A Hunter or a Hoper?

The past two mornings I have woken an hour and a half before daylight in hopes of bagging a deer.

To set the record straight, I’m not a hunter. I don’t know the first thing about deer urine, bait piles in the off-season, looking for scrapes, evaluating the constitution and consistency of a deer’s feces, doing reconnaissance on a wooded lot and positioning myself according, setting up a tree stand, rattling fake horns together or grunting with one of those kazoo-looking contraptions.

When I get into the woods, I don’t know what I’m looking for. It seems like hunters know the lay of the land, the prevailing winds, the nearby fields and what was harvested the past month. They know what the deer feed on and whether there are good oak trees dropping a steady diet of seductive acorns. They know where they bed down and how early to get in the woods in order to not spook them in the middle of R.E.M. sleep.

Hunters seem to know what to wear, I’ve noticed. They have camouflage outerwear…heck, they probably are sporting camouflage underwear for all I know. They have insulated boots and gloves that are often matching the rest of their clothes. They have fanny packs filled with “only God knows what”, I’m thinking things like a good sharp knife to field dress the deer when downed, a deer call of some sort, and maybe some granola in case the stomach starts growlin’. Who knows, I just know they look like they know what they’re doin’, that’s all.

I, on the other hand, borrowed every bit of hunting gear I wore from my buddy Marcus. I do have a gun. It’s a 12-gauge Remington that a friend bought for me. I know how to load it and unload it. The reason I know that is because the last two mornings I’ve loaded fives shells and unloaded five shells right next to the car. I know that some hunters only put a couple shells in since you’d have to be a pretty stupid hunter to unload 5 rounds on a dumb deer. But I feel more like a hunter when I fill the chamber to its max capacity. I know I won’t need them, but it makes me feel more manly to load five and unload five when I pumped that “thingy” that empties the other “thingy”.

I don’t know if “real” hunters purchased these, but I got me some hand and foot warmers for the occasion. Last time I was out in the inclement weather of Michigan fishing I nearly froze to death, so I called my wife on Sunday and asked her to pick me up something to keep me warm. After texting back a couple snide remarks, she obliged. I’m almost sure “real” hunters have thick calluses and a higher pain tolerance so that they don’t have to have the artificial life support of “digit warmers” and the like. But I do, cause I’m a wanna be.

It hit me this morning as I sat the base of a hard maple that I’m not a hunter. Not in the real sense of the term. Hunters know how to hunt. If I’m anything I’m a hoper. I aimlessly walk into a 100-acre lot and hope that a deer comes my way. I’m hoping that I’m in the right place at the right time, hoping that I get lucky enough to pick a random spot where there is a chance encounter with my prey. I’m wishing, wanting, wondering and waiting…

There is a difference between hoping and hunting. I know that now, because as I sat there this morning looking around me, scatterbrained and schizophrenic, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I have no idea what is really going on in the woods around me. I’m just hoping to get lucky. Banking on the luck of the draw.

Sometimes I think I do this with church as well. I hope people will come to church. I don’t know why they, out of nowhere, would decide to, I just hope they will. I remember praying these prayers that I found myself praying today, “Lord, just please help them to come.” “Lord, please wake people up this morning giving them the urge to get out of bed and come to church. Please Lord, draw them to these doors today.” Hahaha. All the while God must be sayin’, “Is that how you think it works? I just randomly sprinkle some pixy dust on someone while they are in bed on Sunday morning and they sleep walk to church entranced with an irresistible urge to attend for no apparent reason? I don’t think so.” We are really asking to get lucky. Wishing for a miracle. Hoping instead of hunting.

It happens, but not often. More than not, you have to put in some serious time and intelligence and relationship to be a good hunter. Deer don’t just show up broad side at 30 yards, you have to lay the groundwork for that moment. You have to put some skin and sweat into that experience. You have to know their world, their patterns, and their story. You have to watch them in their natural habitat and do your best to enter their habitat as an indigenous creature that relates to their environment. If you don’t incarnate yourself into their “neck of the woods”, you will stick out like a sore thumb making your intentions obvious and obnoxious. You can’t just pray for people to come to church; you can’t just pray for deer to come to your tree stand. That is a hoper, not a hunter.

To be an angler of fish, you have to study fish.

To be a trapper of mice, you have to study mice.

To be a fisher of men, you have to study men.

Am I a hunter, or a hoper?

Right now, I’m more of a hoper to be honest…in both the world of mice and men…and deer.


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