Desperate Housewives

Desperate Housewives

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Becky Warren

“I call it the ‘Entryway of Death’,” says Lori as she describes the entrance to her house. The Montana native and accounting professional is one of a group coming to be known as "hunting widows"—spouses, usually women, whose partners frequently leave for days or weeks every fall to go hunting.

Truthfully, the Entryway of Death is a fine collection of sportsmanship in an impeccably decorated home. However, for visitors not accustomed to a hunter’s household or lifestyle, Lori admits she feels like she needs to warn them upon entering the house—hence the nickname. “We have two elk, one caribou, and a black bear over the banister,” she lists.

Every fall, when hunting season is in full swing, household organizations change. Gallons of ice cream are chucked out to make room for pounds of meat. Garages cannot store vehicles, because they turn into butcher shops, and basketball practice is postponed while deer hang from the hoops.

Married hunters have spouses to help (or put up) with such household rearrangements. These partners, though often supportive of their loved ones' hunting passions, are in turn "left behind" for days, or sometimes weeks during the fall. They're the hunting widows.

To be fair, not all hunting widows are women, but the widowers are a small enough group that we can afford to generalize. These wives understand their husbands’ passions, addictions, and excitement for the season and, in turn, make concessions and compromises to keep the love in balance in order to provide support. This is not a season of dread. Most widows relish the time where they can have the house and remote controls to themselves. Usually, it is getting the hunters out the door and on their way that is the trying part.

And They’re Off
Mandi, a Montana native and self-identified hunting widow, confesses that the she fully supports her husband’s drive to hunt. But she says that getting ready for the start of the season is “a giant hassle and headache.”

“I once got scolded for not packing the correct camo," she explains. "I mixed up his ‘Sage Brush’ and ‘Real Leaf’.” Mandi’s husband is a big-game hunter (bow and rifle), and she says he's grown more passionate about it over the years. In preparation for his trips, she's been well-schooled on how to wash laundry with no-scent detergent, not to touch anything with bare unprepared hands, and how to shop and pack for one- to two-week camps. “He eats better than the kids and I do while he is at camp,” she muses.

Though the preparation might be taxing, Mandi says she does appreciate her husband's joy when he has a successful hunt—and she also very much enjoys having the house to herself for a few days. “I don’t have to fall asleep to the whispers of the hunting shows that are regularly on when he's home," she chuckles.

Filling the Void
When Renee first started dating the man who is now her husband, she didn't notice how much he was away hunting or what there was to show for his habit. Today the mom of two says she strongly supports her husband’s pasttime and sees the benefits of the hunting season. “It’s like your own vacation," she points out. "I don’t have to cook for the time he is gone.” After all, there's no shortage of meat when she does cook, though there might be a shortage of freezer space.

Renee understands that hunting is not an inexpensive sport. “There is a different gun, or bow, for each season. Plus all the ammo,” she explains. Renee says she keeps her own spending in check but tends to splurge a bit while he’s gone. “I like to shop,” she admits. “I have pairs of shoes I would not have gotten if he didn’t go hunting.”

Mandi also admits that her retailing peaks during hunting season. “I like to internet shop. I love getting a package in the mail every other day,” she says. She confesses that getting clothes for the kids and things for the house provides immediate gratification during his absence.

To lessen the time apart, hunting widows occasionally join their husbands on a hunt.

“Sometimes I will go with him after he convinces me it’ll be fun,” she explains. Though she's happy to keep him company while duck hunting, she says she quickly remembers that it's not all that fun while “freezing on the Big Horn with my portable Mr. Heater.”

All About Compromise
“My only rule is that I have a place to park my car in the garage,” says Mandi. This is the agreement she and her husband have when he wants to hang a deer or elk in the garage. “He has to park his truck outside if his animal is taking up the space.”

Decor is also a two-way street. Mandi’s husband has a handful of European mounts from over the years that he has yet to put on the walls. They're resting on a couch in their guest room. “I use to fold laundry in there, but I no longer can because I feel like they're all watching me,” she says. “It’s like having an audience.”

Renee has also cut a deal or two with her husband as well. “He has his own shop,” she says about the mounts and taxidermy in her house. “Everything happens there and stays there.” Last season, her husband harvested a good-sized bull that, “if he had it his way, it would be the center attraction in the house.”

What We Do for Love
You know you really love your spouse when you schedule the birth of your child around a hunting trip. Mandi was due to deliver her daughter at the end of October—precariously close to her husband’s deer-hunting excursion with the guys. Knowing that she had plenty of other help for when the baby arrived, she told her husband that as long as she had one day with him for delivery, he could leave the next day. After a visit to the doctor, she was ready to deliver a bit early and could be induced. It was a big break for Mandi's husband, but the only day available for the delivery was Halloween, and Mandi really did not like the idea of her daughter having a Halloween birthday. Nevertheless, Halloween did allow the agreed-to one-day cushion for her husband to go on his hunting trip. Her daughter's 4th birthday is this October 31.

It’s the Season
This fall, alarm clocks across Gallatin County will be going off at 3:00 am. Wives, no longer startled by dead ducks in their crisper drawers, will grab the milk with a smile, knowing their husbands are out doing what they love… and maybe a new pair of shoes are in their future.

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