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October 31, 2006
Section: Sports
Page: 01, 02B

Tales from the Crossroads: His other pulpit
Bob Tompkins

Bob Tompkins

He's a hunter and a preacher.

For some, that might appear to be a conflict of interest, but for Brother Darryl Hoychick, the pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Pineville for a little more than seven years and a nearly lifelong hunter, his recreation and work are more than compatible.

He uses hunting stories, for example, in his sermons and in articles for the church newsletter.

"A teachable moment many times has been about hunting," says the bearded, 58-year-old Hoychick, who still owns the L&R 410-gauge shotgun his father gave him when he was 10 years old and living in Basile.

"I'm very often asked about the killing of animals and how do I reconcile that with the Christian faith," said Hoychick. "One of the best examples is in God's word in the Book of Acts."

Hoychick told the biblical story of Peter, while praying on a housetop in the city of Joppa, receiving a vision from the Lord of a great sheet dropped from heaven with all sorts of creatures. A voice commands Peter to "rise, kill and eat." Peter refuses, saying he cannot eat anything common or unclean, and the Lord admonishes him not to call anything he created unclean or common. Hoychick said this was repeated three times and shows the Lord was giving humans the authority to kill animals to eat.

He vividly remembers getting that lesson at age 15 from his father at the end of a futile squirrel hunt. His father was ready to call it quits, and young Darryl hadn't even so much as fired his new J.C. Higgins 12-gauge shotgun.

"Right about then, a buzzard lit above us," Hoychick said, "and I asked, 'Can I shoot it?' He said, 'Sure, if you'll eat it.'"

Hoychick chose not to shoot.

"One of the things I've taught in hunter safety is you don't kill an animal unless you're going to eat it. If you don't eat it, then give it to somebody who will. There's never an excuse for killing -- other than a pest or a dangerous animal that might attack you -- just for killing's sake."

Hoychick's late father, John, was a first-generation American from Pennsylvania whose parents were immigrants to this country from the Ukraine. His mother, 81-year-old Myrtis, is a Cajun whose father taught her husband how to hunt.

This man who is serving his second term on the Louisiana College Board of Trustees has the antlers of his first 8-point buck mounted on a wall of his office, along with a mallard duck and a 7.8-pound bass. A 1971 Louisiana College graduate, he was a junior high teacher and coach before he went to the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in 1981. The Oberlin Junior High basketball team he coached in 1972 went undefeated.

His and his wife, Gilda, who is also his secretary, got married in 1967 and they have four married children and 10 grandchildren. Hoychick's oldest child, 31-year-old Jason, is a father of three young children and the pastor at Elwood Baptist Church in Forest Hill.

Hoychick talks fondly of taking Jason on his first duck hunt at age 10 when the family was living in Golden Meadow.

"It was one of those days when a norther came in and we did not have adequate clothing, and it got cold," said Hoychick. "The ducks weren't moving, and I pulled my coat off and put it on him. He was shivering, but he didn't care that he was cold. There was this awesome look of excitement on his face that we were together hunting. It touched my heart, realizing I had the same feelings (as a youth) with my dad. I know he was sacrificing his hunts to teach me, and you see yourself as the dad now. It touched me so much I wrote the experience down about it being the most awesome day of my life with my son making his first duck hunt with me. The Louisiana Conservationist published the story."

Jason, whose wife, Jasmine, started hunting 10 years ago after attending one of Brother Hoychick's hunter safety classes, said his life has been largely influenced by his father.

"I am the man I am today because of the man that he was and is for me to see," the son said. "I've had people ask me if he is the same as he is in the pulpit. There's no difference. What he is, is what you see. He practices what he preaches, and I've always respected him for that."

Hoychick also influenced his other children. His two older daughters play the piano at church and the youngest is a minister with her husband at a Baptist children's home in Tallahassee, Fla.

Hunting squirrels or geese or ducks is one thing, but deer hunting is exquisite, as far as Hoychick is concerned. His love for that sport began in 1980, when he went on his first deer hunt after driving all night with some friends from Golden Meadow to Smackover, Ark.

"That afternoon, I killed my first deer, a 3-point buck, and the next morning I killed a 6-point buck," he said, "and I was hooked."

Hoychick's reverence for animals felled in a hunt comes through in his volunteer once-a-year job teaching hunter safety and etiquette.

"We show 'em how to make a clean shot so the animal won't suffer ... We teach about taking care of people's property and being a good sportsman."

As one who spends much of his time talking as a preacher, Hoychick likes deer hunting for more than just the hunting thrill. (The biggest deer he killed, in 2003, was an 8-point that scored 144 3/4 on the Boone and Crockett Club measuring scale.) "The solitude of a deer stand and the quiet of the woods," he said, "is worth a million dollars to me.

With a Christian novel, a can of pork and beans, a couple of bottles of water and some coffee, I could stay all day on a deer stand by myself."

Bob Tompkins' Tales from the Crossroads highlights residents or natives of Central Louisiana who are making an impact in their own way in the world of sports. If you know of someone, contact Bob at (318) 487-6349 or btompkins@thetowntalk.com

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