Friday, November 30, 2007

Dad's Forgiveness

As the eighth grade approached I became very interested in learning to trap. That year I read many books and magazines about trapping beaver, mink, muskrat, and raccoon. I purchased some traps and asked permission from nearby landowners to trap the Des Moines River that meandered through their properties. The first year was a learning process but I caught a few animals and that fueled my ambitions for the next year.

By the time I reached high school, I had become very proficient and during November I would earn as much from trapping as I would working the rest of the year. Dad let me turn the garage into a place to skin , stretch and dry the hides . The wooden garage doors held beaver hides tacked to them and hides hung from the ceiling trusses. I also teemed up with my brother Ron and between us we checked over 500 traps every day. We would catch over 1500 muskrats, 30 mink, about 30 raccoon and 20 beaver every season. We even hired our brother-in-law to skin and stretch the pelts as we did not have the time. Our trap lines extended over a large area of creeks and rivers as our father knew many farmers in the county so getting permission to trap was easy.

One summer I read how to make our own sure fire raccoon lure out of fish. I thought about the money we would save by making the lure and went down to the river and caught some carp. These were chopped into small pieces and packed into quart jars. I talked Mom out of a few canning jars. The jars were supposed to be buried in the ground in a cool shady spot with about two inches above the ground. I looked around our yard and decided the big leaves on the rhubarb would be a perfect spot to bury this treasure. So the jars were carefully placed under the rhubarb and had to stay there for at least four weeks. Three weeks went by and I was anticipating unsealing the best lure ever made. One evening I was working in the garage when Dad came in and said he was going to mow off some of the garden plants as summer was nearly over and many vegetables were finished for the year. The mower came to life with a roar and old vegetables were being cut off to clean up the garden but suddenly there was a loud kurthump, and a moment of silence. Then Dad hollered, " Larry, bring a shovel out here right now!" As I rounded the garage a putrid odor hit me and was spreading rapidly throughout the neighborhood. My prize lure was ruined! Dad walked by me with a scowl and told me to clean up the mess and also clean the lawnmower. So I sorted out pieces of rotten fish and broken glass and hosed down the mower.

Dad was a little upset at me and I wondered what I could do to get back in his favor. A few days later I brought the subject up to Mom and she said he had gotten over it and was actually having a good laugh at work telling people about the episode. My Dad had forgiven me and I was back into his grace. What a relief that was to me .

Now our heavenly Dad is like that too. We goof up and create a big stink in our lives and God is merciful and forgets the whole thing. Psalm 103 says God forgives ALL our sins and heals our diseases, and redeems our life from the pit and crowns us with love and compassion. He satisfies our desires with good things and our youth is renewed like the eagle's.

I continued trapping through college but never, ever made anymore lure.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Thanksgiving Tradition

Families across this nation will gather on Thursday to celebrate Thanksgiving. It is my prayer that they remember to whom we are thankful. Psalm 100 puts thanksgiving in perspective. It says, “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his, we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his loves endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”

I am afraid most people don’t appreciate that Psalm. We try to rely on wealth, status, and ourselves for happiness and thanksgiving. If every person in this nation would get down on their knees Thursday and thank the Father for his rich blessings, He would bless our socks off. God is waiting for us to praise him and thank him all the time, not just on Thanksgiving. Give Him the praise all the time!

For the last thirty seven years Thanksgiving morning has often found me in the woods deer hunting. It has become a family tradition with the son-in-laws. There is usually one of us still needing to fill a deer tag. This year we all three still have tags. I have a doe tag, Thane has a regular deer tag, and Vance has two deer tags. It looks like we will be able to work up a good appetite before dinner. I am thankful to have these magnificent creatures that God put here. No matter what time of year I see a deer, I praise God .

Take time this week to praise God for all the blessings he has given you. Read some of the praise Psalms that David wrote and realize that God wants to richly bless you.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Doubt, Humility, and Patience

My deer season began last spring when Ardella and I saw a big buck briefly one evening as we were bear hunting. He had a huge body and dashed away fast into the timber. I immediately envisioned this old boy on our wall. Everytime we were in the area during the summer I would search for his tracks. The buck's hoof print was easy to distinguish from the other deer by the size and how he sunk into soft dirt. Just seeing his footprint raised my hopes for a chance at this old monarch.

In late August we saw him in the clear cut and got a glimpse of the immense rack as the buck once again melted away into thick cover. During the first week of September I was archery hunting elk in the clear cut when I noticed two young bucks feeding about one hundred yards away and below them was the big boy munching on some tender grass. This time I had a better look at his big rack before he fed out of sight. For the rest of the bow season I would see the same doe every time but no buck. Something told me she was the key to getting the big buck.

