I remember getting the call in June of 2017. I expected it at some point, and my wife, Jennifer, and I had already discussed a potential move to Dallas, TX. The decision to go was easy, but if you have ever moved far from family and friends, you understand how difficult it can be as moving day approaches. We have a 3 year old daughter who is very close to her grandparents, and my wife and I both grew up in Pennsylvania, but in spite of those those challenges, the opportunity to become the COO of Master Networks was an incredible blessing for our family to spread our wings.
It was clear that this was the direction my “GPS” was guiding me. What I mean by that is that through much prayer, God was telling me this was the next chapter. In fact, Jennifer and I both prayed often about the move to TX. I remember talking with my good friend Dave as I looked for confirmation that this was the right thing to do. He has always been a spiritual mentor to me and reminded me to not overthink everything. He said to simply pray about it and pray often. This was the best advice anyone could have given and was the one thing that gave us complete comfort in our decision. In reality, it was His decision anyway not ours!
As our home in PA began to fill with packed boxes and the move was in full swing, so was the 2017 whitetail archery season. I knew heading into the season that this would be my last as a resident PA hunter. Sure, I would come back to visit and hunt each year but probably never be in the tree again on opening day as a resident. I prepared myself for the season mentally, making sure that each time I entered the woods that I appreciated all that hunt had to offer.
At age 40 I had hunted in PA for almost 30 years, so it was bitter-sweet as the sun came up on that first morning in September. The desire to harvest a mature buck wasn’t as strong as it had been in previous years. In fact, I was simply happy to smell the fresh air and spend quality time with my hunting pal, Dave Ashworth. Dave is the co-founder of Rooted Outdoors and one of my best friends. We have only hunted together for a few years but when you spend hours and hours in the same tree with someone, the memories stack up quickly.
It was a warm September morning and it was a brand new property for us. We did very little scouting and decided to hang and hunt that morning. With no expectations of the first hunt for the year, we settled into a maple tree that offered a huge canopy of cover. As we laughed and shared snacks the thought of a mature buck wasn’t even on our radar to be honest. Just like many of you have probably experienced though, that’s when it happens. Coming on a rope from about 100 yards out was buck. As he got closer, my mind was racing with the thought of what to do.
It was the first day of the 2017 season and we were on some big deer. Dave affirmed that this was definitely a buck to consider. I decided at that moment that if he gave me a clean shot I would take it. He dropped in right under our stand and I drew back. As I moved my bow into position to shoot I bumped a limb and he spooked. He bounded off to 25 yards and stopped in a shooting lane. I drew again, let the arrow fly and he dropped in his tracks. Just like that, two hours into the opening day I was tagged out. Now what? I want to be completely transparent and tell you that I questioned whether I should have shot that deer even two days after. Please understand that I was more than grateful for that buck but my head was messing with me on the timing of what I may have erased from my future. After discussing it with the team and praying about it, there was no doubt that this was meant to be. God placed that deer in front of me that day to take the pressure off of even thinking about anything other than enjoying the experience of my last season as a resident. The rest of the season was filled with just that, the experience of just being part of God’s creation. I was blessed to spend most of my time with Dave, filming our experiences that we will have forever.
The biggest lesson I learned was through the days counting down to our move. It was approaching quickly and I could count the days left on one hand. I had a few doe tags left so I decided to spend my time left mostly flying solo. It’s tough to explain those last few days and even as I write this article emotions are stirring. The Lord works in very intentional ways and I have never felt closer to the Him than during that period. I have never been more in the moment and aware of His creation. Every color of each leaf I spotted, every smell each time the wind changed direction and the intensity of each sound I heard. These experiences intensified as the last day approached.
I can remember watching a doe come into range one evening as she browsed, never even a thought that I was there. The bow never made it off of the hook and honestly I never even thought about it. Just soaking up the experience, as daylight diminished. I have always thought of myself as a hunter who truly takes his time to enjoy every moment of the process and experience. It was only through that experience however, that I truly understand what it means to be in the moment.
I talked to God and prayed more those last few days than any other and I can truly say that it strengthened my relationship with Him. It has taught me to be more present with Him. In other words, when I am not in the complete solitude of the outdoors, I find a place to be free of all distractions so that I can truly be in the moment. It Reminds Me of Matthew 6:6, “Matthew 6:6- But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Being 20 feet up in a tree will always be my top choice, but I am now more intentional about my time with Him everywhere.