“Oh my gosh, I see one right there! I think its dead,” she said while pointing at the ground. She spoke far louder than I would have expected one of my usual hunting partners to talk.
I said, “Really, a dead one? Let’s check it out,” taking a step toward her as she bent over to get a closer look. The rooster pheasant erupted from beneath her and screeched out a rusty barrage of cackles that frightened my then-girlfriend into screaming at the top of her lungs.
“Shoot it!” I yelled as I watched the bird escape out of sight without her even shouldering her gun. I was frustrated. “Why didn’t you shoot?”
“It scared me. I thought it was dead.”
“It scared you? Well, it obviously wasn’t dead. Still, why wouldn’t you shoot it?”
My frustration and impatience was coming through my voice, and I hurt her feelings. This was a new concept to me, and a little bit confusing. We were hunting, and my partner’s feelings were hurt? Normally I would expect my buddy to laugh it off and then bust my chops later when I did something stupid. But this was different.
Hunting with a lady can offer some challenges along with the joys of sharing the hunt. That girlfriend eventually became my wife, and we have now hunted together for 17 seasons. I think I have adjusted to hunting with her, though if pressed she might tell you differently.
Several years into our relationship I took her grouse hunting in a place that is very special to me. I refer to it as My Hell Hole, a steep canyon in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah. The only way in is down from the top. The only way out is back up the way you came. Standing at the top, looking down, I asked her, “Are you sure you want to do this? The only way out once you are down there is straight back to here.”
She sounded as though she was trying to convince herself.
“I’m sure. I can do this.”
We hunted the canyon in all of its glory. My Hell Hole offered us the usual mixture of ruffed and dusky grouse. We had beautiful dog work and a really wonderful morning, and then it was time to walk out.
The bottom third of the canyon isn’t too bad, but the last two thirds get steep—really steep. I was moving at what I thought was a pretty casual pace up the steep incline, with her behind me breathing heavily for some reason. She was a very athletic girl, and I figured that she was enjoying the workout as much as I was.
In my defense, I did stop several times to see how she was doing. Her answer the first time was, “I’m okay.” The second time it was, “I don’t know.” The third time she was almost in tears and said, “I’m not sure I’m going to make it.”
I’m the sensitive type, of course, so I sternly said, “What do you mean you’re not going to make it? There is no other choice but to make it!”
“Okay,” she said softly.
About three steps later she lost her footing and tumbled down the hill. Again, I’m a sensitive man. I was worried, and she looked really upset. So with the utmost concern in my voice I said, “Did you scratch your gun?”
Apparently that was the wrong thing to say. I found out later that I should have been more concerned about her than the gun. My next words were, “Get up and dust yourself off. We still have a long way to go.” Again, that was not the right thing to say.
She was in tears and told me that I would have to call the local search and rescue because there was no way she could walk out of that canyon. I felt terrible and had no choice but to hold her while she cried. I didn’t call search and rescue, of course, and she did eventually walk out of that canyon.
With women being the fastest growing demographic in hunting, she isn’t alone in having a guy like me. Over the years she has had many discussions with friends that have gone through the same thing with their husbands. Often we as guys assume our girls have the same drive that we do. I also found myself getting frustrated with her more quickly than I would with someone else. When our girlfriends, wives, or daughters show interest in our passion for the outdoors, we aren’t always the most patient mentors to them. It’s hard for me to say and do the right things.
I am a guy that has proven over and over that I am not an expert on anything related to women. Sadly, I only have a little advice to give to the man trying to share his love of the outdoors with a lady that is special to him.
Show her a few things that she wants to know. Answer her questions without belittling her. Most of all, be patient, and sometimes just get out of the way and let her work things out on her own.
By now my wife has become a formidable opponent to most any gamebird, but she does it her own way and at her own pace. She enjoys the time wandering behind the dogs almost as much as I do, but she takes it much more casually. I do my best to understand that when it gets frustrating for her there might be tears. In spite of our differences, it is most enjoyable to spend time together hunting. I would encourage you to take your girl along with you if she is willing.