Many years ago I entered the world of turkey hunting and it soon possessed me. Nothing held a higher priority than getting my gobbler. Being one of the first true "dyed in the wool" turkey hunters in my area I soon was viewed as the standard bearer. This only made me worse to live with. For two weeks before season to the end, and after if If I didn't tag a bird, I was in a 24 hour stage of the worse mood possible. Men joke about PMS, well PMS is a minor mood swing compared to this. I should get up from this computer and go apologize again to my family, although I done that many years ago I still probably owe them.
A funny thing happened in the mid nineties, I gave my heart and life to Jesus Christ. One of the very first things he convicted me of was turkey hunting. I decided it wasn't about tagging birds, but enjoying a gift from God in his creation. Now the second funny thing happened, I became wildly more successful in my hunting. The first three years following I tagged out in consecutive days. Now for those memorable hunts.
It was a Tuesday and I planned on getting up early to drive down to Ky and hunt the next day. I had a mens Bible study that night and the leader quoted Psalm 37:4 (Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart). So the next morning I arrived at my hunting spot way early and since i left my Bible in the truck I began to read. I remembered the Psalm quote and just flippantly said, "Lord my desire is to kill the biggest turkey of my life". The morning did not bring much success, so I drove to another spot. It was around 10:00 AM. I went out the ridge and struck up a bird. After an hour's duel I bagged him. I knew instantly he was big, then I realized I was deep in a ravine from hell. God does have a sense of humor. Well it was my biggest bird to date and I suddenly realized that God was speaking to me, that he hears our request. It increased my faith.
There was another season that comes to mind. It was my year of discontent. Within that year, my mom (who suffered from Parkinson's disease) had began to seriously fade away with repeated hospitalizations. She died in July. During this time my wife was diagnosed with Heart disease and had a stent put in her heart. My one refuge, my work, also was shaken. I was targeted by a mentally unstable employee and was thrown into a legal and administrative battle that I did not know if I could survive. I was falsely accused of 57 legal and contractual violations of which I was later exonerated of. By October I was an emotional wreck and clinically depressed to a state I was told to take a month off work. The second week of October brought fall turkey season and i began hunting from daylight to dark. My family hardly ever saw me. What was happening in the woods was an encounter and healing. I instantly found turkeys, but could not bring myself to shoot one and end season. So I said it's a long beard or nothing. In the lulls of the day I would just sit and talk to God or find a patch of wildflowers to watch or a bird. By the last days of season (i believe it was two weeks) I realized how my family must of been worried about me all those days. If you have ever dealt with clinical depression, you know suicide is something that is often a concern. So I went and sat down by my wife and told her "I apologize for causing you so much worry". As I looked in her face I saw the tears begin to stream down her face. She looked at me and with a trembling voice said, "it's ok, everyday I have watched a little more of my husband come home, I have watched you heal and I now know that being in the outdoors is something you need for yourself, it's not JUST a hobby". It was those days I sat alone and Jesus came and sat with me that healed me. By the way, I passed up 19 turkeys, but I learned more about them than any other season.
Then there was last fall's early crossbow season in Kentucky. My buddy and I finally found a flock of birds and set up on them, but things went terribly wrong. Somehow his bow went off and I was shot in the left thigh. A complete pass through of a mechanical broadhead 1 1/2" wide. I found myself sitting on the forest floor bleeding to death. My buddy left me to go get help and there I found myself, all alone and not knowing if I'd ever see my wife, my daughters marry or my grandchildren. All I could do was talk to to God. I asked, quite frankly, " Lord is this the day I die"? I wondered how things would unfold, what heaven would look like and so many more things. Yet there came a moment when as if prompted I decide, no I am going to fight, this is not my day to die. I believe God spoke that determination into me. Many times in my life I have wondered where is God? That day Jesus carried me and I made it out and live today by His Grace.
So if anyone ask me what is it that draws me to the great outdoors, I can say I meet Jesus there....and occasionally bag a turkey, catch some fish or see a beautiful wildflower among a million other wonders. Yet all this is a blessing to be thankful for.