Lessons from the Deer Woods

I just returned from a hunting trip with my brother, Terry, and a friend, Steve.  Four awesome days in God’s beautiful creation – it doesn’t get any better!  In fact, as I contemplated life from my tree stand, some twenty feet high in a water oak tree, I puzzled over mankind’s blindness to the God of creation.

A majestic whitetail buck speaks powerfully of his grand Creator

If modern man would momentarily escape the world of hectic paces and pervasive media disturbances; if he would plant himself in a pristine woodland and just open his eyes and soul, he would see what the apostle Paul spoke of in Romans: “For what can be known about God is plain to [mankind], because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (Rom. 1:19-20).

I stared with wonder each morning into the clear, cold, November sky, waiting for sunrise.  How, I wondered, can someone not question who holds the stars in orbit.  Deeper still, where did they come from?  How is it that there is perfect order to the endless points of light, so much so that mariners reliably steer their coarse by them?  Man cannot and did not manufacture the heavens’ brilliance; again, begging the questions: how, who, when, why?

Sunrise served to lower my gaze to the forest floor, where dawn awakened the woodlands.  The quiet, sleepy woods yawned itself awake.  Birds chirped, squirrels scampered about, entertaining God with their aerial acrobatics.  Creatures of the night slinked off to sleep the day away.  A flock of turkeys, roosting in the tall oaks just behind me, descended with a whoosh, calling to one another with gentle clucks.

A flock of turkeys prepares to descend for a day in the forest

The armadillo’s awkward march, the goose’s raspy honk, the owl’s charming hoot, the crow’s piercing caw, the wild hog’s gravely grunt: each cries out to man, hoping to pique his interest.  How can such varied life forms coexist peacefully?  And for those that engage in predator-prey activity, how do they do so in such a perfect, food-chain-preserving manner?  Surely the man or woman who honestly ponders these questions will at least consider the possibility of a divine Creator who intricately designed the existence of multiple kingdoms of plants, animals, birds, trees, etc.

Finally, I was treated to the most majestic species of the Oklahoma woods, the whitetail deer!  A remarkable blend of elegance and toughness, they bring to mind Tolkien’s Woodland Elves from the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

As I write, shortening fall days and changing atmospheric conditions are sending bucks and does into their annual breeding season.  Blessed is the hunter who witnesses the courtship of brawny stags chasing fleet-footed does, trying to impress them with their strength and stamina.  Watching the dance play out – but always beyond my arrow’s reach! – I couldn’t help but discern God’s handiwork even in the design of whitetail deer.

For instance, God’s deer constantly remind the hunter that he himself is a creature and that God is the creator Lord of the universe.  Deer achieve this feat by prompting comparison between their simple minds relative to man’s complex mind.  How, I ask, can an animal with an incredibly small, simple brain – a creature driven by instinct – foil the efforts of cunning men bent on slaying them?  How?  God created them to laugh in the face of superior pursuers, constantly reminding man that even though he chases with more “evolved” wherewithal, his efforts typically fail.

With God-ordained timing, bucks and does begin their annual mating season rituals

We hunters stumble into the woods with more gadgets and implements than yesteryear’s deer slayers could imagine.  Armed with state-of-the art weapons, scent reducing clothing, and authentic deer calls, we imagine ourselves to be unequaled masters of the forest.  At our fingertips are a plethora of new technologies such as satellite maps, GPS, moon phase information, motion-activated cameras, automatic feeders, etc.  Our collective, mammoth knowledge base, driven by the hunting industry’s staggering profitability, renders our contest with whitetail deer almost child’s play.  How can we not win every time?

And yet quiet, graceful, simple, stealthy deer escape bowhunters almost every time!  Is not God’s handiwork seen even in this?  Does He not humble our Herculean efforts, reminding us every deer season that our chase against an inferior beast is often met with failure and frustration?

We fancy ourselves as superior in every way to God’s creation; yet, a humble deer puts us in our place!  Even in this, God, in His wisdom, gives man one more opportunity to pause and consider that he himself is a creature, fully dependent upon his Creator.  Even as man derives pleasure from a day afield, God hopes that he will see the connection between creation’s beauty and man’s capacity to enjoy it and to recognize his joy in it.  God hopes that man will bow to the truth of which Paul wrote: “For what can be known about God is plain to [mankind], because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (Rom. 1:19-20).

If you haven’t stared with wonder into God’s spectacularly wild world in a while, do so soon!  You will come away with a deeper sense of awe for God’s majesty and a compelling desire to bow humbly before Him.