If you're anything like me, hunting out West is more of an addiction than an obsession. Year after year, life gets busier and busier, but not going hunting is never on the table. However, I am happily married and I want it to stay that way, so getting my wife’s approval to go annually is definitely something I think about. Some of you lucky men and women out there are like me and have a partner that pushes me to go because it's the one time of year I can get away and reset. Even so, getting your spouse on board and keeping them on board with hunting consistently is not something to take lightly. Hunting costs money, takes time and really is a family decision that should be made as a family. Here are four tips to keep your spouse happy year after year so you can keep doing what you love for many years to come.
If you are trying to make hunting an annual tradition it is important to get your spouse on your side. The number one thing that you can do to get your partner on board is to communicate with them months — if not years — prior to going hunting. A trip planned out is better for your finances and is also better for your relationship since it gives time for both to get in order. Having the conversation in December or January will give you enough time to plan out the event, find a few hunting partners, get some dates lined up and apply for your tags. A last minute trip is sure to frustrate your husband or wife, especially if there are other factors like tight finances, lack of time off, kids, pets and other responsibilities. Having open communication months before is a better way to get them on your side than declaring you are going hunting a few weeks prior to September.
Another really important tip that will keep you hunting year after year is to set up separate times at different times of year to take them on a trip. This is especially important for people who have limited vacation time. If you want to make hunting an annual thing then it is important to make a couples or family trip an annual event as well. The last thing that you want is for your spouse to look back and see you only making time for your trips and not for the family. If you have limited days off, then plan to split them between hunting and family trips to ensure you are taking care of the things that are really important — even if your partner says you don’t have to. If time is tight, you can always think about having them join you for the beginning or the back half of a trip.
Another important tip that I think is important and is often overlooked is to invite them on the trip — even if you know they will say no. Not every trip is set up for your husband or wife to “tag” along with you; however, if there ever is an opportunity to have them come, do it. You are dating or married to this person so sharing your hobby with them will make them feel special and shouldn’t be that big of a deal. A few years ago I did not have a hunting partner for a September elk hunt so I invited my wife. She joined me, but stayed at camp while I hunted. She did some small day hikes with our dog and lounged in the hammock to catch up on some reading. When I shot a bull on the thirrd day she was probably more excited than me. We hiked in the next morning and she helped me butcher it and pack it out over five miles each way. Taking her on that trip gave me someone to hang out with, eat meals with and talk to. Looking back on this experience really helped her appreciate how difficult archery elk hunting can be, but also allowed her to see why I love it.
While on a trip, there are a few things that always make it better for your significant other. The first thing that you should try to do is communicate regularly. This may involve a plan to drive into service every few days or getting a satellite communication device like an InReach to text on the regular. This communication may cost you a little sleep, drive time or money, but is vitally important to letting your partner know that you are OK and making it a good experience for him or her while you are away. The second important thing that I always try to do is to take lots of pictures while on the trip. Often, it is easy for us to take the beautiful vistas we see for granted and don’t snap any photos; however, our spouses appreciate our photos upon our return. The final thing that I do while on a trip to make my spouse know how much I appreciate her by buying her a small keepsake. Sometimes this is a shirt from a small mountain town, blanket or I have even found cool keepsakes on the mountains. Anytime you can bring them something — whether it is pictures or keepsakes — you are telling them that you were thinking of them while out doing something you love.
When I think of hunting out West, it always comes back to how lucky I am to be able to do it year after year for multiple seasons. I have the time, finances and a supportive wife who pushes me to make it an annual trip — no matter what it takes. She loves elk meat, so that makes it even easier, but also pushes me to be even more successful at bringing home some steaks for the freezer. If you want to make your western hunt an annual tradition, make sure to communicate early, make offseason time for a family vacation, take care of your partner while you are away and, if the opportunity arises, invite them. If you do all of these things correctly, your partner will be way more open to your annual hunting trip and maybe even push you to go.