[su_dropcap style=”light” size=”5″]F[/su_dropcap]ebruary is here, and with it, excitement and so much to do. Winter projects are wrapping up, spring is around the corner, and love is in the air. The second month of the year graciously provides us with an entire day to honor our special someone, and if you’re looking for something extraordinary to get your sweetheart this Valentine’s Day, consider a hunting adventure you’ll remember forever.
I’m not talking hard-core hunts in foul weather for trophy class animals, where freezing temperatures and extreme terrain prevail. I’m referring to fun hunts to share where game abounds, the weather is mild, the action fast-paced, the terrain is easily managed and the days aﬁeld not overly long. Of course, you need to set aside time for some relaxed sightseeing and romantic dinners, which may come over a campﬁre, but if you’re together, it’s just that much more special.
Throughout our 26 years of marriage, living in Alaska and overseas, my wife, Tiffany, and I have been fortunate to hunt many places together. Here’s a list of some of the most memorable hunting experiences we have enjoyed together. I believe you will enjoy them as well.
1. BEAR BOUND
Spring is one of the most productive times to hunt black bear in North America. Be it over bait in the states that allow it, or spot-and-stalk-style hunting in the lush, grassy meadows of the Paciﬁc Northwest, there’s no shortage of great bear hunting opportunities.
Idaho allows bear hunting over bait, and color phase bears run high in some areas. Sleeping in and hunting the evening hours will make it feel more like a vacation than a hunt. Spotand-stalk hunts can be had in multiple Canadian provinces, too, where bear densities are mind boggling and the terrain is easy to negotiate. Just be sure to bring mosquito repellent.
Bear meat is some of the best eating wild game out there. Get the hide off fast; remove the fat from the muscle and get the meat quickly cooling, and you’ll be enjoying it for months to come.
2. TURKEY TIME
There’s nothing quite like being in the spring turkey woods: warm days, wild ﬂowers blooming, birds singing and lovesick toms gobbling like crazy. Turkeys can be hunted in every state but Alaska.
One epic turkey hunt for you and your sweetheart is in Hawaii, where the birds thrive. Florida is another wonderful option for a couples hunt. Texas, South Dakota and western Oregon are also great places to hunt turkeys, and see some beautiful sights along the way.
Wherever you go, make sure to hit the state or states where multiple tags are available. If you have the time, driving to and hunting different states can be easy to do, and may offer great side attractions in the form of museums, historical points of interest and, of course, restaurants. Don’t overlook fall turkey hunting, which can be exciting, especially with a dog!
3. HOG HEAVEN
Ask my wife what her most memorable hunt was, and she’ll likely reply hunting hogs in Florida. Our whole family was along on this unforgettable trip, and atop a monster truck-like swamp buggy, we pounded bacon with ARs, shotguns and riﬂes. It was a thrilling way to hunt, and an effective way to put a dent in the overpopulation of pigs on the land we hunted. It also yielded a couple coolers full of some of our favorite wild game to eat.
Texas has high pig populations, and baiting and spot-and-stalk approaches can be employed there. Sitting in a blind over bait offers a level of addicting anticipation that needs to be experienced to be appreciated.
California has great, year-round hunting for wild hogs. Spring and fall are favorite times, as the pigs are actively feeding and the weather is very comfortable. Of course, California swine often resides near vineyards, making it easy to ﬁnd something to do in the evening together as well.
4. QUACK ATTACK
Be it an early-season teal hunt, a midseason outing for local birds or a late-season adventure for migratory fowl, spending time in the duck blind together is relaxing. Of course, the earlier it is in the season, the more comfortable the weather will be. Then again, late-season, high-volume hunts in the cold can offer unmatched shooting action that can keep you warm.
With a dozen decoys, a call and some basic gear, getting equipped for hunting waterfowl is easy.
If you don’t have access to good public lands, gaining permission to hunt on private property is much easier than getting the green light to hunt deer or elk. Don’t overlook your goose hunting options either, for these can offer great action around the country, be it for Canadas or snows.
