The first few years Joyce and I were married I traveled to southwestern Kansas to hunt deer on ground operated by her uncle. After 3 or 4 years she accompanied me for the first time, and one particular evening decided to tag along for the evening hunt. She comes from a mostly non-hunting family, so she didn’t have a tag or carry a gun. We were tucked into a clump of weeds at the edge of an overgrown patch surrounding a wheat field. Before us lay miles of short-cropped pasture riddled with deep brushy draws and craggy hills. I could tell she was seriously questioning her decision to sit with me there in the middle of nowhere, and wondering what on God’s green earth we were doing. I pointed to a steep rise a few hundred yards away and told her to watch closely because deer would soon be coming up and over that hill. I will take to my grave the look on her face as one-by-one mule deer began popping up and over that rise just as I’d predicted. She was hooked, and today has harvested a handful of Kansas deer herself, one of which hangs on our wall and was taken from almost the exact spot we sat that first night.
A spouse’s transition to accompanying you on the hunt may not happen overnight. Let me share some things that have helped Joyce and I become hunting partners. First and foremost, be patient. Anyone acquainted with me knows that patience is not one of my virtues, but I’m learning to be more patient when it comes to explaining outdoor things to Joyce. Whether it’s pointing out coyote tracks or telling her about a deer scrape, I have to remind myself that it’s the same principle as if she were trying to teach me to crochet (now there’s a mental picture!)
We definitely hunt deer differently when we’re together than I did before she accompanied me. Before we hunted together, I’d simply tuck myself under the overhanging boughs of a cedar, or climb into the rubble of a fallen tree. Now, we are always in our elevated blind which offers protection from the elements and allows for muffled conversations. I just have to swallow my pride when she shoulders her “bag” containing a book, snacks, a drink, etc. My advice here is to buy a pop-up blind or put together some sort of shelter for you to hunt from as a “couple.” Trust me; it won’t detract from your masculinity!
My first deer gun was a little SKS military rifle chambered for rounds in 7.62 x 39; probably the absolute smallest I’d recommend for harvesting Kansas deer, but the recoil is minimal. When Joyce decided she wanted her own deer rifle, I gave her the little SKS and moved up to a .270 for myself. I sometimes wish she felt comfortable with something a little bigger that packs more knock-down power, but the SKS fits her well, she’s comfortable with it and well-placed shots from that little bugger have cleanly harvested both whitetail and muleys’ here in Kansas. My advice on guns for your spouse is to let her shoot a few then allow her to decide what gun she feels most comfortable shooting.
Whatever you do, don’t “over-gun” her. The same applies for shotguns too. If your spouse is short and petit like mine, a youth model may fit her best. Remember, she must enjoy shooting if you expect her to remain a hunting partner.
One of the first year’s we deer hunted seriously together, opening morning was brutally cold and windy. Joyce had been dressing in whatever we had in the closet that kept her warm. She got terribly cold that morning and we actually went to town over lunch and bought her a really good insulated sweatshirt that’s still part of her regular deer hunting ensemble today. After that, we took her shopping for good quality boots, gloves, insulated coveralls and whatever else she needed to stay warm and comfortable. Don’t scrimp on hunting apparel for your new hunting buddy! Take her shopping and let her get what fits her best. Don’t be afraid to offer your suggestions, but let her choose. For a little more money, she can even choose from lines of hunting apparel specially tailored just for women.
My final piece of advice is to lighten-up a little when hunting with a spouse. If she gets cold before you, let her go to the pickup and warm-up; if she gets bored and wants to read her book or throw in the towel for the morning before you, let her do it. Don’t be afraid to point out to her other things about nature as you sit there either, like the antics of a noisy squirrel in the tree next door, or the silent, graceful air show put on by a hunting hawk. Nature will provide the entertainment if you just look for it.
All these things also apply when hunting with a son, daughter or grandchild The more enjoyable and satisfying you can make their entry level experiences, the more likely they are to stick with it and to help carry-on your hunting traditions. Please remember it’s never too soon or too late to take a son, daughter, grandchild or spouse to the deer blind, the pheasant field, the duck lease or the farm pond and help them Explore Kansas Outdoors with you!
Steve can be contacted by email at [email protected]