Without a doubt, the Lord put me to the test this fall in the deer stand. Anglers call the muskie the fish of 10,000 casts. I think the whitetail deer could be called the fish of 10,000 minutes. I don’t think I reached that mark on my vigils over the last two months, but it sure seemed like it.
Between bow hunting and gun hunting, I have put in countless hours waiting for a whitetail to show. I did get a couple chances with my bow, but failed to recover the two deer I shot at and hit.
Meanwhile, during the gun season, which ran from Nov. 3-11, my opportunities were limited. I hunt near Red Wing in an area where there is an experimental regulation requiring a buck to have at least four points on one side.
Wouldn’t you know it? On opening day, just minutes into legal shooting time, a small buck came right in behind me and offered a perfect broadside shot at 10 yards. But, he didn’t have enough antler points, so I had to watch him meander by. A few hours later, another deer came in from behind but was spooked when I turned to look.
That was it all the way through most of the season, which made me tired, beat up and frustrated as we reached the final weekend.
As the last day of the gun season loomed, I began to understand what it was like for the disciples when Jesus came upon them at dawn after they had spent all night fishing without success (Luke 5).
As I thought about that episode, I asked myself if I had enough faith to go back out and try one last time. My friend and hunting partner, Bernie Schwab, gave me the chance to answer that question when he invited me to join him on Sunday, Nov. 11, the final day of the season.
As I contemplated his invitation, I became keenly aware of how tough it must have been for the disciples to obey Jesus’ command to lower their nets one last time. Maybe, that’s why he ordered them to do it, instead of asking them.
Bernie knew, in terms of hunting attitude, that I was in despair. Thus, he did what he is so capable of doing — he yanked me out of it.
But, what awaited us on the season finale was the most brutal weather of that nine-day period: cold, rain and wind. Lots of wind, in fact. That proved to be our biggest adversary.
With only about 10 to 15 minutes of time left in the season, a deer appeared in front of me at 180 yards in the cut soybean field. Then, he turned and came into range. The end result was a nice trophy buck to take to the butcher — a 10-pointer with an inside antler spread of 19 inches.
Here’s the best part: Bernie and I figured out minutes after finding the buck why it ran across the field to me. Bernie had left his ground blind and was working his way over to me. He got to another stand and walked toward it to close it up for the season. That was right about the time that I shot at the buck. We both are convinced that the buck saw Bernie and decided to hustle toward the woods, where I was positioned.
Nobody but the Lord could have orchestrated such a sequence of events. For me, this was the best kind of teamwork — Jesus, Bernie and I. My lifelong earthly friend and I will share the joy of this spectacular hunt for years to come.
But, the glory goes to God alone.