“Take my wife hunting? I go hunting to get away from my wife!” Few comments about hunting make my skin crawl as much as that one. Perhaps “Women don’t belong in hunting camp!” would edge it out on the Chauvinist Pig Top Ten List, but not by much. While I try not to jump to conclusions, I can’t help but wonder what has happened in someone’s life for them to say such things.
I was blessed to grow up in a family where hunting was a tradition two generations old before I entered this world. And it wasn’t restricted to men. My aunt and grandmother were both avid bowhunters, and I’m not shy about stating that my five-foot-nothing grannie has probably killed more deer from the ground with her recurve than most male bowhunters I know (my tree stand hunting self included). When it came time to butcher an animal, no matter who killed it, everyone had a job to do—men, women, and children alike. Hunting was a family activity.
I remember the first time my wife accompanied me on a blood trail, more than a decade before she bought her first hunting license. I had liver-shot a doe several hours earlier, it was well into the night, and I was thankful for another set of eyes to sort out the sparse sign. A few minutes into the trail I was crawling on my hands and knees looking for the next blood when my wife’s flashlight panned to the left down a deer trail. “What’s that on that leaf way down there?” I couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary and doubted she could either, so I replied that maybe she should go have a look while I kept searching for blood. A few second later I heard her say off to my left, “I’ve got a drop of blood over here!” Thanks to my wife’s keen eyes we found my doe shortly thereafter. To this day, she can easily see blood that I seem to look right past.
I also remember the morning my wife shot her first deer. I was on the opposite end of our property trying to stay out of her way when she texted me that she’d shot a doe. I called her on the phone and managed to get enough details through her excited whispering to feel confident in the hit. I asked her to stay on stand while I stalked my way to her from the opposite direction the deer had run.
A short time later I was 20 yards from her tree, examining a very red arrow stuck in the dirt. Turning my head toward where she said the deer ran I could make out its brown form, very much deceased about 60 yards away. My wife climbed down, walked over, and started to relay what had happened. I pulled her closer to me, pointed toward her deer, and asked her what she saw. As soon as she noticed the deer she let out a yell, jumped up and down, and hugged me harder than the day we were married. I’ve walked up on a lot of dead deer of my own prior to and since that morning, and none of them brought a bigger smile to my face than hers.
I suppose hunting has always been a somewhat male dominated activity, but there was a time when it was promoted in a more family inclusive way. A quick examination of bowhunting magazines from the 1940s and 1950s will reveal no shortage of stories of husbands, wives, and children all enjoying hunting camp together, often with the women enjoying success while the men returned empty-handed. And it was not out of the ordinary to see one of those women gracing the cover, smiling ear to ear over their good fortune. So, what happened?
Today we seem to have traded family fellowship for dressing up like militia members and heading off to war against the animal kingdom. It seems bowhunting has largely lost its inclusiveness and instead morphed into some camo-clad caricature of the Little Rascals’ He-Man Woman Haters Club. Is the male ego really so fragile that it can’t stand the possibility of taking second place to our better halves?
Next year, instead of looking at hunting as a way to get away from the women in your life, why not use it as an opportunity to grow closer to them? What’s the worst that can happen? One of them may end up teaching you a thing or two. Besides, if I’ve learned anything from hunting with the women in my family it’s that tag soup pairs well with a venison steak from one of the deer they provide.