by Christi Holmes
There are a lot of good reasons to share a duck blind with your sweetheart. Couples who hunt together spend more time with each other, and they probably also spend more time hunting. They have a shared interest and more to talk about. If your partner has a passion for waterfowling, he or she will be more understanding when you spend money on hunting gear. After all, you are not spending $200 on decoys; we are spending $200 on decoys. And gift giving is a whole lot easier—forget jewelry or tickets to a football game; buy that special someone a new shotgun or duck call. Finally, and not insignificantly, more hunters in the family means more meat in the freezer.
If your main squeeze isn’t hooked on hunting yet, you can help make it happen. Peruse the following tips and offer plenty of support and encouragement throughout the process.
Make It a Date
Propose a time and place to get outside together. It seems obvious, but this step is often overlooked. Don’t assume that your partner doesn’t want to go. If he or she is hesitant to hunt, go scouting and call in some ducks. Explain the techniques that you use to identify waterfowl and what each call means and when it’s used. Put a game camera on a wood duck box you built or on the edge of a stream that waterfowl frequent. Or take a birding trip to a local wildlife area.
The clay-shooting sports are a great way for couples to spend time together year-round, and shooting lessons are a good place to start. Both of you can try out different shotguns and find the one that fits you best. Leave the instruction up to the professionals, though. You may be a great shot, but that doesn’t make you a great teacher. Likewise, most people listen to and learn better from instructors than they do from their partner.
When it’s time for that first hunt, consider an apprentice hunting license. In many states, as long as the apprentice is with a valid license holder, he or she can hunt without having taken a hunter safety course.
For new hunters to gain some confidence and stay interested, it’s important that they experience some early successes. The quickest way to turn them off from duck hunting is to invite them on a cold, early morning hunt with an unfamiliar firearm and a group of experienced hunters who want to shoot first.
Make the first hunt all about your partner. If possible, it should just be the two of you. Don’t shoot first, and don’t pressure him or her to shoot. Explain all the things you’re doing during the hunt and why. Be patient and focus on having fun. If your loved one hates waking up early, go hunting in the afternoon.
Hire a Guide
Another way to ensure a comfortable, positive hunt is to hire a guide. Just as you teach your children the basics of driving a car but also enroll them in a driver’s ed class to learn the details, your partner will gain tremendous knowledge from hunting with a guide. You’ll likely learn a few new things as well.
Join a Community
If your sweetheart doesn’t know any waterfowl hunters besides you, help him or her find a community. It is really hard to try something new if you don’t see anyone who looks like you doing it. Search for groups on social media and check out state programs where new hunters can continue learning and enjoying the sport with others.
Christi Holmes is a freelance writer, a registered Maine hunting and fishing guide, and the founder of Maine Women Hunters, an active community of more than 5,000 female hunters.