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One of my favorite ways to hunt is by stalking. I love the extreme challenge that it presents even though my success rate is not very good. The problem is, the few successful times I have had, have been so adrenaline-pumped that I’m always looking for another opportunity to go at it again. And while stalking big gobblers is my springtime habit, chasing deer with a bow is my all-time favorite. It doesn’t matter if I’m shooting a doe or a buck, there is just something about sneaking to within thirty yards of an unsuspecting animal and placing an arrow in just the right place. These hunts are by far my best memories. There are, however, a few things that always trigger my desire to stalk –the wind and the rain. If the wind is blowing slightly and there is a little rain falling, I am looking for an opportunity to get out of my tree stand and see how close I can get to a deer. So was the case a couple of years ago.
I had watched several bucks from the safe confines of a barn. They came out each evening and fed in a field that had only been planted about a month prior. The season was still a few days away, so the deer were not under any pressure. But that was about to change. Of the five bucks that were pretty consistent, there was one ten pointer that I kept my eye on even though he was not much bigger than one of the large six-pointers. I decided the best place to hang a stand would be right in the corner of the field where they mostly came out. This would also keep me from getting too deep into the woods and stinking up what might be my only opportunity.
When the season opened, I sat in my stand for two afternoons in a row only to watch the deer stay several yards below the reach of my bow. After the second day, I determined to make a move further into the woods and try to make up the distance. Well, as it usually happens, guess where the deer showed up the next evening? You’re right. They were above me where my stand had previously been. They were milling right at the edge of the field and moving toward the center. I immediately figured my hunt was over except for three things that suddenly hit me.
- It was still fairly early in the evening.
- The wind was blowing, and
- It was beginning to rain….. Yes it did!
That feeling kicked in like it had been just waiting to jump out of my body. Stalk mode set in and everything changed. I got down out of my stand eased my way back up the hill keeping one tree after another between me and the line of sight of these deer. When I got to the rolling field, these bucks had moved to a place that allowed me to crawl for about forty yards without being spotted. After those forty yards, there was a line of sunflowers and sorghum that I would have to filter through and then a stand of weeds that were about knee high that would have to be my last stop before shooting. After maneuvering through each obstacle, I finally settled in the weeds, both knees in the ground, drizzling rain running down my body, and ranging my buck at twenty-five yards away. I can still remember thinking how awesome this whole thing was and I had not even taken a shot yet. I eased my head up one more time to see if the buck was still there. He was. I knew it was now or never. I drew my PSE bow and held the pin on that Trijicon sight just behind the ribcage as it was quartering away, and let the arrow go. Perfect shot! I watched it run down the hill and heard it crash as it entered the wood line. What a hunt! What an adventure! What a story! It truly is one I will never forget. Oh yeah, and then there was the buck.
While giving the deer ample time to expire, I decided to go get my four-wheeler. I knew I would be able to drive within fifty yards of where I heard the crash. I was right, but by now it was dark. After looking for a few minutes with my flashlight, I spotted his rack on the ground. It was a nice rack but I had shot the six-pointer. I still don’t know when the transfer happened. I think it had to be as I was hunkered down in the weeds but I’m not sure. But the neat thing about this hunt is that it still remains one of my best because of the journey involved.
What we all have to remember is that while a picture can bring a wow factor, the story is what brings the memory. A business owner may be proud of the fact he owns a business, but it’s only because he knows what it took for that to happen. Those who put a flag at the top of a mountain do not do so to portray a single moment in time, but the end of an adventure that most have not taken. Pictures and prizes are not what keep me hunting. That’s why many hunters go home empty handed. It’s not because they could not have harvested an animal but because the journey would not have given the mount any integrity. Even winning a medal in the Olympics serves only as proof as to what journey the athlete took.
What is true in hunting and in other areas of life is also true as I follow Christ. Sure I want results but God knows those results lose their value – their integrity, if the journey is not equal to the prize. I know you want this thing to end. I know it seems that you have been climbing and crawling for years. I know it seems like for every three steps forward, you get knocked back two. But I also know this, especially if you are a man; you have been built for the adventure, for the journey, and for the risk. You thrive when the odds are low and when the risk and reward is high. The grit in your teeth comes from the dirt that you have swallowed along your favorite paths and the prize is not worth a place on your wall unless there is a story to tell that is actually bigger than the trophy.
God is using your life to tell a story about Himself. Let Him do it and not only will you be gripped by the adventure but you will be thrilled by the prize.
Gary Miller serves as a TEAM CSF Contributing Writer and also leads a ministry called Outdoor Truths serving as a keynote speaker across the nation for church outreach events targeting the outdoors community. firstname.lastname@example.org