One of my favorite deer hunts of all time came a few years back while hunting with some friends on a bitter-cold day in December. Before the hunt, my friend and I were impatiently sitting through a Sunday morning church service. He was sitting next to his wife across the sanctuary from where I was seated next to mine. Both of our wives knew we were up to no good as we continued to squirm, check our watches, and cast glances back and forth at one another. We were supposed to meet up with the rest of the hunting party at noon, or we’d be left out on what was expected to be one of the best hunts of the year.
When the long-winded preacher made it clear he had no intentions of wrapping up anytime soon, my friend finally jumped out of his seat and headed for the door. Not to be left behind, I faked a coughing attacked and slipped out of my chair as if I was headed for some water. It was the oldest trick in the book. One I had used many times back in my childhood. But this time I was sneaking out of church to bowhunt riverbottom whitetails. My wife had tried to stop me when I began to slide out of my seat, but I simply whispered to her, “I gotta go.”
I knew my wife was frustrated with my seemingly endless pursuit of whitetail deer that particular year, but it all seemed to become remarkably clear when I got a text from her on the way to the deer woods that day.
The text simply read, “Have a great hunt. If you get some time, please pencil me in.”
The message was clear, painful, and exactly what I needed to hear. I had been failing as a husband and father. I had become consumed with the pursuit of big bucks. So much, in fact, it was hurting the ones I loved the most.
Fortunately for me, I married one of the most giving, selfless, and sacrificing women God ever put on this earth. She knew I was a serious hunter when we got married 18 years ago, but neither of us really knew at the time how big a role hunting would play in my life, career and ministry to others. Yet she supports me like no other person I know. She always has. She’s not a hunter, yet she sacrifices her time, money and opportunities so that her family can hunt.
So why is it that we fail so hard when it comes to hunting vs. marriage? Why is it so much easier to pursue big bucks than our best friend? How do we let things get to the point of our spouse having to ask us to pencil them in?
Take a look across the hunting industry, particularly outdoor TV, and you’ll see that divorce runs rampant. There’s more outdoor TV hosts than I can count that have blown through multiple marriages simply because they pursued their hunting career over the spouse they supposedly committed their life to. It’s a very sad story.
Hunting vs. Marriage – which will you pursue the most?
Here’s a look at how you can successfully balance the things that matter most in your life.
Remember It’s Just a Deer
I know this sounds blasphemous. And don’t get me wrong, I am absolutely eat up with hunting. There’s honestly not a day that goes by that I’m not thinking about some aspect of hunting, from deer, turkey, predators, ducks, and elk. I love it. But stop for a second, and consider how crazy it is that we let a single animal consume our thoughts, desires and interests. It’s just a wild animal, yet we pursue it with such gusto it can be harmful to our marriage, family and career. Hunt hard, but not at the detriment of your marriage and family.
Know When to Say When
Knowing when to say when can be tougher than you might think. We all like to think we got a good grip on our priorities, but the drive to kill deer is one that can easily make an avid hunter do crazy things. We tell our spouse, “I’m so close! I just need one more day to hunt.” And then one more day snowballs into one more weekend, another week of vacation, and before we know it our families are picking up the leftovers at the end of the season. It’s so easy to do. I’ve made this mistake more times than I care to admit. Hunt hard when you plan to hunt, but don’t let family time turn into treestand time just because you think you might can punch a tag on your next sit.
Be an Equal Opportunity Hunter
Have you ever stopped to consider the amount of money serious deer hunters spend compared to their non-hunting wives? Think about it. We don’t give a second thought to buying a new bow, sights, quiver, guns, decoys, boat, and the list goes on and on. I’m guilty of spending thousands of dollars on my hunting “needs” yet flip out when my wife mentions spending $80 to get her hair done. (Don’t you dare judge me…you’ve done it too!)
What if we agreed that when we spend $150 for a fresh dozen arrows our wife could spend $150 on a new pair of shoes? It would probably slow down our spending, right? But more importantly it would reveal just how lopsided our hunting vs. marriage spending truly is. It would reveal that she usually gets left hanging most of the time when compared to our never-ending acquisition of hunting gear. Make the effort to create equal opportunities for you and your spouse. Your marriage relationship will benefit greatly from it.
Don’t Fall for the 50/50 Myth
Marriage counselors across the country like to tell their clients, “Marriage is a 50/50 relationship.” You’ve probably heard it said many times over the years. The problem is, nothing could be further from the truth. Marriages that live by the 50/50 principal will fail. Sure, you give 50, I’ll give 50 sounds great, but a marriage takes so much more. Marriages need husbands that are giving 100%, and they need wives that are willing to give 100% as well. It takes everything we’ve got. The half-hearted mindset in marriage leads to failure. We should strive for a 100/100 relationship in our marriage. That doesn’t mean you quit hunting to give your wife 100% of your time and attention. She just needs to see and believe that you are as committed to her as you are your pursuit of bucks, ducks, and gobbling turkeys.
Make the Most of Your Time
We often make half-hearted trips to the woods with the thinking, “I’ve gotta put my time in to kill a deer.” And while this is true, we need to focus on making our hunts count. If you’re not feeling it one day, then stay home. The wind isn’t right to hunt a particular stand? No problem. Hang out at the house with your family. You won’t be missing much in the woods, and you’ll be spending much needed time at home with your wife and family. Make the most of your time in the woods and at home, and you’ll find success in both areas of your life.
Do They Need Quality Time or Quantity Time?
The answer is, both. Many of us are guilty of trying to quickly put our time in with our spouse or kids between hunts. It’s easy to think that a quick dinner date or a dozen roses will buy us more time in the woods. But don’t be misled. They’ll see right through this stunt. Again, our wives need to see that when we are with them, we are truly with them. It’s tough, I know. It means we’re focused on them rather than contemplating which treestand we’ll hunt in the morning, checking wind directions, or scrolling through big buck photos on social media. They need and want quality time and lots of it. Don’t fail on this one.
Remember Trophies of the Woods Won’t Last
I remember talking with a buddy of mine at church one Sunday about his desire to get back in the woods to kill a big buck. He had a killed a really nice buck the day before, but the rush had already worn off. “I know I just killed a great buck, but I can’t help wanting to get back in the woods and do it again,” he said. He was realizing that the trophies we bring home from the woods won’t last. They provide temporary fulfillment, and then it’s gone. Time spent with your wife and children and the investments you make into your family will last forever. Don’t drop the ball here.
I want to encourage you, don’t get sidetracked and consumed with stuff that really won’t matter in the end. Take some time to reflect on what truly matters in your life. Consider what will last long beyond your final hunt. No man ever looked back and thought, “I wish I would have spent less time with my family and more time in the woods hunting.”
Regardless of how bad you’ve failed in the past, make this the year you comitt to your wife and family that you’ll keep the main thing the main thing. Hunting vs marriage? You know the right answer.
Make it happen! No regrets!