5. PRONGHORN HITS
The perfect couples hunt for big game has to be pronghorn. The weather is nice, animals are plentiful, you don’t have to get up in the middle of the night to start the day, and if you blow an opportunity on a buck, you’ll soon be commencing a stalk on another.
While some states only offer pronghorn tags through a lottery system, others have over-the-counter options. Parts of Wyoming offer overthe-counter tags for nonresidents, for both buck and doe, making it the top state for such a hunt. Consider putting a bipod on the riﬂe, or at the very least, use shooting sticks, and practice out to 300 yards, as shots can be long in this open country of the West. These hunts are big hits among couples and families.
6. VARMINT MASTER
Varmint hunting offers high-volume, fast-paced shooting action to couples eager to head aﬁeld. Be it prairie dogs in the spring, summer, early fall, or ground squirrels farther West, there is a lot of great shooting to be had.
Prairie dogs occupy many of the Rocky Mountain states and open plains, and the fact they do so much property damage means ﬁnding a place to hunt isn’t that difficult. The last prairie dog town my wife and I hunted in Montana, stretched for more than 7 miles and was over a mile wide. Needless to say, we experienced a lot of shooting.
In eastern Oregon and northern California, Belding’s ground squirrels abound, and ﬁring more than a thousand rounds per person, per day, is common in some of the alfalfa ﬁelds overrun by these varmints.
7. PLEASANT PHEASANT
While the season for wild pheasants has come to a close, there are numerous bird preserves that offer outstanding hunting opportunities around the country, even in Alaska. In most states, preserves are open through March, and reopen again in August or September.
Not only are these high-percentage hunts, but the accommodations can be as fancy as you want to get, which can be appealing to couples. Then again, you can ﬁnd affordable operations, allowing more bangs for your bucks in the form of pheasant, chukar, quail and occasionally more exotic species.
8. DOVE LOVE
My wife and I gone dove hunting together for nearly two decades. Early in the September season, when the weather is hot, we enjoy ﬂoating rivers and hunting birds off gravel bars. Later in the season, we move to ﬁelds and travel routes connecting feeding and roosting areas.
While early-season hunts are warm and comfortable, many states have extended their seasons into October, and the shooting for migratory doves in large ﬂocks can be exceptional. These are some of the best eating birds out there.
9. WHITETAIL QUEST
One of the country’s best deer hunts to experience with your sweetheart is for whitetails. Blacktail deer hunting is physically demanding, often taking place in wet, brushy country. Mule deer habitat can be rugged and the weather less than hospitable. But when it comes to whitetails, North America’s most hunted big game animal, the options are many.
Since whitetails occupy so much river bottom and farmland habitats, the terrain is easy to negotiate. They can be hunted from late summer into winter, and with high densities, seeing deer is almost guaranteed and the chances of punching a tag are high. Whitetails can often be hunted from ground blinds, making it comfortable for both of you when temperatures drop. If looking to put meat in the freezer, there are some good over-the-counter options, and easy-to-draw tags in many states.
10. ADVENTURES ABROAD
Don’t overlook the joy of traveling abroad to hunt with your loved one. This is also a great opportunity to combine a hunt with a vacation.
New Zealand is tops when it comes to hunting prized red stag, and more, and the people and the country are simply wonderful. Australia also offers some good deer hunting in its southern and western states.
Africa is a place that offers a lot, both in terms of species to hunt and sites to see. Plains game hunts are affordable, with kudu and gemsbok topping the wish list of many hunters.
This Valentine’s Day, consider giving your spouse a hunt as a way to say “I love you!” With this gift you’ll both be able to spend time in the ﬁeld together, and travel through some great parts of North America, even the world. ASJ
Editor’s note: Scott Haugen is a fulltime freelance writer of 20 years. He recently began a booking service geared to help others enjoy hunting and ﬁshing adventures around the world. Learn more at scotthaugen.com.
Story and photographs by Scott Haugen
She’s been offered hosting jobs on major TV networks; approached by country music and NASCAR celebrities to cook and launch private-label food lines; and looked to for her expertise in co-authoring books. But she has turned them all down.
