THE EVERYDAY HUNTER: Richly Blessed

Ever wonder how some guys end up with a nice buck every season? Long ago, someone told me it’s because of the amount of time they spend in the woods. Investing time is part of the answer. The limited amount we learn from books, videos and magazines will speed up our learning curve and help us understand what we see with our own eyes, but nothing substitutes for time spent in the woods.

Another answer we hear often is “you can” shoot em while you’re sitting on the couch.” True. Couches aren’t part of our hunting equipment – though someone somewhere has no doubt shot a buck while sitting on a couch in a comfortable hunting shanty overlooking a well-used trail. In our day, we have a problem with inertia – a body at rest tends to stay at rest. So we spend more time on couches than any generation before.

I like another answer I heard this week. I was interviewing a couple of hunters for a magazine article, and one quoted a Bible verse from Proverbs, chapter 28, verse 20 – “A faithful person will be richly blessed.” He went on to say, “Faithfulness is what builds character, and character is what pays off in the long run.” Does that apply to hunting? He thought it does, and I do, too.

By quoting the Bible, I’m not going to go all religious on you, because faithfulness is bigger than religious faith. It’s not easy to be faithful as a hunter, because faithfulness implies a long list of things to be faithful about.

We’ll start with game laws. Yes, obey them. When you stay within the law, you’re being faithful to those who made the laws, to others who obey them, and to your personal integrity. Faithfulness means disciplining ourselves to play within the rules – and that’s true in any sport.

Faithfulness includes the hard work of scouting, whether you’re hunting deer, turkeys, or something else. If all we did as hunters was go out into the woods on opening day and think, “This seems like a good place,” not many of us would be successful.

We need to know where the deer are bedding or the gobblers are roosting. We need to know where the food is. We need to know what time of day the trails are being used. We need to know the habits of the animals – what they do and why they do it. We don’t know these things unless we do our scouting.

We need to improve our skills. Hunters who are better at skills such as calling, still-hunting, evaluating the maturity of animals – these hunters are more successful because they practice.

That means opening day of hunting season is not really the first day of hunting season. It’s only the first day it’s legal to shoot the animal we’re after. Long before opening day the faithful hunter is preparing for that day.

Every sport is the same. Players aren’t ready to walk onto the baseball field on opening day if they haven’t been conditioning, learning, doing drills, and improving their skills. Months of practice precede opening day. That’s why, on the first day we take our kids to baseball practice, it’s baseball season even though the first game is weeks away. Likewise, it’s deer season right now – time to learn and study, whether in the woods or at home.

Faithfulness also means doing our best to hold up all the other ends of our lives. We work, we sleep, we spend time with loved ones. If you can’t participate in the activities of your kids because you’re too busy hunting, you’re what one writer calls “hyper-hobbied.”

The writer who coined that term is a hunting pastor in Nebraska named Zeke Pipher. He has noticed that men tend to be competitive, ambitious, driven for adventure, and sometimes out of control in a very over-controlled kind of way. Even if everything these “hyper-hobbied” men are doing are good things, they’re not always the right things or the best things. He has written about it in a book called “Man On the Run.” I think Pipher would agree – “A faithful person will be richly blessed.”

That wouldn’t be a bad motto for a hunter.