forum here in Maine but since my buddy loved Alaska just like me and has hunted brown bear there twice I thought I would share it with you. My first trip ever to Alaska was with this buddy on his first brown bear hunt and when I desided to move to Alaska he was the first person I called. Here is the story:
Being a guide for over twenty years now I have been blessed with the opportunity to meet lots of people from different backgrounds and areas across the country. Some you wish you never met, some become friends and some yet become "hunting buddies."
A hunting buddy is much more then a friend, you can count on it to always have a great time when they are in you company. You trust them, not only when it comes to the safety that is required when hunting but with your confidence as a true friend. You share things with them you wouldn't share with anyone else. Stories about the wife, problems at work, dark secrets about others, and you know that trust will never be taken for granted or abused.
I have been fortunate to have a hunting buddy like that. He wasn't always my hunting buddy but he became that over the years. My first encounter with him was in 1993 when he came to my lodge for a bear hunt. He was referred to us from a past guest. Little did I know the friendship that would develop from that first meeting. Over the years he has hunted bear with me about nine or ten times, I have lost count. But after the first bear hunt with me I found his true passion was one that I was just getting started in, waterfowl hunting.
I had only been hunting ducks about a year or two when we first met. Well, that was the start of something. My new friend would come up and we would share a duck blind together for many years to come. He taught me how to identify ducks not only by sight but by sound as well. He showed me the difference between immature and mature birds and he showed me how to take care of the birds we got. We just hit it off together.
There are many stories I could share with you about this friend like the time we went to New York state on a duck and goose hunt shortly after Christmas one year. It was the first time I ever went out of state hunting. He took me to a place where the ducks and geese flying over, were literally like swarms of locusts. They were everywhere!!! We were limited out in less then 20 minutes. One goose I shot I had to chase across the mowed frozen corn field, well my new hunting buddy got the laugh of his life as I went tumbling down time and time again trying to catch this goose. Running in heavy pac boots across a frozen field of corn stubble is an art; I am not an artist.
My favorite story happened a few years back. My buddy has a beautiful drake wood duck mounted under glass at his home in Massachusetts. How he got that duck is the story. We were actually out grouse hunting but we always had our duck guns and steel shot in case the opportunity presented itself. We were driving along the shores of our pond when he shouted stop the truck!!! There are wood ducks out there in the pond!!! We got out and proceeded to stalk up on those ducks feeding in the shallows. As we drew closer my buddy suggested that we spread out a little to better surround them. So I moved over to the right to do just that. What happened next is I found myself in the thickest bunch of bushes you could imagine. I couldn't see the lake, my buddy or the ducks. All of a sudden I hear my buddy say "their getting nervous we better get ready to shoot". "SHOOT WHAT, I can't see a thing!!!" "Get ready and TAKE THEM" I hear. "TAKE WHAT, NO WAIT!!!" Next thing I hear is three bangs from his shotgun. I bust through the brush as the smoke cleared and there was my buddy smiling from ear to ear and a nice woody drake lying out in the pond. "How come you didn't shoot?" he says. Because MY BUDDY stuck me in brush so thick I didn't have a chance. He smiled and said, "I don't know what you are talking about". Yeah, sure. Only a buddy could do that to you and get away with it.
I had to retrieve the duck so I had my buddy wait where he could keep and eye on the it while I drove back to the lodge to get a motorboat. As I approached the duck I said, "hey how do you like MY wood duck?" "Oh by the way how are you getting back to camp now?" The lodge was a two-mile walk and my buddy just stood on the shore, smiled and shook his head. I had him, but I did go in and pick him up. After all, he is my buddy. As years would go on and I told the story I would naturally embellish it better. I would tell how MY BUDDY pushed me into the bushes, stepped all over me and shot the duck. My buddy would just smile, shake his head and say, " I don't know what you are talking about".
Last week my buddy was supposed to be up for the first week of birds. We now have an annual thing called the "Top Gun Trophy" (actually a plaque). We compete with two other guys who come up from Mass and NH. The plaque goes to the pair that gets the greatest number of birds, ducks and geese combined in a week. My buddy and I were going for a threepete this year. Sadly the tournament never took place though. My buddy went in for a routine test and developed a bad infection, which went to his heart. He passed away this past Friday.
The last time I was with my buddy was the end of August when he came up for yet another bear hunt. While here he wanted me to come over to the cabin he was staying in. When I got there he pulled out a JC Higgins 410 shotgun that had been his brothers who had passed away years before. He told me he wanted me to have it. Since the beginning of bird season I have fired the gun eight times and taken eight birds. If he was here today I would have told him I know why you gave me the gun, you can't hit the broad side of a barn with it. Then I would have smiled and told him the truth. That was the relationship we had
We were hunting buddies.