A Christian perspective on hunting

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Wednesday, October 31st. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: It’s hunting season.

MUSIC: A huntin’, fishin’, and lovin’ every day / That’s the prayer that a country boy prays / Thank God He made me this way / Huntin’ and fishin’ and lovin’ every day.

In many parts of the country, the cooler temperatures and falling leaves mean rifles and camo. Last year, more than 11 million hunters set out to hunt deer, duck, rabbit, and many other game.

REICHARD: But hunting can be more than a sport. Some say it helps maintain the health of a herd in many species of wildlife. Others point out that hunting license fees make up a lot of the U.S. conservation budget.

And for some believers, important lessons for life and faith can be gleaned. Paul Butler has our story.

AUDIO: [Sound of truck pulling into field]

PAUL BUTLER, REPORTER: Last week a local bowhunter invited me to join him at a farm near Tiskilwa, Illinois. It is a beautiful, clear autumn day. Our truck pulls off into a fenced-off pasture. It borders a few acres of timber along a winding creek.  

ODELL: We are in one of my favorite places in all of Illinois. This is where I love to hunt and bring my family and just kind of enjoy creation.

Curtis Odell is senior pastor of Princeton Bible Church, in north central Illinois. One of his parishioners owns this property and let’s him hunt deer here, though today, we’re just walking it.

ODELL: It’s a great place to be. There’s some real pretty spots where I’ve been allowed to come and hunt at. I love to share it with people when I get a chance.

Odell changes into his boots and leads me through the tall, dry grass. His favorite spot is not far away, along a line of 150-year-old oak trees—three or four grown men couldn’t reach their arms around them.

ODELL: We’re looking at a large, tall live oak that has a wooden ladder that I climb up into and then sometimes will sit on one of the large limbs that comes out, and that kind of overlooks a large wooded area, that’s usually where the deer come out of. This is where I killed my first buck.

Odell speaks freely of killing, but not in a boasting way. As a Christian, he doesn’t believe in hunting for sport.

ODELL: When we kill things, we eat things. I see them as a gift from God to feed my family. I don’t love taking a life. I really don’t. Every time I have, I feel a solemn duty that I have taken a beating heart and made it stop. But at the same time, that’s the world that we live in today, in a cursed world, death has to happen…

Here under the magnificent oak trees, Odell takes a few minutes to rehearse creation, the fall, the curse, and God’s provision through blood. I’m pretty sure it’s a sermon he’s given many times before, to other hunters he’s invited in.

ODELL: This is me having dominion over the world that God has made because he has ordained it to be so. Anything that’s not done in faith is sin, and I come out here in faith, just trusting God to carry out this journey. The order of life and death even through me and through my arrow.

AUDIO: [Sound of walking through leaves]

We move on, down a slight hill and pause along a wide creek as he points to where deer cross. His kids love this spot. They play along the banks, looking for beaver sticks, and chasing fish that gather in the pools.

ODELL: The beauty that God has given us in his graciousness, even in a creation that is cursed. Just to think, wow, what an awesome God, to give us beauty, things we can see and enjoy…and this isn’t even the best…

AUDIO: [Sound of walking through leaves]

As we hike back uphill, following the course of a narrow deer path, I ask Odell how he’s been able to bless others through his hunting.

ODELL: We give meat away. We are able to give some meat to people that I know maybe are struggling. Another way is back when I was a youth pastor, I would bring youth out and we’d hunt together.

Now in the hunting world, property is highly guarded. When you find a successful spot, you don’t just share that with the world. But Odell believes, as a Christian, the opposite should be true.

ODELL: This isn’t mine, this is a gift from the Lord. And so I don’t have any right to keep it from anybody else. It was given to me. So when I can, I try to give it to others as well.

AUDIO: [Sound of walking through leaves]

When we arrive at the top of the hill, there’s an old, plastic lawn chair. It’s feet sunk into the soft soil. Curtis often sits here, overlooking the creek far below, and a meadow beyond where deer and other wildlife come to drink. In this spot, Curtis also drinks deeply, often bringing his Bible.

ODELL: I try to just absorb a little bit of the downtime, while praying and then reading and just allowing the Lord to use this time to comfort me and give me joy, while still reflecting on his goodness and his word and his ability to answer any prayers we have, you know?

AUDIO: [Sound of walking]

As we head back to the truck, a blue heron flies over head. Curtis reflects on one of life’s greatest faith lessons he’s learned through hunting.

ODELL: There’s times when I come out here and there’s absolutely nothing that I can do in my own strength to make a deer walk past me. And so this is an opportunity to allow myself to reflect on the fact that this is all just a gift from God and that God is going to, if he sees fit, to bring an animal to me and I will just trust him in that. And so it’s just a way to rest again in my father and not try to be in my own strength as we, you know, as we can tend to do.

AUDIO: [Sound of arriving at truck, getting in, and driving off]

For WORLD Radio, I’m Paul Butler reporting from Arlington, Illinois.

(Photo/Paul Butler)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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