Deer season is a sacred time for those who come from families steeped in the traditions of hunting. Hunter D’Armond is a seminarian with the Jesuits who grew up cutting trails, rising early, and sitting in deer stands, waiting for the perfect buck to walk into a shooting lane.
In a recent story in the Jesuit Post, D’Armond reflects on how spending time in the woods taught him a lot about prayer. It’s worth reading the whole post, but here is an excerpt that captures well the parallels he sees:
The greatest feelings a hunter experiences comes after sitting alone in the woods for hours on end, when suddenly, you see or hear that you are not alone any longer. The world stops, and it is just you and the deer. You get what we call in the hunting world, “buck fever.” Your heart begins to beat so loud that you get scared the deer might hear it, and your hands start to shake uncontrollably. You sit perfectly still focusing on every movement the deer makes. Time pauses, and the hunt begins.
My most graced moments of prayer have been almost identical to this experience: after long hours in the chapel, seemingly alone, my heart drops, and I realize that I’m not alone. I sense God’s presence. The only thing that matters is the next move God will make. The one difference between praying and hunting is that when I’m praying, there is no hiding from God, and I’m the one being hunted.
Hunting is just one way to immerse yourself in nature, which is an avenue to experience beauty and camaraderie — and these are proven ways in which God reaches out to us. Hunting is also a way to participate in the stewardship of creation — a way to give thanks for these gifts. Our story on turkey conservation efforts in Michigan revealed those dynamics as well: