Hunting > Whitetails

Hunting & Marriage: 6 Safe Spouse Handling Tips

Married to a non-hunter? Follow these tips to ensure you will still get out in the field—with his or her blessing.


Due to a bureaucratic mess up, I recently had to retake a hunter’s safety class in order to bowhunt in Hawaii. While the instructors were careful to teach us about the dangers of hypothermia, plugged rifle barrels, wounded bears and poor gun-handling practices, I couldn’t help but notice a glaring omission in the curriculum: There was no discussion whatsoever of the dangers posed by a spouse who’s mad about all the time you spend hunting. To rectify this situation, I want to offer a six-step primer on how to handle—and prevent—this dangerous scenario. 

1) Safe spouse handling practices begin with dating, not marriage. In other words, set a reasonable precedent for your hunting practices as soon as possible. If you don’t, you’ll have to live with your mistakes. A very good buddy of mine (I’ll not name names) abandoned his Thanksgiving hunting plans the first year that he was dating his wife-to-be in order to spend it with her family. He has not hunted on a single Thanksgiving vacation since then, and it’s been seven years. Learn from his mistake.

2) Make an example of your wedding date. The selection of one’s wedding date is an excellent, though often overlooked, way to establish your priorities. When my wife and I were planning our wedding, I made repeated and fervent statements that July would be an ideal time of year to get married. It was warm enough to have the ceremony outside, kids were out of school so it was easier for families to travel, the bridesmaid’s wedding dresses would look beautiful against the summer foliage and, most importantly, it was NOT hunting season. Placing my actual concern at the end of the list made it seem highly reasonable and responsible. To this day, I use July as a sort of clearinghouse for activities that might otherwise get in the way of spending time in the woods. My wife still treats October as having a somewhat forbidden quality with regards to her planning. 

3) Plan an annual hunting trip with your father-in-law or mother-in-law. This way, you can take at least one hunting trip every year without having to worry about marital blowback. If you really want to suck up, bring along a couple of your spouse’s cousins, or aunts or uncles. Drive, pack a lunch for everyone, clean all the game. You’ll be a hero at home, at least for a few days.

4) Discuss hunting trips well in advance of their arrival. Don’t bother with the sketchy and evasive approach of breaking the news with subtle hints. Avoid sentences such as “There’s something that might just maybe come up next October, but let’s not worry about that now.”  And don’t try the last-minute approach, where you spring a trip on your spouse just a week in advance. Instead, you need to be vocal and clear about your hunting plans as early as possible. A year away is not too soon. That way, it will seem so distant and remote that your spouse won’t yet bother arguing with you about it. Then you want to maintain constant reminders. Block out the dates with huge Xs on your calendar. Write the dates on sticky notes and post them on the fridge. When you’re in a store with your spouse, point at a product and mention how it would be great to have that for your upcoming trip. With this approach, the inertia of the trip will be so great that once your spouse gets ready to argue about it—say, t-minus three months—you’ll be able to claim the moral high ground by saying that your spouse is suddenly springing this on you. (Hint: Be sure to use the word “springing.” I’m not sure why, but that word really works.) 

5) Don’t discuss hunting trips too far in advance of their arrival. Think of this as an addendum to number 4. In 2010, I tried to sell my wife on the idea of making a deposit for an Africa hunting trip in 2013. She blocked this trip instantaneously, citing the fact that it was impossible for us to see where our lives would be that far into the future. After all, she said, she might be nine months pregnant by then. Or there might be a worldwide economic depression with rioting in the streets. I should have waited until 2012; I probably could have made that work. 

6) Cook lots of wild game. Trust me on this one. Cook dinner for your family on a regular basis, using the bounty from your hunts. Try your best to be inventive with the ingredients, and to utilize recipes from good wild-game cookbooks. Happily accept your spouse’s critiques. Then try to make something more to his or her liking the next time. Be sure to wash the dishes, too. Pretty soon, your hunting trips will be treated with the same reverence and sense of necessity as your trips to the grocery store. Or, if nothing else, it will help you plead your case when the time comes to stand your ground.

