Friday, November 22, 2019

Lessons Learned from the Pheasant Hunt

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity” -Psa. 133:1 This past weekend, seven men (linked by family) and I went pheasant hunting in South Dakota. The weather was beautiful, which is kind of risky this time of year, and the birds were flying. We “harvested” a bounty of pheasants and the fellowship and accommodations were tremendous. The Janke family made it all possible, especially Dave Janke, our host, guide and friend. We had a blast (no pun intended) and learned a lot. Lesson #1: “People Are Better Than Projects” The hunting was absolutely tremendous, but the time with brothers and friends was the best part. We were all family, literally, on the trip. The time we spent eating together was great (and I mean we ate well! Thank you, Mrs. Janke!) We spent a lot of time just talking and laughing and watching football. We travelled to some of the local eating establishments for some great burgers and food. And we spent time in the “hunters’ garage” (as I call it) just talking about life. The best part of any project is the people in the project. As my wise mentor, Richard Beach, used to say, “It’s about getting people done through projects, not projects done with people.” Rich lived out the creed of focusing on people. We did and it was a treasure. Lesson #2: “Pheasants Are A Lot Like Us” (Thank you Dave for this insight) Like any type of hunting, pheasant hunting is unique. The birds, both roosters and hens, aren’t predators, so they have learned how to survive by using cover as their safety shield. Pheasants don’t live in the wide-open spaces, instead they use foliage as their cover. So, flushing them out of that cover is paramount. Walking through the fields and having dogs to find and point them is necessary. But even then, these birds have learned how to survive. They have learned that if they remain slow and silent as they venture away from the coming danger, they will avoid detection. Hunters have adapted as well. They have learned to set up hunters on the other side of the fields to await the pheasants as they scurry away from the walking hunters. The pheasants crouch and walk away from the hunters and think they’re getting away. Truth is they’re running straight into the “blockers.” This is much like our own sin. We think we’re getting away with something, but our sins always find us out. We don’t get away from anything. We’re only truly free when we confess our sin to a loving Savior and experience His forgiveness. Lesson #3: “Hunting is a Fun Adventure, but the Real Adventure is at Home” We had such a great time in South Dakota. The Janke family were amazing hosts for us. And the bird hunting was so successful. I will always treasure the memories of our time together. It was true adventure and we plan to go again next year. But the TRUE adventure awaited us all when we returned home. Like a lot of things, hunting can become an addiction. Some men hunt every weekend, neglecting their family and hunting every kind of animal possible. That’s because hunting can be an escape from the realities and stressors of home. Sure, we all need a break from time to time and that’s OK, but our true worth comes with us leaning in and being the best husbands, dads, co-workers and friends we can be. The adrenaline rush that comes with knocking down a bird is dwarfed in comparison to the rush produced by playing with kids or cherishing our wives or using our gifts at work. Lesson #4: “Focus on Success Not Failure” or, “A Little Humility is Always a Good Thing” Did you know that the famous MLB Mickey Mantle leads all kinds of home run stats, but he also struck out an average of 115 times a year? That stat leads most of all famous players. The point is he failed a lot, but he succeeded a lot too. That’s how it seems to work. Those who risk failure typically achieve success, because they are secure enough to take the risk and handle the potential failure. Someone said, “You miss 100% of the shots you never take.” Insecurity is enough to keep people from taking any shots. I took a shot on the first day of the hunt and made a mistake. For breeding purposes, hens (females) are not to be shot, only roosters. With my earplugs in, I didn’t hear the other hunters yelling “hen” (in other words, “don’t shoot”). So, not noticing its distinctive features, I shot a hen. I felt terrible. Of course, later that day and the next day, I shot 4-5 beautiful roosters, but shooting that hen bothered me. I felt shame, I prayed it through and released my mistake. Sometimes it’s hard to let mistakes go, but I am still learning that I am not what I do. I am a redeemed child of God, period. As the Dixie Chicks remind us, we need “wide open spaces, room to make big mistakes.” I think I’ll focus on the roosters and not the mistake. We did have an amazing time in South Dakota. Hunting the beautiful pheasants was so much fun. Thank you Dave, Bo, Trent, Eric, Brian, Mark and Joel for a wonderful time. I look forward to our next hunt together… …and the other adventures ahead. By Eric Joseph Staples ©