When I started writing this column, I was about 1,350 miles from my wife, Penny, while bowhunting elk in Idaho, which kept us apart 18 days.
That annual bowhunt is the longest we’re apart each year, but being separated by work, hunting and work-related obligations has been part of our relationship since our first date in September 1978.
Still, I don’t claim unique expertise in making courtships and marriage work. Our foyer knickknacks capture a simple reality: “Gone Hunting” and “We Interrupt This Marriage to Bring You the Hunting Season.”
But because many hunters and anglers know I’m married and travel a lot, they often ask how Penny puts up with it. Those questions made me think of two guys who travel even more than I do: Steven Rinella, 45, of “MeatEater” TV and podcasts; and Randy Newberg, 54, of “Fresh Tracks,” “On Your Own Adventures,” and “Hunt Talk Radio: Randy Newberg Unfiltered.”
Rinella has also written several award-winning books and cookbooks; and scores of newspaper and magazine articles. He and his wife married 11 years ago, and they have three children. He spends about 100 days traveling each year to produce 18 TV episodes. He also travels roughly nine more weeks for speaking engagements and other business.
Newberg and his wife, Kim, married 30 years ago and have an adult son. Newberg, too, hunts away from home 90 to 100 days annually for his company. He also serves as a director on various conservation boards, and travels nationally about 30 days annually to testify about public access and other issues.
When speaking at seminars or corresponding with readers, viewers and listeners, Rinella and Newberg often get asked about marriage. “They raise their hand and ask how I get my wife to let me hunt so much,” Newberg said. “I feel like Dr. Phil, but I tell them the noose doesn’t loosen with time.”
And Rinella? “When I wake up, I tell myself my main job today is to not get myself divorced. I’m dead serious. I truly love, admire and respect my wife. When I joke about being afraid of her, it’s more that I fear upsetting the strong, content home we’ve created for our kids.”
Marriage Tips for Hunters from Rinella and Newberg
After sitting down at a recent SHOT Show in Las Vegas for a joint interview with Rinella and Newberg, I condensed their advice into 10 marriage tips for hunters. It’s some great advice that every married hunter should consider.
1) Newberg: “You must value peace more than justice. Don’t insist on proving you’re right. Let them be right. They’re right half the time anyway, but you’re six months down the road before realizing it.”
2) Rinella: “Set a strong precedent while dating. If you normally go hunting or fishing over Thanksgiving while single, don’t quit going while you’re dating. It’s like water access: If you quit using that access point, you’ll lose your access rights.”
Newberg: “Do not surprise her after she’s bought the car. But even now I often look at myself and ask if I’d want to be married to me. If not, how do I change that?”
3) Rinella: “Pick your battles and respect her turf. On issues involving our kids, their clothes, their schedules, our finances, how we structure our house, and how we allocate our time for family, holidays and social life, that’s her area. I have input, but I don’t fight about it.”
4) Rinella: “Marriage’s real power, its staying power, is commitment. My wife will never let me fall into a funk and become unproductive.”
Newberg: “Your wife knows you as well as you know yourself. My wife pushes buttons that need to be pushed to keep me going, and she smiles while she’s pushing them.”
5) Newberg: “If you want to hunt a lot, don’t be handy around the house. If you own a chainsaw, a woodstove, a lawnmower and a weed-whacker, cross one weekend off your hunting schedule for each one.”
Rinella: “I get everything in the house squared away before I leave so there aren’t many tangible reminders of my absence. My desk is cleared and the recycling is taken care of.”
6) Rinella: “Be open with your schedule. Get a dry-erase wall calendar and put everything on it. It’s better to be apocalyptic. If you’re not coming home until Aug. 15 and you’ve told your wife it’s Aug. 14, she’ll hate you.”
Newberg: “If we finish a hunt early, I make sure she hears about it. ‘Hey honey. Guess what? I’ll be home over Thanksgiving.’ Well, isn’t everyone home for Thanksgiving?”
7) Rinella: “Leave on Mondays, return on Fridays. Do not leave on a Saturday morning and return on a Sunday night. That’s trouble. It looks like you’re ducking out.”
8) Newberg: “Call home every day. That’s important to my wife, even though we usually talk only three or four minutes.”
Rinella: “Daily calls don’t work for us. If we’re in a place where I need to use a satellite phone, I’ll call to say everything is cool. Our crew’s network spreads the word that we’re all right.”
9) Rinella: “Don’t expect a homecoming parade when you return. No matter how late I get home, I’m up with the kids, doing breakfast, and letting her sleep in.”
Newberg: “I call the florist as I’m leaving town and tell him to make sure my flowers are there at 1 o’clock. When I’m home, if she wants to get up and eat breakfast at the bistro, and go to a movie that night, that’s where I’ll be.”
10) Newberg: “If you want taxidermy around your house, stand firm right away or forget it. My mounts stay in the ‘Randy Room.’”
Rinella: “My wife doesn’t care. Except for the kitchen, every room in our house has skulls, skins and stuff. I could hang an elk quarter in our kitchen and she wouldn’t care.”
And what’s their bonus tip for a happy marriage? Realize that frequent hunting trips can expose sore points at home.
“Most fights aren’t about what sparked them,” Rinella said. “Maybe you spilled coffee in the car and later tried denying it. A fight starts and escalates into what kind of person you are. You’re thoughtless, you’re this, you’re that. If you had just taken the time to wipe it up, you could have avoided all that. It’s annoying to clean coffee spills, but it’s a hell of a lot better than talking about coffee spills.”
We want to hear from you! How do you make your marriage work when things get tough in the heat of hunting season? Got any marriage tips for hunters you want to share? Comment below and let us know.