Building Bridges

Issue # 22 of 43 

David LeClaire
By: David LeClaire

Killin' Stuff

Why do guys love to hunt, fish, and generally kill stuff? It all starts as little boys, with things like bumble bees, ants, frogs, spiders, etc. Manageable stuff. The odd thing is young boys really don't have this instinctive pattern taught to them. Maybe their fathers took them hunting or fishing, but surely not many dads sat down to show their sons how to burn holes in living creatures with a magnifying glass.

Little boys from all over learn to torture insects and kill various creatures at a very young age - and to enjoy it! Why this is will probably always remain a mystery. I was no different until at the age of about 16 I shot a tweety bird with a shotgun and obliterated it. I felt bad that I just wasted its life for no good reason. Ever since, my killing habits have changed. I no longer play God and exterminate life except in one scenario - when the animal or critter crosses the line and threatens to harm or incessantly pester me. If a mosquito is biting me, it's crossed the line. I don't mind spiders in my home, but if it ends up in my bed, that's going a little too far.

Many boys laugh at the "sensitivity" of their female counterparts when they are growing up. "It's just a cute little squirrel, how could you kill it?" These words fall on deaf ears as the boys have no sympathy for the little critter. Some guys eventually outgrow the "killing thing", especially those that have always lived in or have moved to the city. But for those that haven't it can be a real source of controversy in a relationship.

Take my friend Wayne for example. He is an avid "sportsman." Fishing and hunting are his passions. He owns more fishing poles and guns than my wife has pairs of shoes. The thrill he gets out of bagging a deer or catching a whopper is something he alone can appreciate - his wife "puts up with it." What is it he loves the most about these activities? Ironically, it's the quiet time, the "peacefulness" of being in the woods, or being on a calm lake in the misty early morning. He loves the time to be alone, or with a buddy, away from his serious life as a husband, father, schoolteacher, etc. etc. No worries, just some simplicity.

Guys have to have a goal, something to accomplish, to justify spending this down time away from their wives, family, and jobs. You just can't explain going out in the woods and sitting on a stump to most people, they will think you're weird. But if you have a purpose, like killing something, well, then it all makes some sense somehow.

While I used hunting and killing things as a good examples of how different our perspective and interests are or can be, the subject is really much broader than that. Wayne spends an enormous amount of time on his hobbies, as do many men, may be it be sports, cars, or whatever. Some women eventually begin resenting their partner's time away from them and their family, and the more they hate it, the more guilt he feels about doing what he loves.

Of course the whole thing comes down to moderation. If he is out of balance and does not spend enough time with his job, family, and or wife, then his hobbies can become a problem indeed. But what's the harm if there is balance? Even if you don't share his enthusiasm for his hobby, in this case hunting, you can still allow him the escape if he needs it. Embracing that and not dishing out extra helpings of guilt not only gives him freedom and permission, but can make him obligated to indulge you when it comes to how you want to spend some of your free time, without grief or guilt.

This is where couples need to make agreements and keep each other in check. If Wayne's wife agrees his need to be out on a lake is important to him and that he deserves the time to do this, it needs to be within reason. So, rather than have him totally consumed by his hobby, she asks for moderation."How about spending every other Saturday morning with us, and then you could go out the other Saturday mornings without guilt? We get a little of you, and you still get a decent amount of fishing in?"

Hunting season is a wild, crazy time for guys that do this every year. I am out of the loop, living in the middle of Seattle. But I grew up in a small town where hunters are a dime a dozen. As men get older, they usually become more inclined to be more family-oriented and work a lot, spending less and less time with friends. It's the one time of year that guys get to be with the guys for more than a couple of hours. It makes them feel like kids again, and gives them an opportunity to hang out with their buds, drink some suds, tell dirty jokes, and be the pigs their women won't let them be at home. It's a bonding experience they look forward to every year. Oh, and yes, maybe they will get a deer this year!

While it is different when you are child, most of this whole killing thing, as far as grown men are concerned, is really about the space, the privacy, the time alone or with friends, and less about the actual killing they may get to do. But make no mistake, there is a thrill that these guys get when they are successful. It makes them feel cunning, smart, and very "manly." Many guys need this exercise, they don't want to totally lose touch with their masculinity, which is often partially defined by their lack of caring or concern for a poor little defenceless critter against a high powered, long - range rifle. But that's another matter. (If I am not careful, I will never hear the end of the "ridda" from my hunter friends.)

There is a certain pleasure men derive from being the "hunter" - even in today's more cerebral society. Men want to be "manly" and hunting gives them that feeling, much more so than sitting in an office working on a computer. Their virility and macho-ness is given a test and even if they do not get their goal, they at least were out there trying. Men don't want to just become thinkers, they want to hold onto that part of their lineage that is more primal. Women would do well to be patient and understanding about this side of men, no matter how bizarre it may seem, rather than to criticise, judge, and imply guilt for their pursuits.

Wayne says to his buddy, "You mean your wife likes it when you go out hunting? She doesn't give you any grief? What a lucky man you are! What a cool wife you have!" Jack replies, "Well, she is pretty cool about it. She knows it's something I really enjoy. I don't hassle her about shopping, and she does plenty of that while I am gone. It costs us some money every hunting season, believe me. But it's fun for both of us. She enjoys having a little space and time without me there. And by the time it's all over, I am sick of the guys and look forward to seeing her again, and she's glad to have me back home." The other guys stand there in amazement, jaws dropped, speechless. "Cool." "Really?" "Wow" are their eventual replies. "You have to teach me how to get that arrangement in my house!"

David LeClaire has spent much of his time teaching at community college and private school, and lead communications training for Fortune 500 companies. Now a popular and active Seattle area sommelier, this graduate of Central Michigan University led seminars for a wide variety of organizations. LeClaire is the author of "Bridges To A Passionate Partnership." He can be reached at

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Text © 1998, David LeClaire. Part of the original Sideroad.
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