Hunting with your wife...romantic weekend or instant divorce?
I have the most amazing wife!!! I truly believe that! For 11 years of marriage she has continually surprised me with how funny, thoughtful and patient she can be. We actually enjoy hanging out together, and we get along pretty well without having to try that hard. My life is good!
But, I had never once hunted with my wife, and it seemed - at least on paper - like it could either be a great idea or the worst thing ever. The only other time I had tried to invite her into one of my hobbies was taking her golfing once when we were first married. She swung at a few balls at the driving range, declared it a "dumb game," and chose to drive the cart while I played a quick 18 holes. She hasn't been to a golf course since. So, with this experience in the back of my mind, I went into this couples deer hunt with at least a little bit of trepidation. "What if she hates it?" "What if I accidentally talk down to her?" (the thing she hates most in the world) "What if she shoots a deer and bursts into tears?" I wasn't totally sure what to expect. She hunted a couple times as a girl (though never killed anything), and we have been shooting together many times for fun/training. She's comfortable in the outdoors, but I just wasn't sure how "into it" she'd be once we got out there.
However, here is the main thing I had going for me: This was going to be a fairly "easy" hunt. Not easy to the point where the bucks wouldn't make us work for it, but it was not backcountry hunting by any means. We were hunting a family alfalfa farm where we drive in before dawn each morning, glass up and try to make a move on any bucks that we see, go back to her aunt's very comfortable house in the late morning for a nap, return to the farm for the last couple hours of daylight, go back to the house, sleep, repeat. Pretty low key. I'm not AT ALL saying my wife couldn't have handled a more intense hunting experience, but this is a great entry hunt!
The other factor that I hoped would work in my favor was that her father and brother also had tags and would be hunting with us that weekend. This made it more of a family outing, and added an extra layer of fun with all the personalities involved. Speaking of family, the cherry on top was that our kids would be spending the weekend with their grandma...at that point, it almost didn't matter what we did, Sarah was going to have a fun kid-free weekend.
So what happened? Was it a good idea, or the beginning of the end of our marriage? It turns out that my wife is the best hunting buddy ever! She certainly seemed to enjoy herself, sure, but I had so much fun being with her during the hunt. My priority was getting her a buck, and it was fun to see that I wasn't going to have to push her at all. Despite having the worst vision of any human I know, she was glassing up deer all weekend. When we would be watching a group of does and fawns feed through a field, she kept wanting to make a move on them and I would be the one holding her back - reminding her it wasn't worth spooking the does if we didn't see antlers in the group. And despite being freezing cold every morning (which is slightly ridiculous because it was a balmy 50 degrees and she had about seven layers on...I don't think we'll be booking a husband-wife Alaska hunt any time soon), she never once complained about it. She was awesome!
Unfortunately, neither of us got a buck that weekend. Her brother shot one about 10 minutes into shooting light on opening morning, so we at least had someone in the party find success. But even as Sunday morning came to a close with no shots fired, she was not disheartened in any way. In fact, she was trying to think of ways to justify sticking around for a Sunday evening hunt, despite needing to go get our children and get ready for the busy week starting Monday. I am so proud of how she attacked that whole experience, and I'm pretty sure with a couple more nudges and maybe getting a shot on an animal, I can get her as addicted to this thing as I am.
So, should you, Mr. Married Hunter, throw some camo on your wife and take her hunting? I would say that depends on how you approach it. If she has zero interest and you keep bugging her to come with you, you may need to let it go for a while or change tactics. If she's open to the idea, but has never set foot in the wilderness, slowly ease her into it. You may literally have to pitch a tent in the backyard and sleep out there together some night, go on a hike just outside of town, get her comfortable with shooting in general before throwing her behind your .300 WinMag...don't take her 0-60 in no time flat, because odds are you'll push her away from the sport rather than draw her in (see newlywed golfing incident above). Be patient, don't be pushy, and let her fall in love with it at her own pace.
Now, if there happen to be any hunting wives reading this who have never embarked on this adventure with their husband, allow me to try and explain. It's possible your husband has bugged you year after year to come hunting with him, and you can't understand why he hasn't taken your first "no" as an indication that you have no interest in ever going hunting. First of all, if he's asking, it means he genuinely enjoys spending time with you, he loves you, and he wants to share one of his dearest passions with the woman he loves...so it's coming from a good place. Second, when men seek a spouse, one of the things they are looking for is a playmate (not in the creepy way that sounds...what I mean is someone to play with). Inside EVERY man is still a 12 year old boy who wants to go on an adventure, to play in the dirt, and he wants to do that with the people he likes the most (that's you). And in much the same way that boys on the playground don't understand that pulling a girl's hair doesn't communicate affection the way they intend it to, men are not always sensitive to the fact that guys and girls tend to like different adventures. We can't fully fathom why a week in the woods chasing animals wouldn't seem like the best time ever to the woman that we love, in the same way you can't fully understand why a Saturday at a farmer's market makes him want to gouge his eyes out with a rusty spoon. It's a wiring issue...we're just built differently.
So, do you need to put aside your desire to not hunt for his desire to hunt? No, not necessarily. A healthy marriage is based on both partners working as hard as they can to meet the other person's needs and desires. My encouragement to you would be to start with one aspect of hunting or the outdoors that you could agree to try with your husband. Maybe you go on a hike with him when he's training for next season. Maybe you pick up a bow or a rifle and just engage in the target practice side of hunting, even if you have no intention of ever pointing that thing at an animal. Whatever sounds most agreeable to you, find a way to engage in some part of this with your husband. Maybe you'll get hooked and want to take on more, or maybe it will never go beyond that one step. Either way, he will appreciate the gesture, and it will give you something to share together. And husbands - in the same way, find something that your wife wants to do and do it with a good attitude. Bonus points if you can figure out what that thing is and suggest it before she does!
Not that Sarah and I are experts by any means, but we're often asked by new couples what advice or secrets we could share for making a marriage work. Our first answer every time is to never stop having fun together. We make it a point to laugh every day, to find hobbies we can share together (while also making allowances for each person to have their own thing), and to never trade adventure for sitting in front of Netflix six nights a week. Husbands: love your wives and be patient with them as they try to understand the hunting obsession that has completely taken over your life. Wives: recognize that your husband's desire to share adventures with you is one of the most sincere "I love you's" he is capable of - try to find a way to take him up on that. If both partners can find ways to set their wants aside for the other person's, you should find yourselves in a more fulfilling and happy marriage.