/ Nathan Eshelman

Deer Camp Meditations

Growing up in Western Pennsylvania, the first Monday after Thanksgiving was an important holiday--maybe even the most important one!

Schools were closed.
Diners opened really early.
Orange was the color of the liturgy.
By day’s end, majestic deer hung in trees of the most blessed.  

The first day of deer season is an important day as many dream of the opportunity to both fill a freezer with venison and have a good story to tell about that 10 point which will soon be mounted.

My grandfather taught me much about the ethics of hunting, such as how to respect the animals that would provide a family with food throughout the cold winter months. But what he never told me was that his ethic of hunting was deeply rooted in Christian tradition.

Hubert (or Hubertus) was a duke from Aquitaine in south-western France in the seventh or early eighth century. It is recorded that he was out deer hunting on a day in which he was scheduled to be in church. Hubert was more concerned with hunting, women, and drink than performing holy duties.  His conscience did not bother him in the least until a large deer—a stag—turned to him and spoke.

Yes, spoke.

Be mindful, this is the early medieval period of European history, and many stories may be embellished for moral or spiritual lessons.

The stag that approached Hubert was unlike any other deer that he had hunted. His rack of antlers formed the shape of a cross. Hubert--surprised by the shape of the cross--heard the stag say, “Unless you repent and turn to the Lord, you will soon be in Hell.”

Hubert cried out to God, "What shall I do?"

A voice from heaven was then heard, "Go and see the bishop."

Hubert heard the message of the deer and the voice and was converted to Christ. He asked God to forgive him of his sins, went to the bishop as requested, and eventually went into the ministry. His preaching and writing had effect in Belgium, Germany, and other parts of Germanic Europe.

In his ministry, one thing remained consistent: Hubert loved to hunt.

As Hubert continued to hunt throughout his life, he meditated on the ethics of hunting and how the Christian faith ought to effect the way in which animals are harvested from the forests and fields.

Some of Hubert’s ethics for hunting include:

* Only kill buck that are beyond their breeding years. Don’t kill a young buck.
* Never kill a doe who has fawns in her presence.
* Shoot only when a “clean shot” is guaranteed. This will prevent injury to a deer that may live.
* Hunters ought to respect the life of the animals that they kill. As they are created of God, they deserve dignity. They are not objects of mockery or ridicule.
* Use the food that you harvest—or give it to the poor.

As deer season is upon you and as you go into the woods to get the buck that you have always dreamed of, be mindful that the ethic with which you hunt was formed in the seventh century.  Apply Hubert's rules for a successful and ethical hunt. An ungodly man came to know Christ and applied his new-found faith to his life’s joy. Hunting ought to reflect principles that bring glory to God and promote the good of both creation and neighbor.

Happy hunting.

Nathan Eshelman

Nathan Eshelman

Pastor in Orlando, studied at Puritan Reformed Theological & Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminaries. One of the chambermen on the podcast The Jerusalem Chamber. Married to Lydia with 5 children.

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