Getting Your Wife To Go
by Luke & Becca Moffat
Luke and Becca Moffat have been hunting together for over five years, and married for four. They are continually asked how Becca became interested in hunting. Each of them wrote separate articles discussing how to get your wife to go hunting. Neither Luke or Becca knew what the other was writing in order to produce a completely unbiased and genuine approach to getting your woman to become interested in the sport of hunting. It is interesting to note how similar their views are on this subject matter.
On the 9th day of our dall sheep/caribou combo hunt we were nearly 20 miles from the truck, getting up in the dark at 3:30 am to begin our day. This is when I actually took a step back while boiling hot water for oatmeal in the dark to realize just how my wife Becca, had become a backpack style hunter.
When we first started dating over 5 years prior, Becca had never backpacked anywhere for an overnight endeavor nor had she even fired a firearm of any sort. Getting Becca to the point where she is today where she follows me on 100+ mile treks into the trailess Alaska Backcountry, or logs a couple hundred miles a year, or 50-70 days in a tent, didn’t happen just overnight. It took a good bit of effort on both our parts, but its totally worth that effort. If you are interested in trying to get your wife or girlfriend into the woods with you more, below are some of the key points that I feel helped make this transformation work for us.
People ask us all the time, "what did you do to get Becca to go on all these hunting and hiking trips?" Particularly people who have known me all my life have been surprised at the turn my interests have taken in the last six years. I didn't start out doing much outdoors at all, despite always living in Alaska. I also wasn't particularly athletic...sure I worked out from time to time, but I logged a lot more hours in the gym than I ever did in the backcountry. Crazier still, I had never fired a gun or even caught a fish. Yet I suppose in some ways, it just never occurred to me that I shouldn't go. While I didn't grow up in a hunting family, my childhood home didn't have running water until I was in grade school. I remember summer car camping quite often in camp grounds around Alaska. While my family didn't hunt, I do remember that game meat (when we could get it from friends) was a delicacy to be anticipated and savored. So I guess you could say I was receptive to being outdoors and hunting, I just never did it much.
When Luke and I first met and started dating, it was obvious that hunting and the outdoors were his passion, and since he invited me along, it never occurred to me that I wouldn't join him. In fact, looking back I suspect our relationship never would have progressed if I had been unwilling to tag along. Now I am Luke's primary hiking and hunting partner, and we typically spend somewhere around 90-100 days in the field together every year. The following are a few things that I think encouraged me to start hunting and backpacking, and then kept me coming back for more.
First and foremost they have to be willing to try it, you can’t make it fun if the person is not wanting to go try it out. A willing participant is key. Secondly, we’ve all heard the saying, “if momma ain’t happy….” This is especially true when out backpacking. Alaska is known for having less than ideal weather on occasion, so keeping your wife comfortable in poor weather is a must. One of the best ways to combat this is to not cheap out on gear. If you think you need a set of $500 rain gear to enjoy the backcountry, don’t just spend $70 for you wife and wonder why she isn’t “enjoying” the trip as much as you. You also can’t buy her a cheap backpack, thinking she doesn’t need a good one of her own, and then be surprised she still isn’t comfortable even with just 40 or so pounds on her back, and only a few miles from the trailhead. Getting the woman in your life to join you in the field is an investment in both time and money.
Start her off small
Our first backpacking trip, I brought three changes of clothes (for one overnighter). I thought I was going to die if I had to take another step ( we hiked about three miles), and grew panicked when we ended up having to heat water over a brush fire because we couldn't figure out how to work our stove (always figure these things out at home beforehand....always!). Still, I look back on that trip with fond memories because I made it back in one piece, and Luke was so genuinely thrilled that I was out there with him. I also felt a sense of accomplishment at being successful, even if the distance and duration of the trip were short. I made it there and back and had greater confidence the next time around. This made me want to go again, so I could feel the same sense of success in the future.
Similarly, I tagged along on several hunting trips before we ever considered that I would be the shooter. Having a basic understanding of the process, and having seen a kill shot along with helping to butcher the meat, I knew what I was signing up for when my turn came.
I think it also helped that while Luke was very experienced, he hadn't backpack hunted much before he met me. I had a sense that we were exploring uncharted territory together, and also that we were improving both our physical abilities and our knowledge base together as time went on. Because Luke works away from home two weeks every month, we spend a lot of hours talking on the telephone. I remember several occasions where we talked long into the night (complete with simultaneous review of websites and google maps) about potential gear items we might want, possible trips we wanted to take, and generally building the anticipation until we could get out there again. While we still spend a fair amount of the time we are apart planning our future excursions, when we were new to backpacking these conversations were crucial to keeping me engaged, and helping us grow together.
Do your best to outfit her right the first time. I believe buying her good gear from the start accomplished two things, which made Becca want to go. First, obviously she is physically more comfortable with the right boots, rain gear, clothing, backpack, sleep system and more. This means she is more willing to go, knowing it won’t be a completely miserable experience. Second, get her involved in the research process of picking out the right gear. Don’t’ just go into an outdoor store without her and pick out a bunch of stuff that you think is her size. I fully believe getting her involved in the picking out of her gear and not cringing when she opts for gear that is on par with what you spent on your own gear, will show her you are serious about wanting her to join you and be comfortable. Plus she will feel invested in using the gear more if she is part of the selection process. Of course, we will always be tweaking and tuning our gear to better suit our needs, but starting her out with a good foundation of quality gear is dressing her for success from the get go.
