Senior Deer Hunts (reflection on the 2022 season)


5 year old buck +
The current issue of Quality Whitetails (Winter 2023) carried an article about our Senior Deer Hunts. This project had its genesis two seasons ago when at age 86 (at the time) my dad harvested his first deer--seventy seasons after his first hunt with his father.

Below is an article I penned for our state Baptist paper that was inspired by the hunts. And yes, we are already planning for 2023 and planning food plots and better access plans.

A Redefining of Success
What is success? As a, parent, pastor, professor, and current president of Baptist Homes, I have sought after success for my children, church members, students, and team members. But what is success? As I write this, the 2022-23 Deer Season in Missouri is coming to a close. Opening day was September 15. By one measure—filling a tag--my opening day was a failure, as my time in the field yielded no meat for the table. By the measures that count—relationships, discipleship, and fellowship—opening day 2022 was a resounding success, for on that day the Arcadia Valley campus hosted the inaugural Baptist Homes Senior Deer Hunt in partnership with the National Deer Association. In October, the Ozark campus hosted their senior deer hunt—an event covered by the film crews of Bass Pro Shops. While the harvest results were the same as Arcadia Valley, the joy of mentoring a 93-year-old resident is a memory I will cherish for years to come. Our final senior hunt was hosted by the Ashland campus December 27-28. As with the other hunts, several deer were sighted, but no tags were filled.

The agenda for these events included training in deer behavior and biology, hunter ethics, target practice and field time with experienced mentors. I should mention that every resident was able to shoot bullseyes consistently! And while all participants, be the hunters, volunteers, or staff, enjoyed wonderful meals featuring delicious venison, no tags were filled. Given each event involved two days in the field, it could be argued the senior hunts were a failure. But to use harvest alone as the measure of success is unwise and unbiblical.

In 1 Corinthians 3:6, Paul writes, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.” Earlier, the writer of Ecclesiastes 3 reminds us that God has “… an appointed time for everything. There is a time for every matter under heaven. A time to give birth and a time to die; A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.”

The senior deer hunts might not have been a season of harvest, but they were a success based on the seeds of Christian joy and fellowship that were planted. While the benefits of these events were many, four relating to the Baptist Homes mission to “joyfully serve in a Christlike manner by educating, advocating, and caring for the aging” were clearly realized.

You are never too old for fellowship and friendships. The friendships formed by residents, neighbors, churches, volunteers, Baptist Homes staff and the NDA leadership enriched many lives.
Time with the Creator in His creation is time well spent. As the psalmist wrote, “The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.”
You are never too old to try new foods. Several preconceived assumptions were challenged—such as “venison tastes gamey.” Residents, volunteers, and staff enjoyed venison-based sliders, medallions, lasagna, chili, roast, and sausage.
You are never too old to learn something new. Participants learned such things such as blue jeans look florescent to deer, deer have a sense of smell that is keener than dogs, and deer are crepuscular, meaning they are most active at dawn and twilight.

My dad in 2020 with his first harvest, 70 seasons after his first deer hunt. Without a question, this mount is the one I am proudest of in our collection.
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Be very thankful you can still hunt with your Dad. Congrats on his deer!! Good luck in the coming year, too!
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Hunting with your Dad is a special experience!