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Love/Hate: The Psychology of Hunting With A Spouse

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By Kirstie Pike

Let’s face it, while hunting with your spouse can be the greatest adventure it can also resemble the beginning phases of Armageddon.  While some of you out there may be thinking, “what is wrong with this woman?”…others are nodding in solemn solidarity.  

Don’t get me wrong.  I love nothing more than hunting with my husband.  He taught me to hunt and I learn from him each and every time we embark on a new hunt.  His knowledge is incredible and his experience vast.  While this perfect storm of hunting expertise has helped shape my personal hunting abilities, it became very clear last fall that it has also made me, well…lazy.  Additionally, as my hunting skills have improved, it seems that my personal guide has become, uh…lazy too.  Again, some readers will furrow their brows in confusion while others are now nodding in complete and total agreement.

So here is how it all went down.  Our own personal Armageddon.

I had an elk tag here in Colorado in our usual stomping grounds.  My husband, personal guide and Sherpa, is very familiar with this region and the animals it contains.  Thus, he knows precisely where to go and the rest is up to me.  

We took off before light for some high basins that are typically game abundant.  After an eight mile horseback ride we glassed and rode deeper into the high country.  While we spotted a number of cows and immature bulls we didn’t want to cash out the tag on an immature bull on opening day.  We moved on to what we call “the lunchroom” for a quick bite to eat.  It was now late morning and the chance of bumping or moving elk was slim as they were most likely bedding down.

As we sat and talked, I spotted a cow in a clearing below us.  I pointed her out and my husband glassed.  Soon a remarkable bull appeared with her in the clearing.  My husband continued to glass as I set up on shooting sticks while simultaneously stuffing at least half of my sandwich in my mouth.  I had a clear shot and the animals weren’t pressured and moving. And here is where it all went south.

As we only have one range finder, I asked my husband the distance.  His response was this, “Just hit him center.”   So I did.  Or I should have.  My bullet hit right below the bull.  I adjusted my shot and fired again, landing the shot once again below the animal.  Clearly Mother Nature was not going to give me a third shot as I had blown my luck.  We headed down just to ensure I didn’t wound him.   As we already knew, I had completely missed both shots.  Frustration doesn’t even begin to describe my emotion at the time.

So, here is how the conversation went:

Him:  “Well, you missed him.”
Me:  “Duh.
(Deadly silent pause)
Me:  “Range that shot back.  How far was it?”
(Husband ranges.  Re-ranges.  Begins walking.)
Me:  “How. Far. Was. It?”
Him:  “550 yards.
(Deadly Silent Pause)
Me: “Are you serious??  I asked you how far!”
Him:  “I’m sorry.  That was my mistake.”
Me:   I cannot put in print what was said but you can rest assured it was a Defcon 3 meltdown.
Him: “I have never had any client act as terrible as you are right now.”  
Me:  “I have never had a guide do something as lazy as you just did.”
Him: “If you’re such a great hunter why didn’t you range it yourself?”
Me:  “I would but you always Bogart the optics.”

What ensued was a clash of the titans and if there indeed was anyone in the region they would have been expecting to prepare for body recovery.

The eight-mile ride out was silent, completely silent.

Ahhh but of course there is a lesson to be learned here ladies and gentlemen.  Two lessons, actually.

  1. Ladies- After some painful introspection, I realized that I actually AM lazier when my husband guides me.  When I hunt alone or with another guide I have my game on.  I glass more.  I pay closer attention to everything around me.  I think about how the animals would pattern.  I ask questions.  I realized that often I basically follow my husband as I have come to rely on his expertise.  I even realized that I always let him carry gear that I would otherwise hold myself.  He’s being kind when he does this and I never really thought about it.

    My advice to any ladies who may find themselves in similar situations is to prepare.  I have purchased additional optics so I always have my own.  I have quit asking him for shot distance or placement recommendations as I wouldn’t normally do that.  I just became lazy.  I re-packed my pack so that it is always set for any hunt.  I know this sounds obvious but I had not done that before.  I would re-pack for each hunt.  While it made sense at the time, I would forget items or assume my husband had them.  I now know that each and every time I take my pack out, it is completely ready with everything that I would need if I was hunting solo.

