In Plain Sight: Male Survival Skills for the Rest of Us

We all know men like Randy. After college he settled in the neighborhood, just down the street from mama-an’-‘em. Wife Tracy wins most of the family bread while Randy works seasonally. Their division of labor clears swaths of responsibility-free time for him every fall.

Randy’s the consummate outdoorsman. He’s genetically loaded for hunting, angling and searing meat. Some revere him as the prototype hunter-gatherer, a man who embodies the Bay Area mystique.

I, like most men, took a different fork in the evolutionary trail. Though we outnumber the Randys, we’ve avoided attention and blended with the other dudes. To correct this mistake, I offer a guide for the rest of us.

Hunting vs. digital capture

A skilled hunter uses generations-old skills to remove his own body scents and lure bucks and does to his deer garden. A freezer full of venison is his reward for hours of tree-stand vigilance.

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The trophies on my wall are neither stuffed nor tanned. I bag deer, reptiles and birds with a point-and-shoot Olympus. No creature’s blood is spilled. Through my blog and story art I share wild moments with readers. Best of all, my wife and I never had to struggled through the Bambi’s mom discussion.

Tip: If a hunting friend offers a bundle of deer meat, it is bad form to decline. Re-gift someone who enjoys venison.

Angling vs. fishing 

The rhythm of tides and currents flows through the angler. He knows which fish are biting, what they eat and the most palatable way to present the bait. The casting rod is a natural extension of his arm. He’s equally at home inshore or off. Unless he plans to eat it, he releases his catch for another day’s sport.

Every half decade the tidal tug pulls me under. Hey, this is the coast! The rivers, bays and Gulf are teeming with protein ready for harvest. I buy the license, purchase a spinning rod (to replace the one I sacrificed at a yard sale) and spend hours staring at a lifeless bobber. Below the surface my bait dissolves and floats away. I could get the the same thrill by throwing a hundred dollars into the Bay.

Tip: Rent an expert. A charter captain motors you to likely spots, provides bait and tackle and walks you through the process. At trip’s end she sends you home with a mess of cleaned fish and a day’s worth of hands-on experience. You might even want to do it all again.

The other season

Randy’s season tickets were passed down through his father’s line, and he’s attended every Iron Bowl since he was five. He, Tracy and the Santa-hatted Coach grace the family Christmas card. The couple’s tailgate parties rival catered affairs and draw dozens of guests.

Last week a store clerk noticed my Virginia Tech polo and chatted me up about the fall season, the clever coach and rumors about a conference switch. I smiled my best go Hokies grin and nodded enthusiastically. I was faking it. My brother, a bona fide fan, had given me the shirt. I never graduated from Tech and haven’t watched them play in 43 years.

Tip: Don’t leave home in non-SEC teamwear. At a minimum, memorize the names of your coach and quarterback and always know whom you play this Saturday. A safe post-game remark – “I’ve seen us play better.”


Some occasions call for tears. I’ve cried about a bugler playing Taps, the birth of my granddaughter and the passing of the cat, our 13-year heart warmer. Wives don’t need to cry alone. Tears are one way we show our caring.

Sadly, things are rocky between Tracy and Randy. He’s more affectionate with his hunting dogs than with her. When he’s worried or hurt, Randy goes mute. He lacks a feelings vocabulary and is not comfortable being vulnerable. The couple has misplaced what drew them together in the beginning.

Tip: Feelings. Have them. Share them. Find safe ways to expose your underbelly. It makes you more human. Hell, it’s even okay to prefer cats over retrievers.


It’s not a dichotomy, not a quality one either has or doesn’t. Reality dwells in the grays, and there are as many shades as there are men.

Tip: Be yourself. There’s no need for camouflage. You can stand tall and in plain sight.

Giles Vaden

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