Share |



Enter your comments below, they will appear within 24 hours

Your Name

Your Email

Your Comment

34 Responses to Hunting & Marriage: 6 Safe Spouse Handling Tips

LTHunter wrote:
February 19, 2015

Haley, after reading your post I can see a correlation between your story and my current situation. I grew up in a rural town and have hunted since I was six years old. I met my wife when I was in my mid 30's, married after two years. She use to say, 'I would never tell you not to hunt' but over time there have been tensions developed over my continued desire to hunt and the time spent away from her. It has come to the point that I am told by her that I am being selfish. The reason I have given a brief summary of my frustrations is for you to be honest with yourself and your boyfriend about your feelings and once you have accepted him for who he is, never bring that back up if you decide to go to the next level in your relationship. It will make life happier for you both. Good luck

Haley wrote:
December 28, 2014

I'm a city girl, animal lover who is seriously involved with a man who was born and raised in a small, rural town. He is a hunter and we've discussed from the beginning that I would never hunt, never kill anything unless it was a survival situation. He was disappointed but accepted my position. I would never tell him not to hunt, I just don't want to participate on any level other than I will cook meals with the meat of his preference. We would like to take our relationship to the next level but I'm concerned there will be conflict over this hunting issue. One big issue we never spoke about was his animal heads, skins and hunting photos. They make me very uncomfortable. I've never said anything because it's always been his house so it's not my place to tell him what he can and can't have. My preference would be to have him keep them in one special place rather than all over the house. I don't want to hurt his feelings but I don't want to be uncomfortable, or have my guests feel uncomfortable (I have friends and family who would feel similar to me). He is a wonderful man but I don't think he will take this well. Any advice on how to address this should we take the next step and combine households?

Kelly wrote:
October 31, 2014

What if it was clearly established during the dating period that large amounts of time would be spent hunting and now that we arena couple years in....its turned into MASSIVE amounts of time and is now threatening our relationship. I am totally Ok with him hunting a lot. Lately though, its been a huge financial burden. I am working several jobs just to keep my head above water and he just purchased a 22k camper, just to go hunting in. I'm so lost as to how to fix this or even if he wants things any different. I am literally packing my things now and waiting for a place to become available to rent. I love him so much, but he loves hunting more. Could our relationship be saved at all?

New Hunting Wife Needs Advice wrote:
October 20, 2014

(continued) LADIES- tips would be great too. I want to start a tradition but it's something he isn't use to and just doesn't know how to handle it. He treats me like one of the guys which Im not and his ex hated when he went hunting and obviously had no interest so that's all he has to compare. I am not the needy wife who is wanting to hunt just to be with him, I genuinely enjoy the sport, the time with nature, the personal challenge and I would like to continue it if we can find some sort of resolution with his worry / stress level and how he can cope with his wife in the woods with him. It's an unchartered topic but important bc we both like bow hunting but apparently me being there places an extra burden on him and it causes tension in the relationship for some reason . :/ Thanks everyone

Angie wrote:
October 09, 2014

Wow! This seems like such an innocent and humorous article...and then you read the comments. I feel so bad for some of these women. My fiance and I have been together 6 years now. He goes hunting every year and everyone in his family, including his sisters and their kids, hunts too. I'm the only one who doesn't. However, I am still very lucky to have the man I have. He has never made me feel like I come second to hunting and although it's important to him, it's definitely not his entire life. I've gone with him a couple times to help spot things and spend time with him but I don't have a hunting license and don't plan to ever get one. It's a trade off with us, I go hunting occasionally with him and fishing regularly (because I actually enjoy it) and he goes to festivals and plays with me. It really is a good thing we have and we've never fought about hunting. To the ladies on here who are not so fortunate I think you deserve better. A man who is not willing to put his wife and kids before his hobby is selfish and childish, end of story. I really hope that your husbands realize what they are going to lose or that you are able to find someone that will love and respect you more than their hobby. To those of you telling these women to chill out you need to have some compassion. They aren't just complaining because they feel a little ignored, they are being totally neglected and treated like servants. My man works hard too and of course I think he deserves to do the things that are important to him but that doesn't mean I, or any woman, deserve to get left in the dust for it. And Paulette, your comment is just plain ignorant. Jenna states that she told her husband up front that she didn't want a hunter and he was ok with that until they had a child. He should have been honest with her and explained that he wouldn't give it up.

