GILLILAND: Hunt with her

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The first few years that Joyce and I were married, I traveled to southwest Kansas to hunt deer on land operated by her uncle.

After three or four years, she accompanied me for the first time, and one particular evening decided to accompany me on the evening hunt. She comes from a predominantly non-hunting family, so she didn’t have a license plate or gun.

We were nestled in a clump of weeds at the edge of an overgrown patch surrounding a wheat field. Ahead of us stretched miles of short-harvest pastures riddled with brushy depths and craggy hills. I could tell she was seriously questioning her decision to sit with me in the middle of nowhere, and wondering what we were doing in God’s green earth.

I pointed to a steep climb a few hundred yards and told him to watch carefully as the deer would soon be going up and over that hill. I will take the expression on his face to my grave as a mule deer began to appear and climb this climb as I predicted. She was hooked and today she harvested a handful of Kansas deer herself, one of which hangs on our wall and was caught almost exactly where we sat that first night.

The transition from a spouse to accompany you on the hunt may not happen overnight. Let me share some things that have helped Joyce and I become hunting partners.

Above all, be patient. Everyone who knows me knows that patience is not a virtue of me, but I am learning to be more patient when it comes to explaining outdoor activities to Joyce.

Whether it’s reporting coyote tracks or telling her about a deer scratch, I have to remember this is the same principle as if she were trying to teach me how to crochet (now there’s a mental image!)

We definitely hunt deer differently when we’re together than before she came with me. Before hunting together, I would simply slip under the overhanging branches of a cedar or climb through the rubble of a fallen tree.

Now we’re still in our raised awning which offers protection from the elements and allows for quiet conversations. I just have to swallow my pride when she carries her “bag” containing a book, snacks, a drink, etc. “pair.” Believe me; it will not take anything away from your masculinity!

My first stag rifle was a small military SKS rifle chambered for 7.62 x 39 cartridges; probably the absolute smallest I would recommend for Kansas deer harvesting, but the setback is minimal.

When Joyce decided she wanted her own stag rifle, I gave her the little SKS and upgraded to a .270 for myself. Sometimes I wish she would feel comfortable with something a little bigger that has more power, but the SKS looks good on her, she’s comfortable with that and well-placed shots from that little one. Bugger have neatly harvested both the white tail and the muleys’ here in Kansas.

My gun advice for your spouse is to let her shoot a few and then let her decide which gun she feels most comfortable shooting. Whatever you do, don’t overwork it.

The same goes for hunting rifles. If your spouse is short and short like mine, a youth model may be the best fit for him. Remember that she must like to shoot if you expect her to remain a hunting partner.

One of the first years we seriously hunted deer together, the opening morning was brutally cold and windy. Joyce had dressed with everything we had in the closet that kept her warm.

She got terribly cold that morning and we went into town for lunch and bought her a really nice insulated sweatshirt which is still part of her regular deer hunting outfit today.

After that, we took her to buy some good quality boots, gloves, insulated coveralls and everything she needed to stay warm and comfortable. Don’t skimp on hunting clothes for your new hunting companion! Take her shopping and let her get what suits her best. Don’t be afraid to offer your suggestions, but let her choose. For a little more money, she can even choose from lines of hunting clothing specifically designed for women.

My final tip is to lighten up a bit when hunting with a spouse. If he’s cold before you, let him go to the pick-up and warm up; if she’s bored and wants to read her book or throw in the towel for the morning before you do, let her do it.

Don’t be afraid to point out other things about nature to him while you’re sitting there, like the antics of a loud squirrel in the tree next door, or the silent and graceful air show hosted by a falcon on the hunt. Nature will provide the entertainment if you are just looking for it.

All of these things also apply when hunting with a son, daughter or grandchild. The more enjoyable and satisfying you can make their entry-level experiences, the more likely they are to stick with it and help you carry on your hunting traditions.

Please remember it is never too early or too late to take a son, daughter, grandchild or spouse to the stag blind, pheasant field, lease of duck or farm pond and help them explore Kansas outdoors with you!

Steve can be contacted by email at [email protected]

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