what hunting is really all about...


What does this passion we have stem from?  Every year, the anticipation mounts until opening day breaks, when one’s mental and physical preparation meets the test.  These times are flooded with memories recalled, lessons learned, adrenaline found, successes earned, experiences shared, and a closeness felt with all of creation.  For every hunter, the approach to opening day is different and the outlook brings diverse thought, but we all hold a feeling in our heart of what it’s really all about…to each of us.
For me, growing up in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, the quest for the elusive Blacktail deer took precedence over many other trophies.  Raised in the sticks with an older brother and father to show me the ropes, my learning curve was blessed. From the time I could walk, I was out in the field with them in pursuit of Blacktail deer. Walking slowly behind, I stopped when they stopped, looked where they looked, listening, learning the landscape, feeling my heart pound in my chest and sensing the insecurity of the wild.
As I’ve gotten older, my experiences have become memories to reflect upon often, and to pass on to friends, family, and the next generation. Whether it be chasing after Roosevelt elk inhabiting the thickest forest, Rocky Mountain elk occupying the high country, Mule deer roaming the sage desert, turkeys wandering the rolling hills, ducks flying over a stagnant slough, geese in search of a corn field, salmon gliding up a calm river, or steelhead slicing through rough waters, there is a reason we find ourselves there…in every moment. As I reflect on my outdoor experiences, others can capture and define their own meaning to this adventure we all have a longing for and hope to pass on.
There is often a distorted stereotypical view of hunting from those outside the hunting world, claiming we have wrong motivations behind the enjoyment of our sport.  From the dramatic folks who are against any form of gun use, to those who feel many hunt only for the record books (which may be a legitimate concern considering modern day focuses), many are against what we greatly appreciate. Obviously they do not entirely understand why we do what we do, perhaps because no one has taken the time to explain the truth to them in the right way.  For the true outdoorsmen, it is not just about the size, the kill, or the use of a weapon, but about so much more. It’s about the time spent in what many call “God’s Country” and the abundance of its experiences.

There are various names for what many enjoy…the wilderness, the great outdoors, the woods…but no matter the title, it is a special part of God’s creation which we may reflect upon…

This magnificent earth,
the countless stars,
the feeling of true darkness in the shelter of the wilderness,
the satisfaction found in a breath of the freshest air,
the brittle crispness of a cold high country morning as you wait for the sun to peak out
into the brightening horizon,
the infinite view toward the heavens just before daybreak…as the shades of black and
dark blue in the west fade at the rising colors of oranges and white,
the marvel felt as visible stars faint away into the illuminating sky,
the sight of breath and feeling of warmth as you breathe into your hands,
the relief of a brilliant sunrise which, with each, comes a new challenge,
the insecurity of being in the wild and the stirring anticipation of the uncertain,
the quiet calm peering down on a fog filled valley,
the resounding sound of a bugle echoing throughout a canyon,
the intense shiver which runs up your spine as your ear senses something,
the unstoppable pounding in your chest at first sight,
the slow midmorning rise as fog lets go ascending to the sky,
the smallness felt in view of a mountain vista or towering snowcapped peak,
the beauty of a blooming hillside,
the comfort of a soft meadow waving in a slight breeze,
the display of a glossy stream flowing softly,
the power imagined as a loose boulder has paused for a season in a dry riverbed with high
cut banks,
the burn of the climb and the relief of conquest,
the unexplainable quench from a mountain spring,
the breathtaking view as you tilt your neck back in awe of the towering trees allowing
only narrow rays of daylight to pierce through,
the curious wonder that each step may be unexplored territory…where no one but God
has been before,
the splendor in the shifting colors of fall,
the eeriness of walking through a thick fog,
the crunch of a deer approaching in the wintry leaves,
the dance of a falling snowflake and stark white of a snow,
the glimpse of a salmon gliding up stream,
the revival of liveliness as your bobber goes under,
the calm excitement as you realize it is indeed the real thing,
the spectacle of that first jump out of the water,
the ghostly sound of a flock of ducks flying overhead before light,
the awakening sound of a field full of geese,
the anxious wait for a chance,
the uncertain sensation of speaking to God’s creatures,
the respect of the terrain and its inhabitants,
the appreciation of just being there,
the silence of evening and grandeur of a sunset,
the overwhelming happiness felt from experiences shared with others,
gourmet tastes shared after success and stories told around a fire,
time spent silently reflecting on life, 
snapshots only remembered in our mind,
an immeasurable heavenly hope,
and a great thanks to our God and Creator.

You can likely relate to one or all. It could be all about the memories or glimpses of future hope…the satisfaction or sense of achievement…maybe just for relaxation and to get away from the norm. Perhaps there is an innate sense of splendor in feeling close to God and seeing His creation more fully. Whatever your reflection, capture it…and share it with those you care about. That is what hunting is really all about. 




