Maybe you’re middle-aged, married with children, and holding down a full-time job. Or you’re from a big city and, other than strolling through your local parks, you’ve never spent a day in the great outdoors. Neither your family nor your friends have any hunting experience. Some of them are confused by, and might even be upset by, the idea of you hunting. So how do you navigate the murky waters of family and friends who A) don’t hunt, B) have no desire to hunt, and/or C) are against hunting altogether? It’s possible, but it takes some diplomacy. Here’s some advice to help you minimize headaches while falling down the rabbit hole of becoming a hunter. Just be sure to do as I say, and not as I did.
I had never shared my childhood fantasy of shooting archery with my wife. She had no clue. In my defense, I didn’t ever believe archery or bowhunting would ever be activities I’d take part in. So, you can imagine my wife’s surprise when I arrived home with a new bow. To be honest, I never actually walked into the apartment with the bow. When I got home that day, I left the bow outside our front door. My forgetful self didn’t bring it in that night, and she found it in our hallway the next morning. Rookie mistake.
Not too long before this purchase, we had agreed to curb our spending to save for a home. We live in a tiny, two-bedroom apartment, and my purchase showed a lack of commitment to our shared endeavor. Saying she was “surprised” isn’t the appropriate word. She was pissed.
First step? Keep an open line of communication with your spouse. If you’re truly passionate and committed to the idea of hunting, state your case. Even if they don’t agree, it won’t be too big of a shock and you’ve respected your spouse enough to not make hunting purchases that weren’t mutually agreed upon.
Second step? Set a budget together. With so much cool gear out there, hunting can get expensive quick. Sit down with your spouse and let them help you figure out what you need and what you don’t. When I discuss a potential gear purchase with my wife, she asks questions that help me make an informed decision. What is it? What does it do? Is there a tool that can do that AND other tasks? This forces me to think about the gadget I want, its necessity, and finally…its cost. At the end of the day, even if your spouse isn’t hunting with you, they’ve had an opportunity to contribute to the experience.
When I decided I wanted to try my hand at hunting, my first deer season coincided with my kids’ first seasons on their school volleyball and basketball teams. When I was growing up, my parents worked too many jobs to attend any games I played. So, I promised myself: If I ever had children, no matter the circumstance, I’d never miss a game.
If you don’t do this for your own children, I’m not trying to guilt trip you. I’ve spoken to many a hunter who has had to make this difficult decision, and who chose hunting over family. But for most of those hunters, hunting isn’t new to them. It’s tradition. It’s a lifestyle. For those of us who take on hunting later in life, spending too much time in the woods could have a negative impact on your existing family dynamic and curb any possibility of it becoming a family affair.
My second deer season took place during last year’s COVID-19 outbreak. My kids were homeschooling, and extracurricular activities had been cancelled. This arrangement made it a little easier to get out to the woods. But with the pandemic easing its grips on the city, schools will more than likely reopen soon and offer students the opportunity to take part in team sports again.
My plan for the approaching spring turkey season is to have my kids help me with my scheduling. If it works, I can do the same for deer season this fall. I’d like to believe that even though my kids have no desire to hunt (for now…I’m keeping my fingers crossed), they understand my genuine interest in hunting and would like to see me enjoy some time in the woods. I still have no plans to miss any of their games and activities. But at least my schedule will be something they had a hand in creating. If the plan doesn’t work, we can just bribe our kids.
I’m kidding. Unless they take the money.
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If you’re like me, your spouse and children (if you have them) are of the utmost importance to you. And while the opinions of folks who aren’t your spouse or children rarely matter, you’d still like to be able to share your new endeavors and experiences with your friends. Oddly enough, I’ve been met with mixed support from my crew.
One of my buddies owns a piece of property about three hours north of New York City. He and his wife were extremely interested in, and supportive of, my desire to hunt. So much so, they allowed me to hunt their property during my first deer season. When a second friend learned of my hunting, he simply stated, “I like animals.” And we left it at that. A third friend, who is a person of color, joked, “We’ve got no business being in the woods.”
Whatever response you encounter from buddies, remember that at one point, you may have thought and felt the same way they did.
Have you ever heard the joke about vegans? It goes, “How do you know if someone is vegan? Because they tell you…again, and again, and again, and again.” The same joke is told of marathon runners. How do I know? I used to run marathons. (Don’t worry, I won’t mention it again.) The point? Some, if not all, of your friends are sincerely interested in the new things you’ve got going on in your life. But don’t be overbearing in case they’re not. It can be off-putting. Share just a little bit. If they ask questions, then respond accordingly. Did I mention that I used to run marathons?
If you find yourself being the only person among your friends and family, interested in hunting, remember:
- Keep connecting with your spouse. While they may not share your interest, there’s no reason to believe they won’t support you in it.
- Get your kids involved in the planning. They’ll appreciate that you value their input and most importantly, the time you spend with them.
- Don’t alienate your friends. They were around before you were a hunter, and they’ll be around no matter what.
- Keep the faith. Who knows? Your newfound interest, if shared appropriately, could produce hunting buddies.