adrienne wrote:
December 01, 2013

I just keep asking myself at what point will I break... my husband is obsessed. everyday it's hunting or talking about the next hunt planning for the next hunt. I also work full time and we have a six month old. my birthday this year which is during hunting season. I turned 30, he got me nothing. nothing at all. he spent all his money on hunting things... not even dinner. hasn't taken me on a date in years. I'm number 2. I'm very aware I'll never be as important as his hunting. nothing I can say will help. he just says you should come with me. right I'll sit in the snow with you and the baby. sorry but I can't just abandon my responsibility for my hobby... It's sad. I love my husband but he is losing me. I don't even bother talking to him about it. he blows up and can't see any thing but his side. Every year he loses a part of me. one day he'll come home and we'll be gone

Veronica wrote:
October 19, 2013

I would just like to say all the people on here that are so understanding of thier husbands 'hobby'. All I think when I read it, is who is watching the kids? The wife. While he goes to play. My husband works 7 days on a rig. He is gone 1/2 a month. 1/2 a year. 1/2 mine and our children's lives! I have to be their mother and their father while he is gone. It's very hard doing this and having a full time job. An when he comes home, I am so attention starved for at least SOME adult attention and conversation that it's like a slap in the face when he tells me he is ready to leave...again! I feel like he doesn't care to see me at all. Do I get mad? Of course I do. Do I cry? All the time. Everyday it's hunting. And when it's not hunting, it's fishing. I wish I could go with him as some of you suggest but who would take the kids to school? Who would tend to them? Someone has to be the parent. And I wish I could get that lovely ME time as some of you suggest. But yet again, I have a job and children. But by all means, let me SUPPORT his hobbies bc he works so hard and needs it as a man. I call bull shit. Men if any of your women sound like me, please rethink some things. Every time I see my husband drive away in full on camo with the children running around my feet, all I can think is how much better my life would be with someone else...

Christy wrote:
October 06, 2013

My husband is a big deer hunter, I am not. I would never take that away from him. You'd be surprised at how much you can get done while they are hunting! During the off season we do things I enjoy. It's called compromising, he does his thing, I do my thing and we do our thing together. We've been happily married for 18 years. I'm thinking about going with him, just because it's something he loves and I want to experience it with him.

Mary wrote:
August 25, 2013

Another tip. Always leave your wife with extra cash and credit cards so she isn't stuck home without something to do. The last time my husband and son went on a fishing trip my husband bought me an iPad. I kept me busy. We just miss you when you're gone.

Paulette wrote:
January 28, 2013

Jenna, I would LOVE to be married to a man who hunts... There is nothing cooler than that! And one who was willing to teach my kids to hunt...? you do not deserve the man you have. Someday he will get sick of your controlling emotional blackmailing behavior and threat to leave him if he does what he loves and kick you to the curb. I feel sorry for you and your insecure, selfish need to dominate and emasculate the man who loves you.

tom wrote:
November 15, 2012

LOS if you have a husband you will n9ot last very long. any woman who makes that idiot statement thiks the world revolves around her. well baby think again your high maintenance and all the good guys will be taken by someone better than you. enjoy self centered life alone

cassondra wrote:
November 14, 2012

My husband LOVES hunting its his only hobby and hes a very hard worker! I dont understand why any woman want to take that away from them??? Men need their own space and guy time its healthy to have a mini break from each other and when he comes home its like we just started dating again :)

Los wrote:
October 31, 2012

Jenna: Can't imagine why any guy would want to be out in the woods instead of curled up on the couch with you.

Jenna wrote:
October 12, 2012

My husband was upfront with me about his hunting and I was upfront with the fact that I'd rather leave him than be with a hunter. He chose to stay, and now that we are expecting a son he wants to raise them as a hunter. True to myself and what I have been upfront about all along, we will be raising this child separately if he really does it. His loss.

MB wrote:
September 13, 2012

Wow, you last three took it up a notch! The article was saying to be upfront and honest about your goals and hobbies. Michelle and Tammy need to relax. I agree that Mike seems like a douche, but most everyone is jokingly saying to be honest with your spouse and not to just put up a good front while dating. I bought a coach purse too early, so it goes both ways.

Tammy wrote:
April 11, 2012

No whats selfish are men who think that hunting is life when if they really care.. They will respect those who give life.... Peace out!

