Ways to hunt more and keep your family close
We have all seen the memes and e-cards that humorously point out the conflict between family life and hunting: The bride pulling her soon-to-be-husband out of the blind because he is skipping out on their wedding in order to go hunting, the "just one more" jokes about how many guns is enough, and the list goes on.
Truth be told hunting and family life seem like they are in constant conflict with each other. But there is a compromise that can be found in which you are able to give your family the time, resources and attention they deserve while also having time and money to be spent on hunting.
The reality of limited time
There are only so many hours in a day and so many days in a year. Additionally, there are only so many years in your life. It is important to maximize your time by spending your days doing the things and being with the people that are most important to you. Hunting is obviously a big part of your life, hence why you are reading this article in the first place. The fact of the matter for many of us is that we have to figure out how to balance hunting with our family life.
Family must be one of the most important things in your life. For me personally, God is number one in my life, my wife is number two and my kids are number three. Everything else must come after those three things. Otherwise, my priorities are out of line and I am neglecting something that should take higher priority. With this in mind, it is important to figure out how to establish a healthy balance between the people I love and the things I love.
The first step in finding this balance is to establish priorities for your daily life. You have to step back from everything you are involved in, pursuing and investing in to decide what is most important for you. It could be your faith, spouse, children, job, hunting, etc. Until you decide what the most important things is to you, you cannot set proper priorities. Once you have decided what is the absolute most important thing in your life, then you can begin to engineer your priority structure. For me, because God is number one and my wife and children are number two and number three, that means that I need to make sure that I focus on my relationship with God first and foremost. This will then lead to me caring for my wife above any other person, followed closely by my children because that is what I believe He would want me to do. Does this mean that every waking second must be devoted to these three things? No, not necessarily. What it does mean, however, is that I need to be sure that my time is spent in such a way that it is clear that the people I love are my biggest priorities. Whatever time is left over will be allocated to the things I enjoy doing.
Clearly, hunting is one of the things I enjoy doing and would like to continue doing. This brings me to another decision that I have to make: Do I want hunting to be something I do by myself, with my family, or a combination of the two?
There are pros and cons to all of these options, but here are the most relevant ones for these purposes:
|Focus on the hunt and nothing else||Time away from family|
|Ability to hunt longer and farther||Added burden on spouse at home|
|Time with hunting buddies||Less opportunities due to time away|
Hunting by yourself (or with friends) lends itself to some benefits. You can hunt longer during the day, you are not restricted by the needs of your kids or spouse and you can rely on only yourself to do what you feel you need to do. However, since hunting by yourself means you are leaving your family, this may mean that you are not able to hunt as often. If you hunt often, it may cause stress and strain on your relationships with your family.
Hunting as a family endeavor
|Extra time with family||Less ability to focus on the hunt|
|Instill hunting into your children||Added expense for food, travel, etc.|
|Shared experience with spouse||Difficult to backpack into an area|
Hunting as a family can be a great experience that can create lifelong memories. Yet, it is also not easy. Your focus will naturally be divided between hunting and family, meaning you cover less ground, hunt for less time and stay closer to a fixed camp than if you hunted by yourself. It might also be difficult to hunt as often as you would like because of the added expense and resources required for your family to go with you (even if it is just you and your spouse).
Combination of the two
|More hunting opportunity||Increased burden on your family|
|Increased time with family||Picking and choosing only a few hunts|
Choosing to do some hunts as a family and some hunts by yourself is a good compromise (at least, it is for me and my family). It allows you to spend that time with your family and include them in something you love, but it also gives you the opportunity to get out on your own every now and then. You have to be sure to balance it so that your family is supportive of the hunts you want to do. When it is apparent that it has become a burden to them, it is time to back it off a bit.
The financial side of things
Time is not the only resource on the table here. Hunting costs money. You have to make sure that hunting is budgeted for properly and that you and your spouse are in agreement on how much is enough for hunting. My wife and I have a hunting budget and we hunt as much as that budget will allow and no more. This keeps my family from being harmed financially as a result of me wanting to scratch my sheep itch.
Ways to balance hunting and family
Limited number of scouting trips
You may only be able to scout once or twice for an upcoming hunt for the sake of your family. If this is the case, utilize other tools in place of scouting trips like INSIDER, Google Earth, trail camera, topo maps, online forums and mutual friends. Another great option is to take your family on a few scouting/camping trips with you.
Limited number of hunts each year
Plan a set amount of hunts each year. Right now, I plan one elk, one deer and, if possible, one specialty hunt each year. This year, we did not have enough time or money for me to go bear hunting, so I am only going elk hunting and deer hunting. If I want to do a different deer hunt in a different state next year, I will have to budget for it and substitute it for my current deer hunt. This keeps me from adding any burden to my family.
20 year plan
But what if you want to hunt more than just two or three species? For many of us, we want to hunt elk, whitetail, mule deer, antelope, sheep, mountain goats, moose, caribou and more. Here is what I do:
- Make a list of every hunt you want to do someday.
- Determine what hunts you can legitimately afford to do right now.
- Of the hunts you cannot afford, schedule them out a few years (up to 20 years in the future) and implement a plan to get to the point where you can do them in the timeframe you want.
- Of the hunts you can afford, put in for those hunts with the expectation of getting drawn for all of them (It likely will not happen, but you will be prepared in the event it does). This will ensure that you do not put in for too many hunts and it will keep hunting from becoming an unnecessary burden on your family as a result of poor planning.
The greatest benefits of hunting – memories
Some of my favorite memories are from hunting. The experience of tracking an elk herd with my wife and then harvesting a mature animal with her help is one of my favorite memories of my entire life. I cannot wait to teach my daughter and my son how to hunt and take them with me when they are old enough. Sure, it might mean I go home empty-handed that year, but the experience and the memories will be with me long after the freezer gets unplugged. Do not sacrifice something great for something good. Do not miss out on time with your family in the name of pursuing an animal.
If I had it my way, I would be hunting 24/7 all year long… and my family would be right there with me. I love hunting, but I love my family more. If I had to give up one, the choice would be simple: my family is far more important to me than any hobby. However, when done right, hunting can become just as important to your family because you have balanced hunting and family life and included them in such a way that they see hunting as something all of us can enjoy.