A couple weeks ago, I experienced a MOM moment- one I will remember forever, probably just because I am a mom. All 3 guys were outside putzin' around, so I decided to take advantage of the time, and hit the road for a run. I came out in my runnin' garb (which Boone always notices), said 'goodbye' and Boone quickly told me that he wanted to go with me. I told him that he couldn't come with, but that he could watch me run up our driveway- which is somewhat lengthy. I made sure to turn about halfway up and wave at them both- just two little still bodies at the edge of the yard, staring after me. I hit the pavement up at the top and set a nice pace (well, who am I kidding, it's all uphill so it wasn't the best pace). About halfway up THAT road (which is 1/4 mile long), I hear the most piercing, wailing scream "MOMMY!" I turned to look and see Boone standing resigned, 3 houses down from me. My heart caught in my throat as I uttered, "Boone!" and I started running back towards him. He instantly dashed forward, tears streaming down his dirty, smeared face as he cried "Mommy, don't go! Mommy! Mommy, don't go!" We met almost in the middle and I knelt down and hugged him tight as he clung to me. He told me, "I's chasin' you but you were runnin' too fast..." I whispered to him that I loved him very much, that he makes me so proud, and that someday he could run with me, but right now Finn needs someone to play with. I took his hand and told him that we could run back home together, and he liked that idea. Back past a few houses we went, turning onto our driveway, and I see Finn crying... about 3/4's of the way up the driveway, coming after us too. Kisses went to everyone, and then Jeff came and scooped 'em both up. As I set out again, I couldn't help but remember this scene from The Patriot:

To me, it was almost exactly the same, and it melted my heart. Boone, the boy. The boy who is all about his daddy. The boy who is all about his daddy. The boy who is all about his daddy. But this time, that little boy wanted me... his mommy. He wanted me bad enough to chase after me at a pace only cheetahs can beat. The boy loves me... I must be doing something right. I still can't decide on the saddest part: where he realized he couldn't catch up and stopped running, only to be discovered when he screamed in surrender; or when we sprinted towards each other in earnest, unable to bear the separation.

My boys always have a special way of teaching me about God. We can chase all we want, but it's only when we resign ourselves and cry out to Him that He answers us. And what does our loving Father do? He runs right to us, scoops us up, dries our tears, holds our hand, and guides us safely back home.



The Trap


I love adventure.  I love hunting and fishing.  You could tell by looking on my nightstand.  Currently I have a copy of the latest Salmon and Steelhead Journal, an OHA magazine, a latest Field and Stream and a copy of Outdoor Life.  Of course I have my Bible, an NIV and a copy of "The Message" which I enjoy reading as well.

I also have 3 or 4 DVD's on my nightstand that I've been plugging in and watching bits and pieces of before bed.  I have No Canyon for Old Men, Tagged Out, Hot Bulls 4 and Addicted 3.  Addicted.  That's what I want to talk about.  Not the video, but the addiction itself.

When does doing what we love cross the line and become an addiction?  Is it okay to be 'addicted' to wholesome things such as hunting and fishing.  I mean to be good at it, to be successful there needs to be some kind of attachment or love or desire to continue pursuing it, right?  It's not hurting anyone is it?  Or is it?

This has been a struggle for me in the past, and I don't claim to have a cut and dry answer for these questions.  I don't think there is cut and dry answers for everyone, but by walking with God and tuning in to His Spirit, I think I've discovered a place where I can be at peace with my love for these activities.  Here is what I've come to learn;

Satan basically has two ploys to try and get us from becoming all that God has intended for us.  His first ploy is to get us to lose heart and become seperated from our true desires that God has placed within us.  We all know people who have lost heart, given up, have no adventure, or their biggest adventure in life is keeping a nice lawn or something along those lines, but the desire gets buried under layers of junk until they reach a point of being ineffective. 

If satan can't get us to totally bury desire, then he will throw us a counterfit that has some resemblence of our deep desires and true nature but it is designed to get us off track. To send us down an exciting road that will eventually lead us to a position of losing heart.  In Addiction and Grace, Gerald May writes, "Our addictions are our own worst enemies.  They enslave us with chains that are of our own making and yet that, paradoxically, are virtually beyond our control. Addiction also makes idolaters out of us all, because it forces us to worship these objects of attachment, thereby preventing us from truly, freely loving God and one another."

So that could be a sort of test.  Has this object become more important to me than truly and freely loving God, or others?  And my sad answer to that question used to be, yes.  I would be so tuned in to trying to catch a fish that I couldn't enjoy the beauty of my surroundings, the company I was with, and take a moment to reflect, or to thank God, or to listen to what he is trying to speak to me through my time outdoors.  I knew I suppossed to be getting my kids outdoors and sharing the adventure with them, but they kind of got in the way of me being hard core.  Sharing my passion with another was an afterthought because of my selfish desire to "get one for me."  Never mind how I left my wife every weekend so I could get out there.

But thank God, I've changed.  Sure, I can still roll back into some of those old habits but for the most part I'm cured.  And I'm cured by the great high that I feel by sharing my passion with others.  Hunting and fishing with my wife and kids is more fun than I ever thought possible.  Seeing them enjoy it and watching them have success has been a real high.  Teaching my friend Brian to hunt deer 4 years ago and watching him have fun and have success for 4 straight years gives me a real sense of accomplishment.  I shared my passion with him and it lit a fire and now he is sharing it with others.  I took my nephew Luke out and guided him to his first deer and it is a memory he and I will share forever.

