I Worshipped Turkeys
Happy Easter from the staff at Georgia Outdoor News.
I used to worship turkeys.
From about my junior year in high school well into adulthood, my pure reason for living was wrapped solely into one single thing: killing wild turkeys. In fact, I had decided that whenever I left this world, I wanted my lasting legacy to be that I was a great turkey hunter.
I cut my teeth on middle Georgia public land and spent every spring chasing a limit of public-land gobblers. B.F. Grant, Redlands, Cedar Creek, Oconee National Forest, I think I’ve been all over those places at one time or another pursing my little feathered idols.
Seems like it was back during my UGA college days when the gobbler limit went to three birds. I killed three WMA birds in eight days, and GON Editor Brad Bailey did a story on me.
Seven or eight seasons later, I killed a bird with a 12 1/2-inch beard at Clybel WMA one Easter morning. It was a true WMA giant and certainly the pinnacle of my turkey hunting career. Surely it was the final boost I needed to reach that feeling of fulfillment in my life.
As I sit here on Easter morning 2020, I can’t help but wonder whatever happened to that turkey’s long beard. If I had to guess I’d say it’s on a dusty shelf with a pile of other turkey parts in the same beat-up shed where I keep my lawnmower and a host of junk.
Married in 2002, first kid in 2004 and into church in 2005. By 2008, I’d been 36 months under the power of the Gospel. Doubt and conviction was eating me alive to a point where I couldn’t even enjoy life anymore. As I continued to accumulate worldly accomplishments through hunting, I just felt emptier and emptier.
I knew of Jesus, but did I know Him?
Was that walk down an aisle and little prayer I said when I was 14 years old real or just words I repeated as part of some ritual?
Had I ever experienced a true change like is written about in 2 Corinthians 5:17?
By October 2008, I was at the end of my rope. I pulled up to the front of GON early one morning. Nobody was there yet. I shut off my truck and prayed.
I was sorry for it all—the life of sin, the doubt and the selfish filth I’d been living in for 34 years. Life had been all about me, and I was tired of running that race.
I told Jesus I believed everything the Bible said about Him to be true. I told Him I was giving my life to Him and would follow Him wherever He wanted me to go. I genuinely gave my life to Jesus that day 12 years ago.
There were some parts of my life that changed overnight, and there were others that gradually changed. Some parts are still changing and some still need lots of change.
My hunting changed over time. One, I quit worshipping turkeys. I was worshipping the created, not the Creator, and God dealt with me on that.
I also quit hunting them as much and was led to start using my time in some areas I had neglected for years, while pursing some new things for my life.
I am in no way saying you’re out of God’s will or that’s it’s sinful for you to chase turkeys, or deer or run your rabbit dogs every day if that’s what you’re doing. Without knowing you or your story, I’d be arrogantly out of line to say that. I’m just telling you my story and how God saved me and began molding me into what He had planned for my life.
As the years tick by, my perspective of hunting continues to change.
Have you ever smelled fresh honeysuckle, picked blackberries off the vine or drifted off to sleep with a 12 gauge in your lap as a nearby creek gurgled over rocks? Ever had the hair on the back of your neck stand up as you listened to an ensemble of owls challenge one another in a swamp bottom?
What about that direct march a hen turkey makes when a bird gobbles and that built-in instinct tells her to go and make baby turkeys?
Those things, and new ones that are revealed to me, give me an overwhelming sense of awe every single time I sit on a deer stand, step into a briar patch behind pack of beagle hounds or stand on top of a hardwood hill and listen for the first gobble of the morning.
I’ve finally arrived at a sense of fulfillment in my hunting career. I first had to learn that hunting is not really about me anymore. It’s about Him.
And in recent years, I’ve come to discover that it’s becoming more and more about you.
Whether I’m watching a kid shoot a squirrel or talking on the phone with a 64-year-old gentleman who finally killed his first gobbler, that’s where I find an increasing amount of satisfaction in hunting these days. Being in a position to listen and publish your hunting stories for the world to read gives me a great sense of fulfillment. It took me a long time to see that, but that’s my purpose, that’s why God made me a hunter, to serve Him and to serve you.
I just pray that you keep calling when you reach those special hunting milestones or something unique happens to you in the woods. I promise you there are others who want to read all about it. The reason God has me behind the desk at GON is to tell your story.
So that’s my Jesus story and how He molded me into what He wanted.
Do you have a Jesus story? Have you told others?
And as far as my lasting legacy goes, when I leave this world and go home, I hope people will remember me as a servant of Christ, a man who used his God-given desires and talents to serve others and bring glory to God.