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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Hunting and Stewardship

I used to be a hunter, of game that shot back. Quite a thrill.

But I don't understand hunting as a sport. I think there may be some fairly serious Scriptural issues. (I'm not talking about use of the hunting 'harvest' to control wildlife populations...that's a separate issue, and one that does not necessarily require 'sport' hunters.)

When I took a teaching job in central Texas, I was invited to go deer hunting. That meant sitting in a hut, called a 'blind', built into a tree, and waiting for a deer to come within range. And blasting it.

The current success of "Duck Dynasty" speaks to the same kind of thing. Use a duck call to lure a duck within range. And blast it.

Yes, I know that some people will track deer across the landscape, uphill and down, and get quite a workout. But when they get close to the deer, it becomes a 'stalk', a slow approach to get into "blast it" range.

Does there seem to be a common theme developing here? Once the hunter is within range of the quarry, the hunt becomes something of an execution.

Ideally, that is. A muffed shot leaves a wounded animal lunging terrified through the bush.

So the question I have is - why bother? There's little sport besides the walk, little challenge besides the stalk. You can get the same effect by using a paintball gun when it comes time to shoot. I mean, the deer (or duck) can't shoot back. And not a lot of hunters get gored by their erstwhile targets.

I asked around - why hunt? - and the best answer I got was that it speaks to our primal instincts, to go out and through effort obtain food for our families.

Well, yes. I admit that it's more exciting to lug a rifle through the bush than to go to Wal-Mart's meat department. And more fun to sit in a blind with your buddies than to look through the weekly fliers to discover what's on sale.

And then there's the excitement of the kill.

Therein lies the problem. Very few hunters in North America need to hunt for food. In Texas, a recent study found that the average income among hunters was $60,000. Coming back without a buck does not mean starvation over the winter. And selling the carcass to a processing facility means more meat on the table...at fancy restaurants. Venison is not a cheaper version of hamburger. It's a luxury in 21st century America

So the point is that they want to hunt. And in the end, they want to kill, because otherwise, paintball would be just fine. (Rather like Sioux warriors counting coup - touching their enemies lightly to show that they could have killed.)

How does this fit into the Biblical concept of stewardship? Man was given dominion over the animal world, and it was a given that we'd eat some animals. It wasn't that way in the Garden of Eden, but Great - great-great - Grandpa Adam really screwed that up.

But killing  for fun? Does God go to Cabela's, or is the Guy who knows the fall of each sparrow somewhat concerned with the sparrow's welfare?

Do we think He raised the sparrows and their ilk to be, literally, the targets of our entertainment?

Can we kill whatever we want to kill, or does stewardship mean killing when necessary, and sparing life when possible - because it comes from God?

And what on earth was meant by 'speaking the Gospel to all creatures'? It's not a misprint, and not a mistranslation.

If the very stones could cry out, what might a deer say? All creatures.

Stewardship. What do we owe God's creation?

If you found your son sitting in the backyard, trying to pick off songbirds with a slingshot, what would you do? Is it different a couple of decades later when he's trying to fill a Mallard with birdshot, or 'harvest' a whitetail?

What do you think? I have a lot of questions. But no real answers.


  1. The men in hub's family hunt to keep the meat to eat it. Yes, they can afford to buy it, but they hunt to share it among friends and family. Hub's big brother rarely buys store meat. He says it tastes weird.

    If we caught our kids picking off birds with sling shots or anything else?

    Ohhhhhhhhh boy, they'd be in trouble.

    1. I think the key to stewardship is making sure the meat is eaten as a staple, and not as a luxury. There's not a lot of support in Scripture for luxuries, and when it comes down to life, death, and suffering in God's world, it's something that has to be considered.

      The only 'sport' in hunting is dangerous-game hunting - old style. In this case, single or double-barrelled rifles were used on game that could and would attack and kill a hunter if the shot was missed. A lion can cover 100 meters in something under three seconds, and that gives a chance for one - or at the most, two shots before it's lights out for the hunter. That's relatively fair, though I personally don't approve. It's still killing for fun - or a challenge, or an adrenalin rush.