Our passion, our strength, our love, our talets, our gifts....they are not for us.  If they are just for us we become selfish, we become addicted and we end up losing interest at some point.  Our passion, strength, love, talents, gifts, our very lives are for others.  And we are to glorify God with what he has given us.  When we do, He seems to be all over blessing that.

A few days ago my daughter, Morgan was out in the front yard working with her goat  (she shows goats in 4-H).  While she was out there a young woman of maybe 20 years old came riding by on her horse.  I watched as the young women stopped and took an interest in my 12 year old daughter and her goat.  They talked for a while and then the young women cantered off on her horse.

Morgan came up to me and I asked who that was that she met.  She said, "That was Krissy, she is boarding her horses over accross the field and she said maybe I could ride with her some time."  Now you have to understand that my daughter has been enamored with horses since birth.  She absolutely loves them.  She has taken some riding lessons and she loves it but we just haven't been in a situation where we've felt comfortable owning a horse and owning the expense of horse, even though Morgan's found one on Craigslist everyday for the past 3 years!  I said, "Oh that's nice." However, I didn't really think the young women would ever follow through.

Well just last night this young women, Krissy, calls our home phone.  Morgan answered.  I heard some talking, then Morgan comes running over, "Dad, it's Krissy!  She has two horses saddled up and she's in our driveway.  Can I go riding with her!!!???"  

Morgan had a blast!  They rode for two hours and when Morgan got back she had this grin that she couldn't wipe off her face.  Now I'm sure Krissy could have ignored Morgan that day when she was in the yard.  I'm sure she likes riding solo and she enjoys being alone with her thoughts while riding along the country side.  Taking a 12 year old that she barely knew on a ride was sort of a risk on her part.  She didn't know if Morgan could handle a horse.  But she stepped out of her own little world, took an interest in a younger girl, and asked her to come along.  She shared her passion with someone else.  And Morgan will never forget it.

So I guess, maybe I'm asking you to think about your time outdoors....your passions.  Don't let them become addictions.  Don't let them be only self serving.  Steer clear of that trap.  Your excitement and passion for the outdoors is contagious!  Others need it.  There are so many people who need adventure, beauty, and to meet God in real ways out in creation.  I think God wants us to share that, and to infect others.  Not just with the activities that we enjoy, but by offering ourselves and our time and dare I say it, our love.

I hope your fall season is a powerful one!



A New View of this Big ol' World


A couple of weeks ago we introduced you to Eric Schoenborn.   Eric writes some devotional material for his church and this blog is a devotion he wrote and sent from Alaska while on a trip there last month.  Eric was hosting some trips at a fishing lodge helping out with the family business, "Fishing with Larry".  At the bottom of his writing you can click on the You Tube link to see about a 4 minute video of some cool Alaskan fishing and a staring contest with some of the local brown bears.

A New View of this Big ol’ World

As you read this, I am in the wilds of Alaska trying to learn how to cast a fly left handed. I’ll tell you right now that it is totally like patting my head and rubbing my belly at the same time after more than forty years of being right handed.

I love the view from the bush planes in Alaska as you cruise above the tree tops, tundra and up the sides of glaciers and over rims and mountains; gathering it all in. One trip I hope to take next summer as I again spend several weeks in Alaska is with a truly exceptional pilot who is rumored to be able to turn the plane on edge while he flies the rivers and actually spot pods of trout from the air before he lands the plane to fish on them. I’ve often imagined how impressive the earth must look from the cockpit of the space shuttle. Our place in the universe seems at times both important or massive and yet so minuscule.

The end of June, I spent time in a booth at a sportsman show for a ministry we’ve developed to reach kids through outdoor experiences. As we began to answer questions about the ministry, the reaction was nearly the same. “That is going to be powerful”, “How exciting”, “How intimidating and big that is going to be”. “Wow, good for you”. The Christian counselor that I work with from time to time even said, “It’s like you are trying to stop the world on its axis and start it turning the other direction because it is a complete one hundred and eighty degrees from the way the family is heading in our current Western culture.”

Well, I’ve never thought of it that way and I don’t think I’m going to let those statements change the way I’ve been thinking about it. I have been seeing it as simply being obedient to what God has called me to do. It doesn’t matter to me if the ministry is big or small as the affect of the ministry is in God’s hands. I am starting to see that the ministry we are helping build is simply as big as one mentor and one kid at a time. That’s it.

I think many people become paralyzed and fearful of the direction the world is going. Let me assure you that the “world” has always been going in that direction. Christians use the statement that they will “pray about it” or “seek God’s will” and those are always good things but those words have become a cop out statement to do nothing. God’s will is evident in the Word and He has written it on your heart. You only need to seek Him and turn the page to what He has written. It is time to be obedient by loving one person at a time.

I know I have used this before but Jesus answered the question about the greatest command by saying that we are to love the Lord our God with everything we have and love our neighbors as ourselves. The world will feel a whole lot smaller and less intimidating it we take this view.

In Christ Jesus,

Eric Schoenborn