"Hunting and Fishing Partners - and Married"
“I plan to be sitting in a tree somewhere this weekend,” high-school senior Tyler McNeely told me. “My parents will be, too.”
“Your parents bow-hunt together?” I asked. I knew Tyler because I’m a biology teacher at Jackson Senior High. I’d never met his parents, however.
“Have for almost 20 years,” Tyler said. “My mom has tagged 14 deer, including several nice bucks. One was big enough for the record book. My dad’s taken more than 20. We take our bow-hunting seriously.”
I have to admit that I don’t know of any other husbands and wives who bow-hunt together. Matter of fact, I don’t know of many husbands and wives who hunt together at all.
Curious about their approach to being a husband/wife hunting team, I phoned Tyler’s parents, Doug and Carmen, and they invited me over.
The next evening I pulled up in front of their home—a spacious log cabin that lies on a 90-acre farm east of Jackson. Their youngest daughter, 15-year-old Whitney, met me at the door and ushered me inside. A mantle filled with archery competition trophies caught my eye, as did a basket below the mantle filled with shed antlers.
Carmen and Doug were eager to talk about the outdoors. He said it represents a main focus in their marriage.
Doug first met Carmen at church when he was nearly 20 years old and she was a 16-year-old student. Her dad only let Doug come over to visit during the day. Carmen’s family lived in the country and had a nice pond on their place. Carmen and Doug spent a lot of time fishing together.
“Our family row-cropped and raised cattle for a living,” Doug said, “so I didn’t have much time for fishing until I met Carmen. She taught me how to fish.”
For well over a year, Doug and Carmen enjoyed daytime dates of catching bass and crappie and frying up their catch for meals. When Carmen graduated from high school, her dad relaxed restrictions on dating. Carmen and Doug knew they were a good match and within a year they married. A couple years into their marriage, Doug decided to try bow-hunting for whitetails.
“It didn’t take long for bow-hunting to get deep in my blood,” Doug said. “I wanted Carmen to bow-hunt with me. She wasn’t sure about it. We had two young sons then, and Carmen did not know if she would have time. I tried to convince her everyone needs a little recreation. I have to admit I pushed hard for her to bow-hunt with me.”
Carmen finally agreed to try bow-hunting. Doug bought her a compound bow. She practiced often and learned to shoot well.
She didn’t tag a deer during her first season, but that made little difference. She was captivated by the sport and looked forward to every outing.
“Out in the fall woods, sitting in a tree with a bow across my lap is the perfect getaway,” she said. “It allows me to forget about work, grocery shopping and the laundry. And then there’s the smell of a damp, fall woods—you can’t beat that aromatherapy.”
Carmen’s persistence and love of the sport paid off during her second season, when she killed a mature doe. She said she liked the idea of providing meat for her family.
Having lived all her life in the country, Carmen had little trouble enduring the mosquitoes, chiggers, ticks, poison ivy and bad weather that often torment bowhunters. Carmen said a big part of the secret to her and Doug’s hunting partnership is that she just takes whatever nature gives her and doesn’t complain.
“Some people would start griping as soon as they got a little cold or a little hot or a little wet or if bugs were bad,” Carmen explained. “I’m just not that way. I may say something when Doug gets too gung-ho while we are deer hunting, but I keep complaining to a minimum. Who wants to be around a complainer? Doug is also usually careful about keeping hunts in line with what I can handle.”
Carmen and Doug both talk with enthusiasm about hunting and fi shing together, but like any folks who hunt and fi sh a lot, they’ve had a few rough trips.
“We apply to bow-hunt for elk in Colorado every year,” Carmen told me. On one of our first trips, being a little green about hunting in the mountains, we found
ourselves lost near the tree line at dusk. We spent the night on that mountain in freezing weather with no food or water. We huddled against a fallen spruce tree and covered ourselves with green-needled branches. I was worried about bears. We laugh about it now, but it was not funny then.”
Carmen also told of a deer hunt in Illinois when they hiked three miles into a secluded spot that Doug had scouted and had found loaded with buck sign. “The ground was swampy, which made for tough walking, and I wore too many clothes. By the time we got to our spot, I was sweat-soaked and worn out, and I knew after the hunt I would have to repeat the whole process. That was not a fun trip.”
“Anyone who fishes or hunts will have some rough trips,” Doug said, but the bad times we’ve had hunting and fishing have been few and far between.”
Because they both enjoy the outdoors, Doug and Carmen always have something interesting to talk about.
“If I tell her I’ve seen a big buck,” Doug said, “Carmen wants to know every detail, and then she wants to hunt my stand! Of course, I’ll let her.”
Both Doug and Carmen hold full-time jobs. Carmen is manager of Human Resources Operations at Southeast Missouri State University, and Doug is a heavy equipment operator. They also raise cattle and have three children between the ages of 15 and 18. Although their lives keep them busy, they always find time to bow-hunt and fish together.
“Because we’ve made bow-hunting and fishing our priorities,” Doug said, “we make time for them. We hunt and fish on the weekends, and we schedule our vacations around hunting and fishing. Some couples like to go to Las Vegas for vacation. Well, Carmen and I like to take off for Colorado to bow-hunt for elk or to Mississippi to fish for crappie.”
“Fortunately, both grandmothers and my four sisters live close by,” Carmen said. “When our children were young, they happily baby-sat them while Doug and I bow-hunted and fished. Now that the kids are older, that’s not a problem. Both our boys also bow-hunt, and we all fish together.”
Doug and Carmen bow-hunt and fish for the joy that comes from being in the outdoors and for the excitement and companionship that hunting and fishing offers. They began their friendship and love with fishing and continued it with bow-hunting.
“We have a great partnership,” Doug said, “because we have never let being married get in the way of our enjoying the outdoors together.”