Backcountry to the Backyard — Thoughts on Balancing Family and Hunting
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Backcountry to the Backyard — Thoughts on Balancing Family and Hunting

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The laundry is piling up, my wife won’t stop talking about all of the weird documentaries she’s been watching while I’ve been away, and my grass is a foot tall.  These things are in the back of my mind though, because I have a bow in my hand and am looking through my binoculars.  I scan the hills ahead of me for any signs of life that could allow me to fill my tag and head home.  Even though I cherish every moment I get to spend out in the mountains, sometimes I can’t help but feel bad for being out there away from home life.  My wife is alone, taking care of everything, so that I can go out and fill the void inside of me by immersing myself in my passion for hunting. The fact that she is willing to do that makes me feel both grateful and guilty all at once.  I don’t think I am the only one that wrestles with balancing the backcountry and family life.   I have tried my best to balance these things, and I am always striving to do better.  My addiction isn’t going anywhere and neither is life at home.

Include My Wife

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I’ve said before that one of the reasons I really got into backpacking and backpack-style hunting was so that I could backpack with my wife during the off season.  I figured this was something that we could do together, by getting her out of the house and into the mountains with me.  It also gives me a way to share my love of wild places with her.  A lot of times we backpack into potential hunting areas that I want to scout, and I love spending that quality time with my wife.  I’ll never forget the look on her face when I showed her a cow elk standing on a hill in front of us; we got to watch a calf drink milk from its mother and my wife was glowing with amazement. Seeing her reactions to things like this puts things in perspective for me and makes me realize how special the things hunters get to witness in the wilderness are.

My wife fully supports my hunting habits, but doesn’t want to actually go hunting and see an animal die.  I totally respect that, and so should you with the people in your life.  Taking life is a big deal, and if someone doesn’t want to be part of that, then their decision needs to be honored.  Just because a family member doesn’t want to sit next to you while you pull the trigger, doesn’t mean that you can’t include them in your process and share some aspects of your hunting passion with them.

Being Present When I’m Home

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I carefully lift my head up over the brush line and look through my binoculars.  “Yes, he’s still there,” I say to myself after seeing antler tips a mere 60 yards in front of me.   I see the bucks’ rack rise and fall with every breath he takes.

“I can make this shot.”

I draw back my bow, as I’m knelt beneath the brush, hidden from the monarch.  Slowly, I stand up and reveal myself to the deer as my pin gyrates over the buck’s vitals.  That’s when I feel a tap on my shoulder — it’s my wife asking if I’ve heard what she just said. Suddenly, I realize I am in my living room.

If you are anything like me, you probably think about hunting more than you should at times, and struggle not to do so.  Hunting is part of my soul and I long for it.  However, over the years, I’ve realized how important it is to actually be present with mind and body while I am home; just physically being there doesn’t cut it.

When I am home I need to make sure that I’m doing things actually related to home life — taking care of chores that need to be done, taking my wife out to dinner, and just making sure I’m spending as much quality time with her as possible while I can.  I know when I get out in the mountains, I am going to miss those things, and so will she.  I’d advise that you don’t “leave anything on the table” before you leave for your hunt.  This is going to ensure that your honey and your “honey-do’s” are taken care of, but it will also give you a clear head to focus on hunting while out in the field.

The Ball Rolls Both Ways

My wife and I at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
My wife and I at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

So, this whole post so far has been about me and the things that I like to do and how I’ve tried to include my wife in those particular things.  What about what she wants to do though?  As I stated, my wife is not a hunter.  While I know she enjoys our scouting trips together, it probably isn’t on the top of her to-do list to get up at 2 a.m. in order to go and hike most of the day.  I need to remember that.  So, whatever it is that your significant other likes to do, make sure you include yourself in that as well.

My wife loves doing yoga. For that reason, I will make sure to attend a few classes with her.  She also loves to cook.  Instead of sitting on the couch every time she is making dinner, I will help her make dinner.  We both love to read, so we will often take turns reading a certain book out loud to each other.  (No, I don’t read Bowhunter Magazine to her).  These are just some of the non-hunting related things that I make sure to do with my wife, simply because she likes to do them.  Relationships require give-and-take, and the ball rolls both ways.  To make everything about me, is just not fair or healthy.

“As a hunter, I am selfish, but as a husband I need to be selfless”

In Closing

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From the backcountry to the backyard, I hope this helps you find somewhat of a balance between hunting and home life.  As a hunter, I am selfish, but as a husband I need to be selfless.  Something I didn’t even cover in this article is kids and the additional weight that puts on family and home life.  I haven’t been faced with that, as of yet, but I think the same principles apply.  Include your children in what you do, be there for them 100% while you are home, and take the time to do the things that they want to do.  You might end up with fingernail polish and a crown on your head, but it’s all worth it.  Remember the constants in your life, so they remain constant.

josh-kirchner-bioJosh Kirchner is the voice behind Dialed in Hunter, a blog that not only documents his own journey, but provides gear reviews, tips/tactics for western hunting, and encourages other hunters to chase and achieve their goals. Josh is a passionate bowhunter that has been hunting with his family since he was a small boy, but for the last three years has been eating, sleeping, and breathing the hunting lifestyle. When he is not chasing elk, deer, bear, and javelina through the diverse Arizona terrain, he is spending time with his wife, two herding dogs, and mischievous cat.  Connect with Josh on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

  • Matt Gray

    Loved this article. My first trip out west last year from Texas fell at a hard time. We had our first child just four months before September. as much as I loved being out there, a large part of the time I was feeling guilty. Even when I just got away from the house to hunt whitetails a few times just five miles from my house, I had trouble enjoying it because I felt like I was running from responsibilities and adding possible conflict between my wife and I. Next season I plan on having much more of my chores done around the house and before I go. And make sure that my wife feels completely loved and adored before I leave.