Taking the Wife Hunting

Doug Leier

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I’m secure enough to proclaim I’m not much of an expert at most things. Regardless of the topic or subject at hand, there's always going to be someone who knows more or has done it better. That doesn't bother me.

Save for having a pretty good idea on how to get kids interested in outdoor activities, most of the time I’ll yield to other experts. Especially when it comes to getting a spouse interested in the outdoors.

My wife is a self professed anti-outdoorswoman. That in itself doesn't bother me. I’ve never really tried to push my wife into taking up hunting. She’ll gladly tag along fishing, and probably would enjoy fishing if her husband/guide could ever put her in a spot to catch something other than a bullhead.

But realistically, at this stage of the game, it's usually my son and/or daughter who accompany me on outdoors excursions.

This works OK. Taking the kids fishing or even just watching wildlife allows for some one-on-one time with dad, and gives my wife a little time to herself, even if it's dad who is really yearning to get outdoors.

The same template used to interest kids in hunting can also be used with spouses who do not yet hunt or fish. Most likely, the spouse who is not a hunter or angler is female because about 85-90 percent of the state's hunting licenses, and roughly 70 percent of the fishing licenses, are sold to men.

I know many husbands and wives who enjoy each other's company through their fishing, hunting and camping forays. More couples could and should spend time outdoors together, but the process for introducing and creating interest in outdoor activities, for kids and adults, should be more similar than different.

The basic philosophy for the outdoors-person-in-training is to provide a safe, fun and enjoyable experience. Little can be gained by forcing an outdoor recruit, no matter his or her age, into situations they’re not ready for or won't enjoy.

An unpleasant outing may just sour their desire for taking up hunting or fishing, and we all know the rule of “‘once bitten, twice shy,” in terms of a bad experience leaving an individual very hesitant to trying it again.

Many states, including North Dakota, offer specific programs to help women learn more about not just hunting and fishing, but an array of other outdoor skills. The one theme that holds true - not just in hunting either - is to make it fun and enjoyable.

A good start is a hunter education course even if her birthday falls outside the required age of being born after Dec. 31, 1961. The coursework provides invaluable knowledge and skills beyond the ability to safely and comfortably handle firearms.

A better start is to take the course with your spouse/significant other, even if you don't need to. Most of these classes are made up of 11- and 12-year-olds and adults who did not pick up hunting earlier in life will feel much more comfortable if someone they know is in the class.

Next, spend some off-season time learning about your quarry and the equipment she’ll be using. If she's never shot before, don't introduce her to the recoil of 12 gauge magnum loads. Help her slowly experience different shotguns and rifles.

Each time you head out into the field, plan out your hunting scenario and verbalize it, so she knows what to expect and can communicate her thoughts.

For example, let's say your wife hates getting up early, has never enjoyed the taste of duck, and can't bear the thought of trudging through a muddy slough. Suffice it to say you’d be better off spending a sunny afternoon pheasant hunting rather than forcing her to rise before the crack of down to spend a cold, wet morning waiting for a wayward shoveler to land in your decoys.

If she's never hunted before and she doesn't like the first experience, chances are your next offer will be turned down. Getting off on the right foot, so to speak, requires patience and often a sacrifice of your own participation. Down the road there may be opportunities for new adventures.

Another good step is to give her some ownership in the equipment and accessories instead of just handing her your second gun or hand-me-down clothes. If you take the process seriously enough to invest time, money and energy to ease her into the world of hunting, the effort is much more likely to be appreciated.

Spending time outdoors with your wife, husband, kids or any loved one can only serve to strengthen relationships and foster appreciation for our resources. This autumn, take a look at the big picture and see if somebody else might enjoy spending a little more time on the other side of the window. Husband, wife, son daughter, friend or neighbor, the key is to go … outdoors.

Leier is a biologist. He can be reached by email: dleier@nd.gov

Posted by Doug Leier under Hunting on April 28, 09 12:54 PM | Permalink

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