October rifle season opened and the doe was out the first afternoon and helped draw in a three pointer for Ardella. For the rest of the month I would hunt this area many times but could not find any deer. It was like they vanished from the earth. We heard wolves howling a few times in the vicinity and thought this was the reason no deer were around. I hunted hard and could only find an occasional track, none which were the big buck's. The old doe was gone too and doubt about my success started to creep in my mind. I doubted my ability to find tracks, my knowledge of whitetails, and if I would miss one if I did see a deer. The dream of the big buck was fading fast. Then one evening while glassing the clear cut I reviewed my season. God had provided several spectacular sunsets, I was serenaded by coyotes, and I saw autumn in all the splendor of golds and greens. This hadn't been such a bad season after all. I praised God for His creation and how it works in such precision and harmony. I started to feel better but where was the doe? Did the wolves get her?

Sunday afternoon I started searching several deer trails for fresh sign as it rained the day before. The first trail yielded some deer tracks but none that were the big buck's. I came to the clear cut and decided to walk down to the area the doe liked to feed . As I stepped over a log , a huge fresh buck track jumped out at me! It was the old buck and he had been here last night. I walked up to an old wood pile we use as a blind and started glassing. By three thirty my eyes were getting tired of staring through the Burris binoculars when a doe appeared in them. The old doe! A smile came across my face; my friend was back. She was about one hundred and fifty yards away so I settled in to watch her. Later she jerked her head up and gazed down hill but there was a big log pile in the way . Her body language told me it was a deer but she did not seem real thrilled. I was sure it was the big buck so checked my rifle and scope. Several minutes later a huge buck with a heavy rack ran around the log pile. It was the big guy! I waited until he turned broadside, put the cross hairs on the shoulder and slowly squeezed the trigger. He bolted uphill and I shot once more but knew I missed that time. As I looked up the buck went down. The old doe looked around and slowly bounded away waving her big white tail as if saying goodbye.

I walked down and found him laying behind a brush pile. I couldn't believe the size of his body and big rack. I praised God for allowing me to take such a wonderful creature. His meat will give us organic protein and some day his great head will grace our home. As I walked back to the truck, God painted another glorious sunset across the Selkirk Mountains.

I learned some good lessons from this fall while hunting. We let doubt settle in our minds instead of relying on God for help. Satan is the master of doubt. Through prayer and talking to the Father we can make doubt flee. I finally humbled myself that I didn't know everything about deer hunting and decided to just enjoy the rest of the season no matter what happened. I need to be more patient and realize that big deer and other blessings can take time .

Monday, November 5, 2007

Like An Old Friend

Every hunter has a favorite rifle or shotgun. Mine is a bolt action Ruger 7mm mag. that I have carried up and down mountains for thirty years. Last week I sat watching a hillside on the last day of elk season and took notice of the gun on my lap. It has several character nicks and dings in the stock and the bluing is worn off where the scope has rubbed against my coat over the years. An inscription on the barrel says" Made in the 200th year of American liberty. I bought the gun the next year after someone had it only one hunting season. It was two weeks before elk season and I needed a rifle but searched several sporting shops without finding one. A friend told me about a guy that might have some in his shop. He mainly built custom rifles but also did some gun trading. I found two rifles; one was a short barreled 30-06 that looked like a toy gun and the other was the slightly used Ruger. I questioned the shop owner why the person had traded it but he had no answer. I'm left handed but have always shot a right handed bolt and I can deliver fire power with great precision and speed if necessary. I decided to buy it even though I had some doubts. Now I needed a scope. He brought out a used Weaver 3to 9 power scope in the original box and said it was a good one. I took it with some doubts too. I zeroed the gun in for 200 yards and it has performed flawlessly for thirty years. It is like and old friend, reliable and I trust it to do what I ask. I can not remember all the bear, deer ,or elk I have taken with it but do vividly recall the shortest shot and the longest.

The shortest shot happened one morning when I was walking down a deer trail to check for sign when I heard a buck grunting loudly as he walked up the trail directly toward me. Since the buck was just a 3 by 3 and it was early in the season, I decided not to shoot him so lowered the rifle to my waist. The buck closed to thirty feet and stopped, lowered his head and charged me at full speed. Everything seemed to unfold in slow motion but he was coming fast. I brought the rifle up to my waist , pointed it at his chest just ten feet away and pulled the trigger. The impact spun him around and the buck crumpled in the heap . It took me a few minutes to get my composer.

The longest shot was over 500 yards at a nice bull elk in Idaho's Clearwater Unit. Ardella and I were walking an old road early one morning when I spotted this bull in some timber across a timbered swale. I didn't have a range finder so estimated the distance in one hundred yard increments. I put my pack on the ground and placed the rifle across it and put the scope on him but there was too much timber in the path to shoot. While I waited for him to move , I checked the box of Hornaday shells that gave me the drop of bullet at five hundred yards. Soon the bull moved into a small opening ; I put the cross hairs just above his back and slowly squeezed the trigger. He folded up about sixty feet away.

Now this relationship with my rifle is one sided. I appreciate that it is reliable and I have great confidence in the gun's ability, but it doesn't respond back. There is a friend that is always there and ready to help us and seeks a relationship with us. His name is Jesus. He will forgive us of ANY sin and wants to walk with us daily. Proverbs says there is a friend closer than a brother, that friend is the King of the universe . Jesus is ready to listen to you and you know what? HE will talk back to you if you take time to listen.