Tammy wrote:
April 10, 2012

What if you clean dog poo for your man months at a time and after that get left all hunting season in the south.. And he is never there.. Finally you say lol.. Its me or the dogs! Is that selfish

Michelle wrote:
November 22, 2011

My husband of 10 years has recently begun hunting with bow and rifle. In the past 6 weeks, he has gone hunting 6 times. He just left for an overnight trip. I told him that he HAD to be back by dinner tomorrow. Why? I have STREP. Yes, I am sick and he left me with a sick 17 month old, a 6 year old, and an 8 year old. Steven, where would you put this in your safe spouse handling tips? Mike, wife number 2 lives in fear of you leaving her? Really? You sound like a real winner. My husband jokes around that men are pretty dumb to divorce so easily when they have kids. They can't afford to leave and marriage takes effort. If I sound mad, I am. I have a fever with chills, but thankfully my sweet 8 year old and 6 year old are trying to entertain little Miss Cranky No Sleepy. Oh, and he said he'd try to make it for dinner. That means 10 pm to him, not the 5pm we eat dinner:(

deer widow wrote:
November 21, 2011

Aside from Sonja who "has her own hunting needs"...I wonder how many of you cream of the crop men would actually allow conscessions on your hunting days if your wife hunted and needed hunting days of her own - or had "an equally important hobby" that conflicted with your own. Would you be an understanding as you want her to be? I mean come on, trick your wife? Irritate her so she will gladly kick you out? No compromising, ever? Coups? Missing birthdays? Sorry, but you all are a piece of work. My husband had never hunted until a few years into our marriage. Now something is always in-season, somewhere in the world, something can be shot. Or plowed. Or planted. Or prepared. Or bought. Here I'm trying to gain a little insight into how to be a gracious wife - even though, yes, I'm irritated - and then what do I find but a bunch of possessive neanderthol bafoons whose priorities are all screwed up. Thanks a lot.

BobinWI wrote:
August 31, 2011

we were married before we became hunters. Now we hunt together on our anniversary during gun week here in Wisconsin.

Bill wrote:
August 02, 2011

My now fiancee is very animal oriented (and so am I, as a hunter, dog owner, and from a horse farm) and was for a time a vegetarian. She almost didn't consider dating me due to the elk hide and antelope mount in my living room, and she grilled me hard about how I hunt. I explained it was a sacred act and privilege, a relationship with the animal that involves respect and awe, and realization that life depends on life and that is a sacred - and holy - gift. I give thanks in prayer for the animal every harvest even before field dressing, I make sure of my shot so that meeting me is the most humane demise the animal could meet, and I take care of the meat from field to table as if it were gold - because it cost a life. She was won over by my ethic of hunting, which is quite at odds with what she has seen (the stereotypical beer-swilling Bubba popping off rounds at animals as targets - yeah, they are out there, and they seem to love to rub people the wrong way as entertainment at the expense of all of us). Yeah, we are marrying in late November (she is a teacher - so off time works out) but I hunt earlier than that anyway (snow is DEEP at 9K feet in late November!). And I go antelope and elk hunting before the wedding, she marked it off on her calendar. She still doesn't want to hear the stories... but respects my time in the field just as I respect her passions. And it doesn't hurt that she has loved every game dish I have prepared, and that it is uber lean and healthy... and free range. ;-) Mutual respect, responsibility, ethics and honor is the key I think. I have failed enough in these areas to know their value.

Pete Balwan wrote:
July 29, 2011

Yes, i agree about Safe (marital) hunting (preemptive strikes)practices . A hunter and fisherman must be upfront about his passion. He must not waver, ever. my plan began over 40 years ago, and has worked ever since. This includes my first 7 day llong range fishing trip-- over Thankgiving!! A true coup. My plan started from the very get go, Before taking the vows i fished everyday leading up to the wedding, that way she knew it was important. Then in a very open way, our honeymoon included fishing in the Rocky Mountains with three nites in a fancy lodge and the rest of the HM camping in mosquito infested camp sites. The honeymoon did the trick. Of course the fact that I was an excellent catch for her and her family helped a bit.. Way cool! B the way, she is an excellent wife -- even cooking and eating wild duck. Way Cool!!

Ryan wrote:
July 29, 2011

Here's another one though: when its time to make that first kid, quickly add 9 months to the date and double check where the birthday is going to land. My oldest daughter was born Nov 19: opening weekend of gun deer in WI. On the upside, when she's old enough, I'll have a ready-made excuse to spent the whole day with her on her birthday. And I'll never forget the day I shot my largest buck to date: on her birthday. She was home sleeping at the time, since she was only 2.

