In second grade I met a girl named Jen. She quickly came to dislike me, most likely because of the time I pulled her hair at recess. But as elementary school led to middle and then high school, we eventually became great friends. And a few more years down the road, she married another friend of mine, Bob Polanic. Now the two of them live an adventurous outdoor life together in Northern Michigan, made even better by the fact that Jen has taken up the hunting lifestyle with a gusto. And I think that is pretty darn awesome. In today’s guest post, Bob explains exactly why and how he introduced his wife Jen to hunting, as well as a few lessons learned along the way. – MK
By Bob Polanic
Some men have zero desire to share their passion for hunting with their significant other, while others wish their spouse would at least be interested. And on the other end of the scale is a select group of us who hunt with our spouse. I say we’re living the dream.
I introduced my wife to hunting back in 2014. She was my fiancé at the time and with plans of starting a new life together on the horizon, I knew life would be easier if she took up hunting, especially bowhunting. Now that we have experienced three hunting seasons together, I think it’s time to share why it’s awesome and why, at times, it’s not.
Disclaimer: It’s likely that the only reason it’s sometimes not fun is because of me and how much of an ornery a**hole I can be.
So why did I introduce my wife, Jen, to bowhunting? First and foremost (and a bit selfishly), I knew it would lead to me spending more time in a tree stand. I had been traveling for work for the entire six years we had been dating. Every October, all I wanted to do was get back into town and go hunting. This led to a lot of disagreements about how I should be spending my time while I was home. I thought the simplest solution would be for us to just start hunting together.
Beyond that main reason, I had to look at some honest facts that I have never shared with anyone. I was 28 years old, my hunting friends were getting married and were starting to advance in their careers to a point that hunting whenever they wanted was a thing of the past. I needed a new hunting partner. Additionally, Jen and I had firm plans to move a couple hours north of our hometown once we were married. We both had jobs lined up, and without knowing anyone in the area, I knew leaving my bride at home alone while I hunted all fall was not going to fly.
Finances were another reason. We joined bank accounts once married, and again I knew that some of my spending habits were not going to fly with the Mrs. The obvious solution was to create a demand in her life for hunting gear as well. This is what I call a “win win”. If we have two tree stands we actually only have one because now there are two hunters, one in each stand. So now I get to buy more gear with “total” approval!
Finally, at the end of the day, I introduced my wife not only for the reasons above but also because I believed she would stick with it. You see, Jen’s a determined woman, she’s goal oriented, and extremely driven. Her father is a diehard bowhunter, so she grew up around hunting and eating venison. You add everything up and it just made sense.
I bought her a bow for her birthday. And not one of those crappy youth bows that have a draw length from 12” to 30” and go from 20 lbs to 70 lbs. I bought her a good mid-upper end bow, draw length specific, and something she enjoyed practicing with. That’s obviously not an option for everyone as some of us have a hard enough time buying a decent bow for ourselves. But my thoughts were if she enjoys shooting it, then there’s a higher chance she’ll stick with it, so I went with something a little nicer. Also, I knew if she gave up after a year, it’d be easier to sell on ArcheryTalk or Craigslist.
I’ve already talked about a few positives, but they’re all kind of materialistic or selfish. From a relationship standpoint, I’ve expressed a lot of honest emotion so just bear with me a while longer, I won’t get too mushy, and yes, we will get around to the “bad” part of hunting with your spouse.
I’m no relationship guru, but sharing the same hobby/passion with your significant other easily lays the groundwork for a healthy relationship. From shooting our bows in the backyard to obsessing over trail cam photos, it’s a pleasant experience to share with your spouse. Don’t get me wrong, I love sharing those moments with my friends, but its pretty cool to watch your wife get fired up over a giant velvet buck on trail camera.
Then there’s the part where you watch your wife struggle to shoot her first deer… for three years and then she arrows an eight point buck in mid November and you couldn’t be happier for her. I don’t have kids and my father doesn’t hunt, but I’ll assume that’s a unique feeling many fathers have experienced with their own children.
Lastly, we get to spend more time together during the fall. It’s not necessarily while we are hunting, because most times we hunt in different stands. But it’s the time spent together driving to the properties we hunt, or the stories we share after the hunt that add up. There is no “weekend widow” in our relationship, but I’ll admit this is probably easier achieved for all of us without children.
Alright, enough of the nice stuff. It’s time to be brutally honest here and talk about the potential downsides of hunting with your wife. And I mean this with all due respect.
Having a wife that hunts is great, until your boys call you to go hunting and you have to decide whether to try and get your wife invited, bail on your wife, or bail on your boys. This typically isn’t a big issue, but there are guys out there that do combine hunting with a reason to get away from their spouse. I personally think there’s nothing wrong with this, although it doesn’t apply to me personally. I’m not sure man was created to be around woman 24/7 and the same holds true for women being around men.
Then you have twice the preseason work. Well maybe not twice, but if you’re a lunatic like me who must have five different tree stands per 80 acres, you can now double the amount of stands needed. I have 13 tree stands spread over two different properties which only total 150 acres. That doesn’t include the amount of run ‘n’ gun hunting I do in early season to stay away from those stands or during the rut when I need to be mobile. It ends up being a lot of work. Truthfully, Jen offers plenty of assistance but it’s not fun for her to watch me sweat my ass off while screwing in steps and hanging stands. I can’t say much about food plot work or trail cam maintenance because I’d do all that on my own anyway.
Here’s where things always get ugly and is my biggest piece of advice to you: As experienced bowhunters, we may naturally want to help beginners skip past all the mistakes we have made. Much like how our parents had to sit back and watch us be idiots as teenagers to figure life out on our own, sometimes it’s best to let your wife figure stuff out on her own too. I’ll admit my communication skills may not be the best when it comes to these “moments of enlightenment” with Jen, but they’re getting better. Seriously though, when your wife misses her first deer, you don’t tell her what she should’ve done… that didn’t go well for me.
Take my advice, offer positive support and carefully offer suggestions only after being asked. Everything that has become second nature to us is brand new to your significant other. The main objective should be having fun. Building a positive foundation in regard to hunting is critical and something I almost screwed up. If she doesn’t end up liking it, at least you know you gave it a try. I wouldn’t make her feel like a quitter after the matter if hunting just isn’t something she wants to do.
If you’re unsure about introducing your significant other to hunting, I encourage you to do it. There’s only one way to find out!
– Bob Polanic, Hybrid-Outdoors