Get her quality gear
High quality outdoor gear is expensive, so I am sympathetic when I hear anyone lamenting the impact on their budget. But don't scrimp on her stuff if you want your wife or girlfriend to get outside with you. I often hear the argument, " I don't want to spend a fortune on stuff she might not use if she doesn't go again". My counter argument is this, if she is freezing, wet or blistered because you cheaped out on her stuff she will DEFINITELY never go again-- especially if she realizes you are warm and comfy because you got yourself better gear than you bought her. You don't have to spend thousands getting her outfitted when she's first starting out, but getting her quality boots, rain gear, and sleeping equipment will pay dividends for you when she is warm and happy.
I received a lot of my first pieces of gear as gifts for my birthday or other holidays (in fact there is a joke in our household that my presents are always jewelry or camping gear, and it's been heavy on the camping gear since about six months into our relationship!) I was always happy to receive this stuff because it was obvious to me that Luke had done his research and then shopped extensively before making these purchases. His gear-gifts for me were well thought out, and considerate gifts designed to encourage me to want to go on more trips. And it worked-- besides getting me well outfitted, this showed me that he really wanted me along, and so I was even more encouraged to join him in the field.
(As a disclaimer, this one can backfire...you have to make sure she will be as excited as you are about receiving gear as gifts. I wouldn't recommend this as an option if she has never gone before, or at least showed an interest. And never, under any circumstances buy items for yourself (read optics, firearms, or clothing in Men's XL) under the auspices of gifts for her...she WILL see through your plans, and maybe be resentful)
After outfitting Becca with some quality backpacking gear it was time to actually take her backpacking. However, we didn’t just strap our packs on and head up the mountain in the middle of sheep season. It was early summer and we used this time to test her gear out and get used to seeing how fun backpacking can be. I strongly suggest starting off slow with short distances. I wouldn’t head 15+ miles into the backcountry as a first run. I believe our first backpacking trip was just a few miles from the truck with only a thousand feet of vertical gain. Of course we went on many subsequent trips working up to longer distances the incorporated more challenging terrain. Another key I felt was setting a slower pace when hiking. Its great you can maintain a 3 mph pace of a steep grade for miles on end with a 60 pound pack, but remember its supposed to be enjoyable for both of you and it isn’t a race. So slow down your pace and keep it fun.
Another thing to be aware of is when backpacking with your wife or girlfriend as opposed to your buddy it might be best to carry more than your fair share. Girls, in general, are not as strong on average as a guy. So if you are going in for a week long hunt and taking a total of 100 pounds of gear and food I usually carry 60-70% of the load. This is a sacrifice, but I am usually still able to more than set the pace. Packing a backpack that is more than you want to carry can suck the fun factor out of a trip in a hurry.
Don't expect that she will carry as much as you can
While I am a not sexist in the least, there are significant physiologic differences between men and women. Our smaller stature, and greater fat to muscle ratio stack the deck against us when it comes to physically competing with men. Over time I have increased my endurance and stamina to a place where I can carry up to 70 lb. pack loads-- but that is pretty much my max. Luke can and has carried 130 lb. loads--more than 3/4 of his body weight. Still, it's important to me that when we go together, I am making a contribution to carrying our gear and I know he appreciates that anything I can carry, he doesn't have to.
I have also come to terms with the fact that he always seems to be able to hike a little further or a little faster than I can. Over the course of our relationship, we have both increased our fitness and stamina drastically. So while I am in way better shape than I was when we first started out, so is Luke, and consequently he still out hikes me to a certain degree. He assures me that I can keep up with most of his male hunting/hiking buddies, and so this is just something I have come to accept. He so obviously values having me along, that I guess it doesn't matter so much if he sometimes has to wait on me a little.
Its not a competition for who can get there the fastest or carry the most stuff...its about getting out there together, and sharing adventures in the backcountry together, whatever it takes.
Keeping Becca involved in all facets of the hunt is also important. From filtering water, to setting the tent, to even butchering an animal in the field, all contribute to getting her more and more interested in the process of backpack hunting. For the most part no one just waltzes into the field automatically knowing how to setup a tent, glass for animals, or even break them down for packing out, so don’t assume she will. Take the time to explain what and why you are doing what your doing.
One of the biggest hurdles for some in getting your significant other in the field is being willing to take a back seat as shooter. This wasn’t an issue for me as I had taken more than my fair share of game prior to her beginning to hunt with me. For me, it is more a sense of accomplishment when Becca bags a critter than when I do now.
Set her up for success
My first successful animal was a bull moose (we pretty much did the opposite of start small and work your way up I guess). We spotted it from quite a distance away, and then snuck to within 80 yards of where it was bedded down. Luke let me know ahead of time that he didn't want me to attempt a shot unless it was a good situation with a steady shot where I felt comfortable. I ended up having a good twenty minutes to find a good rest and get ready before it finally stood up. One shot, one drop and my moose was down! More than anything, my confidence was bolstered because I had a positive first experience. While I didn't fully appreciate it at the time, I now realize how much more work it was for Luke to help me harvest that moose than for him to just shoot it himself while I watched. His investment in time, and effort at making me successful once again encouraged me to want to go.
Just like guys, not every girl has the desire to go out into the backcountry for days at a time with just what you carry on your back. However, if she is open to the idea, taking your wife into the field can be an extremely rewarding experience for you and her. You’ll certainly get more quality time together without distractions and you may even end up with a heck of a hunting partner to boot. Plus, it’s a lot easier to get a kitchen pass to go on more hunts, when the one that issues these passes is going along as well. They say finding a good hunting partner can be as tough as finding the right spouse, I say why not make your spouse your hunting partner.
Hunting and hiking are now a tremendous part of my life, and something Luke and I place as a very high priority in our relationship. We cherish our time together in the backcountry, and whether we come home with full game bags at the end of a trip or not, it's getting out there together that is important to us.