My grandfather was a man of many hats. With only a sixth grade education, he became an inventor, entrepreneur, engineer (using a knife and clay), a lay minister, and a big game hunter. His success and hard work allowed him to travel the world in pursuit of some of the greatest animals back in the 70’s and 80’s. He had over ninety animals mounted that were either Boone and Crockett record book or Safari Club record book. Creatures ranged from moose, elk, mule deer and pronghorn antelope to elephant, hippo, rhino, and Cape buffalo.
This encouraged my early passion for the outdoors. Back in 2005, I picked up a bow for the first time and fell in love with the technique and style of hunting. The first big game animal I ever took with a bow was the American Bison, or buffalo. My dad and I planned the hunt shortly after my grandfather passed away. It was sort of a tribute to Papa as well as a chance for Dad and me to experience something that he and Papa never did together. Since then I have taken dozens of different species with the bow and hunted in several different states in pursuit of everything from mountain lion to alligator to snakehead fish. The enjoyment I have had on these hunts fuels my passion and has pushed me to share those experiences with others.
I became a hunter education instructor and bowhunter education instructor here in North Carolina about five years ago in order to do just that; share my experiences and teach others. When I was teaching in Edgecombe County with Duncan Tatum, we were like a comedy show. We hit it off immediately and could bounce things off each other during the class to make it more interesting. You might see me one night getting prodded with an arrow in the ribs while trying to demonstrate the ideal shot on the vitals of a whitetail and then the next night you could find me getting targeted by an unseen hunter in the back of the class while performing a very (un)realistic gobbler call.
This passion for the outdoors is what drives me. It’s part of what makes me who I am.
One of the hardest, most difficult hunts I have ever been on was for mountain lion in the high desert of Arizona. When I scheduled the hunt I was told how tough the terrain was and how the temperatures could sway as much as 70 degrees over a seven or eight hour period. It was a ten day hunt riding horseback for nearly twenty miles each day. We would climb mountains that consisted of loose rocks and boulders so steep that instead of walking up the mountain, we would lean all the way forward on the horse and use our hands to protect our chest from the saddle horn as the horse would leap up, rest, then leap again. When going down the mountain side it was no easier as we would lay all the way back in the saddle, letting go of the reigns and resting our shoulders on the horse’s rump as he would just ‘slide’ down the mountainside. Every now and then I could feel the horse’s hoof slip and he would have to jump down to regain control. One day we were out and one of the shoes came off of one of the horses about ten miles in. When we finally made it back to the trailer, the horse was limping badly, blood coming out of his ankle and hoof, and in great pain. The guide told us he would never be able to do one of these hunts again with that horse, and later we found out he sold the horse to a children’s camp where the horse could retire.
Now the word I used,‘passion’ should be explained a bit. We relate passion to meaning a great love for something. Originally, passion meant to suffer. In the 1500’s, passion was first used to describe the torture Christ went through as He was sent to the crucifix.
I tend to look at things differently at times in order to better understand them. When I look back at that lion hunt for instance, I endured pain and fatigue in order to pursue something I loved to do. Jesus’ Passion was not just the torment He went through. It was the torment He went through for what He loved; us. It became His Passion because He was willing to go through the torture for His love.
Hunting is a conflicting sport. As outdoorsmen, we love nature, God’s nature, yet we participate in the death of the creatures that are part of nature. One of my favorite parts of bowhunting is how I can become a part of the prey’s natural habitat. I can blend in, observe, and become one with nature. Then, when the time is right, I take the shot. It is part of the hunt, and part of what nature entails. Because of this, hunters are challenged by some non-hunters in a way that portrays us as uncaring, blood loving, monsters.
God is also challenged by non-believers in a similar way. He is questioned “How can God be a loving God if He allows killing, pain, and suffering even to the innocent?” Remember, without enduring the bad things in life, there can be no true ‘passion’. I believe the hunter; the outdoorsman, sees things in a similar light as God. God allows us to do what we wish. He has allowed us freedom. He has granted us stewardship over the animals, the plants, the land, the water, and the air. It is ours to do as we wish. With that responsibility, we must participate in both the conservation and control of this world.
He allowed Job the freedom to do as he wished. Job had to endure great tortures and suffering. It would be Job’s choice as to how to handle the challenges thrown at him. In the end, Job chose to be with God rather than blame God.
We have the same freedom Job had. If we wish to sin uncontrollably, to live without a reason, to not partake in God’s presence, God will not force us to be with Him in the afterlife. If we didn’t want to be with Him during our time on Earth, why should God require us to be with Him during our time afterwards? Ultimately it is our choice.
Ultimately, we determine where we guide our passion.