Hunting the Thin Gray Line by Randy Rowley


The concept of ethical hunting and fishing or “fair chase” is one that is difficult to define among our sporting fraternity.  It can even be more so among the non-sportsmen.

Many non-sportsmen consider hunting deer utilizing blinds and feeders to be non sporting (there are several hunters who believe this also). Some consider three foot boundary fences as “penning deer in” and that it is unfair to trick ducks, geese and other game birds/animals with decoys and calls. A few believe that it is unfair to hunt anything that can’t fight back. A vocal minority believe that is barbaric to hunt or fish for anything at all.

You don’t have to talk to sportsmen for long to discover that there is a wide range of opinion regarding fair chase among them also. Many anglers believe that it is acceptable to fish for whatever happens to pull on their lines. These type of anglers often will be seen with several lines in the water at once and are not picky about what they use for bait. On the other hand there are “Bass Fishermen” who believe that anyone who pursues a fish other than the almighty Bass, uses bait other than artificial lures, or has more than one line in the water at one time is committing unpardonable sins.

Among hunters there are those who believe that one must eat whatever one shoots and others who believe that hogs, prairie dogs, coyotes, and other undesirables should lay where they fall. There are archers who believe that hunting hogs in a 40 acre hog pen is sporting and others who believe that it is a “canned hunt.” There are some deer hunters who see no problem is hunting on a lease that is high fenced and others who believe that the practice is un-sporting.

You may be saying about now, “This is all well and good but what does it have to do with FCS?” I’m glad you asked.

One of the Statements of Faith of The Fellowship of Christian Sportsmen is to “Be good stewards over the rest of the earthly creation. (Gen. 1:28).” This should naturally make us ask the question, “Are we as a club being good stewards of the game we hunt for and the fish we seek?”

I believe that, for the most part, we are being good stewards. I do not believe that it is un-sporting when we hunt deer from blinds or use feeders. Many of us might not ever see a deer within gun range in Texas if it weren’t for feeders. I also do not believe that we are unethical when we chase hogs around a hog pen. At least eight of us will testify that you can chase hogs for hours in a hog pen and never get one. I do not believe that there is a problem with us using decoys nor do I believe that us hunting in high fenced leases is unethical. I also do not believe that our Rainbow Lake trips for catfish are un-sporting (I’ve sat there for hours and never gotten a bite).

However (your knew that there would be a “but”), I feel there is one practice that we currently allow during our Dove Retreats that bears further scrutiny: the shooting of grackles, black birds and other “trash birds.”

I have heard a couple arguments for allowing this practice, including, “the farmers want them shot because they destroy their crops” and “they make good practice targets when the dove aren’t flying.” I consider the latter argument too asinine to address so let’s examine the first one.

I’ll agree that grackles, crows and other birds do destroy crops and are considered menaces by farmers. However, we must ask ourselves if allowing the shooting of non game birds on Dove Retreats is in the best interest of The Fellowship of Christian Sportsmen? How would non-hunters and other outsiders view the Club if they were to learn of our “black bird practice?” I believe that they would probably make statements like, “They call themselves a Christian club?”

I, for one, do not believe that it is right for members of The Fellowship of Christian Sportsmen to shoot non-game birds on FCS outings and leave them lying on the ground. My reason is our name. I f we were still the Burp & Poot Club I probably would not as big a problem with this, however, we are no longer the B & P Club and haven’t been for since 1990.

Long time members will recall that I was the driving force to change the Club’s name. I believed that since we were Christians, had scripturally based Bylaws and had Worship Services, prayers and testimonies at our Dove Retreats that our name should reflect our purpose. I also felt that our B & P name allowed for too much misinterpretation among outsiders. Many considered us as slob hunters. After all, guys who burp and poot at every opportunity have to be slobs, right? I found it increasingly difficult as a Sunday School Department Director to announce upcoming B & P events during opening assembly time. All this led me to the conviction that our name had to change.

Long time members will also recall that the retreats used to be held on Jim Wade’s land. Back then only Dove could be hunted. That is why they were called Dove Retreats to begin with.

Many members will also remember the passionate speech that Eddy Chance gave when our caps were commissioned. Eddy exhorted us to guard our behavior when we wore the caps because non-Christians would be watching us and negative behavior would reflect badly on the Club and our Lord. I believe that the shooting of non-game birds is negative behavior that reflects badly on the Club.

We average 11 first time guests at each Dove Retreat. What do these men think when they see FCS officers and members blasting away at non-game birds? Do they consider us to be good stewards over the rest of the earthly creation when we shoot non-game birds and leave them lying on the ground?

I can understand why farmers would want crows, hogs, and prairie dogs shot. I also understand why ranchers would want coyotes, bobcats and other varmints eliminated. But should The Fellowship of Christian Sportsmen be the eliminators? It looks like a job for the Pearsall Hunting Club or TPWD to me.

The Fellowship of Christian Sportsmen should ban the hunting of non-game birds at our Dove Retreats. By continuing to allow the practice of shooting non-game birds the Club is in danger of being labeled as a group of slob hunters again. I find myself increasingly not wanting to go on Dove Retreats for this reason.

Throughout the years the officers have made it very clear that we will not tolerate violations of game laws, unsafe gun handling and slob behavior like littering. Now we need to address our last stumbling block. It is my hope that the Club officers will entertain this proposal at a joint meeting before the next Dove Retreat. We are The Fellowship of CHRISTIAN Sportsmen. Let’s bring God honor and glory on our Dove Retreats as well as in everything else that we do.

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But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one.