Choosing your hunting partners can be a lot like building a sports franchise. If you surround yourself with experienced sportsmen, you'll become a better hunter, be more successful and have a lot more fun.
My group often hunts together in close quarters, where communication and execution become essential to success.
I've been lucky enough to grow up with a pretty good team of hunters around me, and everyone seems to have their own special set of skills.
One of my hunting buddies wouldn't be able to hit a parked 747 jumbo jet with his shotgun, but he's an unmatched rifleman and could knock a fork out of your hand from 300 yards with his 7-millimeter magnum.
Another lifelong hunter who's now retired has enough wit and humor to get me laughing so hard I have to excuse myself from the cabin to try to catch my breath.
The number of hunting days has dwindled for the oldest member of our party, but he stays on as a driver, gourmet fry chef and teacher.
As for my younger hunting partners -- I'm always honored to have them drag out my latest kill from the bottom of a canyon.
Good hunting partners extend to other species as well.
Though I classify many of my human hunting buddies as dogs (they know who they are), I've also had the opportunity to hunt with some outstanding canines.
Our bird-hunting dogs, Sarah and Brittney, were both pointers and retrievers. One's now dead and the other is mostly deaf, blind and decrepit, but she still hobbles across the yard to greet me whenever I make it back to my hometown.
I'm not much of a believer in hunting big game with dogs. Unless they're very well trained, I think dogs are more likely to chase off an animal than lead you to it.
Nevertheless, I tried my hand at deer hunting with the dog that belongs to my friend, the rifleman.
It was nice company to have up in the cold mountains -- until she decided she had enough and left the hunt in favor of food and a warm fire back at camp.
Aside from the occasional practical joke, the more I hunt with my team the more I know what to expect out of them and the more they know what they'll get from me.
Like any winning team, we have a good chemistry and everyone knows their roles.
If our hunting team had a manager, I'm not sure who it would be. If it were me, there isn't anybody I'd want to trade.
Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.