I never questioned the ethics or morality of a good hunt. After all, when you’re born into a world of rifles, bullets and deer mounts, you come to accept the sport as a normal part of everyday life. And as it so happened, my church condoned recreational hunting.
Thus, when my father handed me a rifle at the tender age of 8, I wasn’t the least bit surprised. Over the next few years, he taught me how to aim, shoot and pose with my prey. He told me that, by killing deer, antelope and bighorn sheep, we were honoring God and subduing His creation. In other words, we were living out Genesis 1:28, so I never thought twice about pulling a trigger or firing an arrow.
That is, until last year’s annual hunting trip.
It was antelope season in Amarillo and we were experiencing an especially long drought. The earth was dry as the heart of a haystack and the air was hot. The horned beasts would surely be in short supply. Still, my friends and I packed our bags and headed out into the desert, eager to track and score some game.
After hours of hiking and an unfortunate run-in with a cholla cactus, we decided to set up camp in a deer blind. A few more hours passed and then, suddenly, some movement in the brush caught my eye. I grabbed a pair of binoculars and, sure enough, there was a pronghorn about 1,600 meters out. His horns were at least 10 inches long and made my trigger finger itch, but he was out of range and impossible to take down with my rifle.
Unfortunately, the buck took a stroll in the opposite direction and we quickly lost him over the rolling hills. The sun was too bright to pursue him, so we stayed put. However, we didn’t have to wait long before a doe popped out of a nearby bush. Startled, I reached for my gun and took aim. I didn’t want to miss another shot, so I steadied my gaze, took a deep breath and fired.
The female dropped to the ground and my buddies cheered. But before I could join in the celebration, a fawn stumbled into view.
In an instant, my mind and heart flooded with regret. I had killed this helpless animal’s mother and, in doing so, sentenced it to almost certain death.
In that moment, I knew God had never intended man to kill for entertainment or for bragging rights. And He was teaching me this important lesson in real-time. Sure, maybe He had intended for us to hunt for food or to control healthy animal populations, but the gun felt dirty. I felt dirty, weighed down with remorse as I carried the doe back to the truck.
I knew what I had to do. I had to honor God and the animal by putting its body to good use. I couldn’t let it — and its offspring — die in vain, so I quickly field-dressed the animal and took it home to skin and preserve. With some effort, I was able to save the hide, horns, meat, and even the hooves, all of which I gifted to friends.
A Teaching Moment
Today, I only go hunting when I need meat for my family or when a herd is running rampant with disease. Instead of killing for sport, I practice good stewardship and shoot on favorable days, which is what I believe God meant when He commanded man to subdue the earth and have dominion over it. And, even then, I give praise to God and use the entire animal for His glory.
I’ve also taken to burying leftover carcasses in my compost bin. After months of decomposing, I return the animal to the earth, sprinkling its disintegrated remains over my garden. Dust to dust.
Eventually, roots take hold and new life springs up out of death as my fruits and vegetables grow and blossom. In this way, the animal lives on and continues to sustain me and my family, which only makes me more thankful for the Lord and His blessings.