    At the end of the day, it really was my responsibility to know my shot and ultimately my fault for the missed shot.  I know my comfortable shot distance and would never have taken that shot had I known the distance.  As mentioned, I now have my own range finder and make sure I am responsible for myself rather than rely on my husband.  While I believe our hunting trips together are complete team work, I realized that I needed to take more personal accountability.  
  2. Gentlemen- After similar introspection, my husband realized that despite the fact that he typically acts as my guide when we hunt together, he often doesn’t try as hard as he would with a paying client.  This is natural, of course.  We view each other as a team and have realized we fell into specific roles.  He admits he just started going into auto-pilot mode.  He now knows I am completely self-sufficient and allows me the time to take the steps myself without interfering.  He is also aware that he felt it was just easier to do those steps himself and recommends patience to men who may do the same with their spouses.  Just keep in mind that women tend to be very detail oriented and meticulous.  Often, they want to take the time to ensure the best possible shot is taken.  While this can seem like an eternity, try to be patient.  

    If you haven’t already done so, discuss purchasing additional optics and gear items that you may not each have yet.  For me, having a cache of gear that is equal to that of my husband’s makes me much more independent and confident.   


Luckily, we were able to narrowly avoid divorce court ourselves and now we laugh about the entire situation.  We both felt it to be a very valuable lesson as many couples that hunt together go through similar experiences.  I speak with many couples and most laugh about this story as they all have experienced similar situations.  

Side note:  I hunted by myself the remainder of the season.  While I still ended up with a tag sandwich it was perhaps one of the most rewarding seasons of my life.  

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  1. Wow! This was very enlightening to read. I’m new to the hunting scene and I hope to have the opportunity to hunt with my fella. Glad I read this first. Very funny, and very informative on the issue.

  2. Great article and food for thought! I love hunting with my better half. He’s taught me everything I know about hunting as well. Also, SO glad Charles isn’t my man…

  3. My wife and I must be pretty unique. We rarely hunt together. At first light she goes her way and I go mine, and we may not see each other again until we straggle back into camp after the sun has set. I have full confidence in her ability to hunt on her own and deal with any situation that might arise, the same as if I were hunting with a male companion. As Kristie said, I’ve made sure that she is just as well-equipped for the hunt as I am, and not just so she can be totally self-sufficient, but also because that way we’ll always have a back-up piece of equipment if something breaks or gets lost in the field.

  4. Charles is commenting under the wrong blogspot & clearly doesn’t belong here.
    My EX-husband used to think similarly and that’s one reason he’s my EX! My boyfriend and I go out hunting together. At first, we’d hunt together while I was learning. Now we travel up together, but hunt separately for higher chances. I’m proud to say that I learned enough from hunting together that I was able to set out on my own, call in & shoot my turkey in my first solo hunt. I felt like, “yes, I CAN do this & this is where I belong!” Not being Miss Suzie Homemaker, not being a “gatherer”, but a hunter.

  5. Corinna Schaefer

    I love to hunt with my husband! He will tell you the same. Just like you, we are a team. Thanks for the article. Made me realize that yes, we also, have become lazy in some aspects. We have been hunting for 10 years together and every hunt is a new and wonderful experience!
    We’re going bugling in 5 weeks and can’t wait!! No tags this year, but still go out and have fun.
    Charles really has a sad outlook on life. Can imagine how happy his marriage (if he has one) is.

  6. Wow…it appears Charles is trolling for irate replies, as no man is daft enough to say that so bluntly regardless of what he believes!!

  7. Dangit! I missed Charles’ reply!

  8. Man Charles you really stepped in it! lol

  9. Why would be not of told her the distance ?? He had the only laser and she asked him how far … I see no fault of hers, but would suggest she find someone else, not so selfish, to hunt with …
    Just the view from here –

    • It was actually my fault in the long run…and I have never had any reason to believe the distance to be different from what he says…we just simply got lazy!
      Still my best hunting partner ever!

      • Great article!! My wife and I have been hunting together for 37 years and some of things you mentioned have happened to us. We’ve learned over the years and looking forward to this season

  10. My wife is a vegetarian. Though I now rarely hunt it was never an issue as long as she didn’t see the dead animal. I was even able to tell her the story/sceniero.

  11. There’s a huge difference in women. With a few that are a bit competitive (borderline is accurate in this instance)..with the few very competitive, the guy isn’t huntjng at all until they’re done. It’s all pure hell and your fault (guys think twice before you take a wife huntjng if you can’t successfully do simple things with her lol! 2 x $. You’ll pay, and pay, lol)
    With other women, you’ll want to help, you will help, they will quickly learn and get up to speed. but I think as well as becoming lazy, you also fall into unclear roles and have not worked out who’s providing what, in time, in a way that gets it done. You end up in between as the woman has continually “weaned” herself from your help, but not completely, or as in this case, not completely kitted-out.
    The answer: talk. talk scenarios through. go to cabelas lol, get that credit card out! You possibly started this, don’t stop part way!
    Best hunts I ever had in my life were with my wife. Lions roaring 25′ away, elk bugling, wolves howling…. I swore I’d never go alone again, but now I have to

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