The Family Man
For anyone who has ever sat before the honorable judge, or as I call her, “wifey,” to provide a defense for that box of decoys that came in the mail, or the decoy trailer taking up her parking spot in the garage… this article is not going to help you get out of trouble. But it just might help you score… brownie points (get your mind out of the gutter) during the upcoming hunting season. We have all spent evenings with our families and pondered the repercussions for going “one more” morning in a row. If you are like me, this includes finishing the laundry, doing the dishes, raking the leaves, and dusting those ceiling fan blades in a half-hearted attempt to win over the jury when you slyly mention the slightest chance of another hunt tomorrow. This year, I have vowed to improve my marriage during hunting season rather than place my marriage on hold. If you are up for a challenge, check out a few of the key factors I am planning to focus on this season.
Time at home is more important than time in the blind.
Time is one of the most precious natural resources. However, we often look at the 24-hour period and limit productivity because of poor time management. As outdoorsmen, we have all shared and liked those funny posts and memes that make a mockery of the time we spend away from our families. We must realize this season, just as scouting is important to bag birds, time management is key to improving and revitalizing our marriages. Chill out, I am not suggesting we take days off… the season is already short enough, I am simply saying we need to be intentional about how we spend our time. Just as Moses prayed while aimlessly wandering the desert, “teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12),” we must number our days during hunting season. If time management when wandering in the desert leads to wisdom, it must be beneficial as we navigate finding a balance between our passion and our family.
So, my first challenge is: make your family your passion and your hobbies will be more enjoyable. Many of us, including myself, have never made a dime off of a hunting trip. It is not the same as going to work; hunting and fishing is still a hobby. It may be a passion, maybe even an obsession, but it is not more important than your family. Based on my personal experience, some of my most enjoyable hunts are when I do not have to feel guilty on missing out on family time. This can only happen when enough time has been spent investing in family. Side-note, quality is much more important than quantity when it comes to spending time with your family (Keys to improving quality: put your phone down, go on an adventure, prepare a meal together, eat said meal together, go for a walk…this is also an added obedience session for the retriever, actually talk to your family and see what is happening in their lives at home and school). Everyone has gone on that hunt the morning after your wife threatened your life the night before… but when you make your family your passion, your hobbies will immediately become more enjoyable.
2. What are you hunting?
While cruising Facebook, anyone can find a mirage of quality wedding photos that pose what was once the American dream, and is now more of a memory than reality. Even within the outdoor community, we boast custom wedding bands that match those found on the dropped landing gear of our favorite fowl as if both matrimonies are one-in-the-same. Sadly, our nation displays statistics that will leave you feeling similar to when every duck that flew into your spread exits safely or when a turkey runs off with your empty gun still smoking. According to the American Psychological Association, of all marriages in the United States, 50% of them will end in divorce. Literally, half of the marriages in the U.S. will end in divorce.
It falls on the shoulders of each of us to reverse this terrifying trend. In the home of outdoorsman, we must decide… What are you hunting? Personally, it was really easy for me to answer this question superficially… I am hunting a stable income, a beautiful family that loves the Lord, and a prosperous future. Turns out, I needed a little help with finding out what I was actually hunting, and I will pass that help along to you. Review your credit card statement from the last three months. Where you spend your money is the thermometer for where you spend your time. Is it aimed at improving your marriage and quality time with your family? I am not saying you can buy their love, but it is a great gauge to see what you are investing in. Ask your spouse if they feel loved by you. This was a great resource for me. There was a time in our marriage where I made sure the lawn was mowed on time and the trash taken out and my wife was still not feeling loved by me… she needed more quality time with me. It is not that I did not love her, but she didn't feel loved by me. When we establish what we are hunting, we can then explore tactics. Review how you spend time, money, and your words, and ask yourself how can this be used to improve my marriage, family, etc. You have to have access to land before you can ever hang a tree stand. What are you hunting?
3. Practice your calling.
What if you call your wife as much as you call waterfowl this season. Last week, I was rolling around town with my 6-month-old in the car seat (apparently the chatter of the diesel is the equivalent of counting sheep for her), and found myself on a single reed call practicing getting ducky and capturing that quiet rasp that finishes those late morning green heads. While experimenting with calling technique, I randomly questioned the last time I worked this hard to speak my wife’s language. I must admit, this isn't some cliché love-blog teaching you the love languages and mending marriages one post share at a time, I am not a success story so don't think this is me patting myself on the back. I took no action step of intentionality after this revelation in the truck, I simply gained a reality check and the third challenge for you and me this season: with every blow into your call, remember your core role as a man, or husband, is to communicate and care for your wife.
4. Find the X.
Scouting is truly the key to piles of down feathers. Most of the hunters that struggle to bag limits each year are failing to scout. The greatest calling and decoys are no match for the X that marks the spot where the ducks want to be. Biologists and hunters alike have lost countless hours of sleep trying to figure out the science of the “X,” to no avail. If you can find the X, you will kill birds, if your one field away from the X, you will get to watch a mess of birds, and if you’re in another area code from the X you will be pretty bored. This year, my goal is to find the X in my marriage and I challenge you to do the same. Where are areas in which you are lacking as a couple? Do you need to turn your phones off after 6:00pm to spend time together? When was your last date night? What was the last gift you brought home for no reason? Remember, the key to finding the X is to scout. Each of us will answer this question different, but in order to answer it, we are going to have to do some scouting. We may even have to ask our wives… it’s scary I know (see previous challenge about communication). Challenge number 4 is easier said than done: find the X.
So, stop speeding home on your lunch break to hide the box of decoys you ordered for next season and start putting the same amount of effort into your family. Please remember, these notes are for me… I am just sharing them with you. This season, I am accepting this challenge. My marriage is too important to my family and my future to watch it crumble each fall. I love following my friends all over the nation on social media in different hunting groups on Facebook. It seems like every time I scroll through my feed, one of them is doing something to better their community. From conservation, to public service projects, and everything in between, it is evident that outdoorsman are positively contributing to society across the nation. Outdoorsman are leaders within society, it is time for us to lead within our homes as well, not just outside them.