“The timing just wasn’t right,” shared Tiffany Haugen when asked about these offers. “My priority isn’t my career it’s my boys, and I don’t want to miss a minute of their growing up. I’m gone enough as it is, and there’s a limit,” she added when asked about some of the challenges she faces.
Tiffany is a
big promoter of
eating what you kill
“I love hunting and fishing with the family and enjoy speaking around the country, but if we can’t be together as a family, then it’s not as rewarding.”
For Tiffany, hunting and fishing are about family and putting meat in the freezer. “Our family lives on wild game and fish,” she says. “It’s what we eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Not only are these meals nutritious, but gathering the meat, butchering and preparing it as a family offers quality time that’s hard to get any other way.”
Tiffany grew up in a family of hunters and anglers, and her grandfather, now 102 years old, still eats wild game. She isn’t about seeking the spotlight. “I do not care if people know who I am; I just want them to get the most of their hunting and fishing experiences and have the confidence to butcher, fillet and cook their meals. The outdoor industry has changed a lot in the last 15 years; it’s gone so much toward bling and in-your-face entertainment that people are losing sight of what hunting and fishing are all about. It’s about education and should not be considered a contest or entertainment; it’s promoting the game, fish and other opportunities that we’re so blessed to have in the US.”
Tiffany is a big promoter of eating what you kill. She’s been filmed for various hunting shows over the years – most currently on The Sporting Chef and Cook With Cabela’s, where she serves as a guest-host. She is all about making it simple and attainable.
“Cooking fish and game isn’t like cooking store-bought meat, but that doesn’t mean it should be a big challenge,” Tiffany continues. “When (I was first) married, we moved to Alaska’s Arctic where we lived a subsistence lifestyle. Being immersed in this way of life is where I really learned to master cooking wild game. Now that our family makes a living in the outdoors, we eat game and fish year-round. Our boys love it and usually question the quality of meat when we go out
and trying new things is easy
Having traveled and hunted in over 30 countries and throughout much of the United States, Tiffany says this is where she gets much of her inspiration. “Travel and food go hand-in-hand,” she smiles. “AlI I want to do is share it with people, show them how easy it is and that they can do it!”
“Africa was great, not only because the whole family hunted together and ate what we killed, but because we exposed our sons to several cultures. Seeing them gather 50 pounds of toys just to share with African children in villages and orphanages was amazing. These are life-changing occurrences they might never have experienced had it not been for hunting.”
“There was a time Braxton sat for 43 hours in a blind over the course of five days, in temperatures dipping into the teens, before he arrowed a big mule deer; he was 12 years old,” she reflects. “If that’s not a testimony to what hunting teaches youth, I don’t know what is.”
“Kazden, at 9, overcame hunting in a cold, driving rain to take his first Columbia blacktail deer,” Tiffany adds. “He and his dad gutted and skinned that buck, we butchered it as a family and canned most if it, per Kazden’s request. Last spring he shot an axis deer in Texas right at dusk. He and his dad stayed up butchering and wrapping that deer until 2:00 a.m., just in time to grab a bite to eat and go hog hunting at dawn; that’s dedication!”
Tiffany’s biggest cooking tip is “don’t be afraid to experiment or make mistakes. That gets old for everyone. Changing recipes and trying new things is easy, and that’s what I’ve devoted the last 15 years of my life to doing, turning people on to intuitive cooking methods.”
Prior to entering her career in the outdoor industry, Tiffany was a school teacher for 15 years. Between juggling her writing, national speaking schedule (she delivers over 50 seminars a year), filming cooking segments, running the family business and home-schooling both of her boys, she doesn’t want any other responsibilities. “I’m in a happy place right now. I don’t regret any of the decisions I’ve made or opportunities I’ve passed up, because life is too short.”
As a hunter, author, speaker and TV host, myself, I couldn’t be more proud of my wife and what she represents. She’s held her ground when challenged by anti-hunters, eloquently defended our family when confronted with verbal assaults on how she could let her kids shoot guns since the age of two, and stuck to her morals when asked to be part of contrived outdoor reality TV. I have utmost respect and love for this woman. After all, we’re celebrating 25 years of marriage next month, and each year keeps getting better! ASJ