Dale wrote:
July 29, 2011

When I was dating my now wife,a non-hunter, some of the dates were to the dove field where we both sat on a couple buckets. She spotted and I shot. 47 years later, now both retired, she spots the groundhogs & I shoot them. It saves a lot of grief if you involve someone in your past-times in a way they can enjoy.

AR.Hunter.308 wrote:
July 29, 2011

Here's another one that works, if applicable to your situation: My wife and I have 3 boys, under the age of 5. Whenever "that time of year" comes again, she is left alone with the 3 boys (I am a stay at home dad, so she is not used to this.) Whenever she is resistant to me going, I just say, "I'm just setting the ground work for the day when they are old enough to hunt, by starting the family tradition now. Some day they'll be old enough to all go with me, and you can have your own spa weekend in peace and quiet." That always works.

Iain M wrote:
July 28, 2011

My wife is a vegetarian, before we married I made it very clear that hunting was important to me and November is off-limits to any and all plans-no compromise whatso-ever. She tried a few "what-ifs" I said it would mean divorce. She tested the waters after a couple of years and I showed her the door. We're married 11 years now and doing fine and yes she gets her time too.

rhiannon wrote:
July 28, 2011

Loved the article! It's reversed in my house, I have to fight the fiance for hunting trips and pull him off the water. We live in Florida and are getting married in December so I picked the date in the split of the phases!

Leslie wrote:
July 28, 2011

Great advice for those with non-hunting spouses. My husband and I hunt together - it's a bonding activity. We kill, clean, process, and cook together. Last year I drew an elk tag and he didn't. This year it was opposite. Now it's my turn to be the guide.

Mike wrote:
July 28, 2011

My wife knows why she is wife #2. The former caused nothing but grief over each hunting and fishing trip I took. Hence the term "former".

Richard Hoffarth wrote:
July 28, 2011

Steve, Those are all excellent points. And many a young stud would do well to follow them. However, for those guys or gals who are already in a marriage and who have NOT yet set hunting ground rules, here are a few tips that will get your spouse telling you to get out hunting every season (just so he/she can get some peace for a change): In order to set things straight, you will have to sacrifice one fall hunting season in order to make this work for you: 1. Make a pest of yourself. Always be under foot in the kitchen. Ask to help -- and then do the job badly. This usually results in a double benefit, allowing you to be under moratorium from ever having to help her again. 2. Ask a lot of silly questions; after a few weeks of this, your spouse will WANT you out of the house, just to have some peace and quiet for a change. I could list, point by point, all the various ways you can make a pest of yourself until your spouse tells you to GO hunting -- do ANYTHING, just get OUT of the house for a while -- but I would spoil all the fun. Half the fun of having a spouse who tells you to GO hunting is finding out just how far you have to go to make her/him crack under the strain! It worked for me. Richard

Sonja wrote:
July 28, 2011

I am a woman hunter. I guess we don't have these problems in our family because my husband and I both came from hunting backgrounds. My husband actually has to make allowances for my hunting needs (not the other way around). It goes both ways, people, and the best way to work it out is to find someone who understands your needs and appreciates the same activities you do.

Rick Bolin wrote:
July 28, 2011

You make very good points here Steve. I must admit though that my wife does a better job than I do at cleaning and cooking the game. She can start with a full deer and have it in steaks, roasts etc. in no time. Just don't think it would be a good idea to challenge her to a knife fight.

Brian Eagan wrote:
July 28, 2011

Hello Steven, I can back up how important this is. I live in CA but I go back to our farm in ND every November for 10 days to deer hunt. I've been married for a little over two years (April wedding) and in our vows, my wife actually said "I take you through november deer hunting season" In the first year of marriage, she had one of her best friends get married in the middle of November. She was a bridesmaid in the wedding and I didn't attend it because I was in North Dakota with my dad and brother hunting White Tails. She wanted me to attend SO bad but I kept going back to our wedding vows and there was nothing she could say. I can't express enough to all the hunters out there how important it is to be up front about hunting. Women just don't understand unless you are really up front about it. A good woman will understand...if yours doesn' might have to question the relationship. Thanks Steven, keep up the good work!

Jon wrote:
July 28, 2011

Nice Twist on an age old problem