Known among my group as "The Kitchen Pass," there are an endless number of strategies for spending more time away from home than our spouses would like. They range from outright lies to tradeoffs to pre-nuptial agreements (In fact, I once heard of a guy who tried telling the truth as a strategy, but he's now living in Detroit - alone.), but all have the same objective - to enable us the maximum time pursuing outdoor interests.
It turns out that one of the reasons to live in Idaho in the first place is to enjoy the wide variety of outdoor activities that the state has to offer, and for some reason that I have yet to figure out, women seem less apt than men to be bitten by the outdoor 'bug.'
As we all know, most of the essential hunting and fishing opportunities are seasonal, and many of them overlap. It becomes critical, then, not to lose a single available day during the seasons. So the stakes are high, and it pays to organize your strategies before the season to keep from becoming desperate and making a big mistake.
Unfortunately for me, my season runs from the beginning of fishing in May through the end of duck hunting in January. This schedule doesn't leave too much time to stay at home and tend to chores and the family. It is possible, though, if you have a little larceny in your heart and can lie with a straight face, to maximize your kitchen passes and still have someone to cook for you at home during the week.
So, as a public service, I'd like to describe some of the tactics that have worked for my buddies and me, and some that don't work very well at all.
The Pre-Nuptial Agreement
Made famous by California Palimony lawsuits, this tactic is usually employed by outdoorsmen who are into their second or third partner (the first ones having left due to poor Kitchen Pass strategies). Having learned from experience, they make it very clear from the outset that they have a "hobby" that will take some time, and that the relationship will somehow suffer irreversible damage if this hobby is messed with. Vaguely describing 'scientific studies' that show a direct correlation between time spent afield and reduction in stress, cholesterol levels, and even impotence can be useful, particularly if your new spouse has not been married before (thus being more likely to buy this drivel). This strategy is usually good for a couple of years, but then needs supplementation with occasional fabrications.
This can be a great way to get Kitchen Passes. Every time your spouse wants to do ANYTHING you go into your pitch: "Sure I'll go to the Tupperware Party with you, but don't you think it would then be fair for me to go on that hunting trip I've been wanting? (Editor's note: Try this: "Perhaps, you could go with me?" This is an no-lose proposition. You might actually get her to share your enthusiasm for "wildness," or she'll be so scared she might have to go, that she'll be glad to let YOU go.)
The key here is to always try to get more than you give up. At the same time, you don't always have to wait for the Home Run opportunity (visiting her relatives), but can make lots of mileage on Singles (going to the Mall, out to dinner). Be sure to keep track of the passes you've earned, and if you find yourself running a little short, don't be afraid to use some creative accounting practices.
Sometimes the best overall strategy is outright bribery. The occasional gift, fancy dinner out or other considerations can yield big dividends. The only problem with this approach is that it tends to get more and more expensive over time, and can eventually cut deeply into the "outdoor essentials" budget. My suggestion is to use this one with care, and lace it liberally with others that are less costly.
The White Lie
The white lie, by definition, is a slight misalignment of the truth that makes life a little easier for everyone -- particularly for the person telling the lie. For example, for a while I got a lot of mileage out of telling my wife that I had business meetings at 6:30 on Saturday mornings. When she asked why I was taking the truck (which just happens to be full of my gear), I told her that I needed to change the oil in my car, and it might ruin the engine if I drove it. The only problem with this white lie was that then I would actually have to change the oil in the car every time I told it. (Maintaining credibility is essential to long-term success.) When that became too expensive, I got where I swapped the oil between the truck and the car, just so she could see I was doing something.
The Boldfaced Lie
Many outdoorsmen who lack finesse resort to the boldfaced lie strategy. "My Mother died," "I have to buy your Christmas present," "I've been called for jury duty," are all examples of the boldfaced lie. There are two major problems with this strategy: first, they are easy to check up on, and second, you have to remember what lies you have told to stay consistent and not get caught. Most the guys I go out with have neither the creativity or energy or boldness to work this strategy well. (Editor's note: We do not encourage this strategy, especially since outdoorsmen are really not that sinister a lot, honest! And, because the boldfaced lie, as well as spending ALL your time afield and away from the family, will probably get you lots more alone-time than you really want.)
One friend of mine has developed a unique way of getting his time off. He starts off on Monday night acting a little testy, and becomes progressively more obnoxious as the week wears on, so that by Friday night his wife is begging him to take a trip on the weekend. While this can work well, it can also backfire, and cost you a good cook and a nice companion.
If you have children, and really know how to plan ahead, you can set yourself up years in advance by giving the kids presents that can only be used in the field (camo clothes, fising rods, decoys). By not letting them play with any of this stuff until they are "old enough to use them properly," you will have built-in allies in the pursuit of Kitchen Passes. An additional benefit to this strategy is that it gives you someone in the field to retrieve ducks, clean fish, and attend to many of the other less pleasant chores that have to be done out there!
This ultimate strategy is to get your wife to take up your outdoor hobbies. While this may limit your ability to grunt and scratch with the guys, it will make it possible to get unlimited Kitchen Passes.
So, there you have it. All things considered, developing a good strategy for getting into the field is almost as important as what you do once you get there. Using some of these ideas (in moderation) should get you out more often than you deserve. And after all, isn't that the whole idea?
Books to Read
Standing in the Water Waving A Stick
by John Gierach
Dancin' with Shirley
by Alan Liere
The Old Man and The Boy
by Robert Ruark
If Nature Calls, Hang Up
by Patrick McManus