Squirrel gumbo and pheasant pot pie aren’t typical church supper fare, but they’ll be on the buffet at the Chillicothe Bible Church’s annual Wild Game Feast.
This is the fourth year for the feast, which will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. March 14 at the church at 434 W. Moffitt St. Tickets are $20 and must be purchased in advance.
“We can fit a maximum of 210 people, and we have typically sold out,” said the Rev. Joe Horn, senior pastor at the church, who described the event as “a party to celebrate the outdoor lifestyle with a couple hundred of our closest friends.”
“We believe that God created the outdoors for us to enjoy, and we enjoy them a great deal. So we have a night where we kind of celebrate that,” Horn said.
The event features a variety of wild game dishes, multiple door prizes and a speaker that focuses on the spiritual aspects of enjoying the outdoors.
Most of the wild game is donated by local hunters, but a difficult hunting season this year means Horn is purchasing some food from a meat locker in Indiana for the first time to supplement the meal.
“We’re paying a processing fee for deer meat that they’ve had dropped off and so forth, and I’m picking it up from them,” Horn said. “There are a few of us here in the church that hunt, and we usually shoot a few deer and that provides the bulk of what we have. But this last hunting season wasn’t as productive as we would have preferred.”
While a variety of factors were involved in bagging fewer deer this year, Horn said the biggest issue was a late start to deer season because Thanksgiving fell later in November.
A team of parishioners does all the cooking, with a grill crew cooking all the grilled meat outside just before it’s served. The feast includes deer meat chili and burgers, elk, duck, pheasant and sometimes even wild boar from Texas.
“I make squirrel gumbo every year because my boys and I like to squirrel hunt and that usually yields enough by the end of the season for us to have one big roaster full of gumbo,” Horn said. “As strange as it sounds, it actually is pretty tasty and there’s never any left. I have to ask the kitchen to set aside a bowl for me so I get to have some of my own dish.”
The whole church is involved, whether it’s cooking, making pies, setting up tables or decorating. “We have a variety of taxidermy that gets hung up in the sanctuary and around the church building, and the whole place gets transformed for an evening into a hunting lodge,” Horn said.
He estimated that at least 75 percent of those who attend the feast are non-parishioners, however.
“There’s probably a measure of people in our community that have a certain view of church and what it looks like and what the people who are in it are like, and we feel like this (event) helps us counteract that because they can see we’re ordinary people like you. And if you’re looking for a church, this is a good one and we’d like to welcome you into it. But If not, we hope you have a great evening with us and have some fun,” Horn said.
This year’s speakers are James and Chad Hampton, identical twins who have each founded their own ministries, authored a book together and host a hunting reality TV show called “Twin Factor” that debuted in 2015. The show can be seen on the Hampton’s website, www.twinfactortv.com, which describes it as a behind-the-scenes look at the brothers’ lives as they create a hunting series while raising families, working full-time jobs and running ministries.
“They are excited to use this platform of influence to share the love of Jesus Christ with more people and teach them how to hunt God’s plan for their lives, along with hunting animals,” the website states.
The Hamptons also have written a book, “Secrets of the Hunt,” which Horn said has a message about the spiritual connection between what people do outdoors and what they do in a relationship with God.
“We want speakers that are compelling to listen to and who also have credibility in terms of their skill in the outdoors, and these guys seem to fit well with what we’re doing,” Horn said.
Everyone who buys a ticket will be entered into a drawing for prizes. “We give away a whole variety of things, including blankets, cutting boards, hunting knives, tree stands, gun cases, fishing gear and hats,” Horn said.
This year there will also be prizes just for kids. “We always want to incorporate the next generation into what we’re doing, so we try to do some special things for the young ones when they’re here,” he noted.
The church is still hoping to obtain donations of a few hunting and/or fishing opportunities to give as prizes. “In the past we’ve been able to send someone on a hog hunting trip down in fhior a fishing trip locally or a water fowl hunting trip locally,” Horn said. “At the moment we don’t have that lined up, but we’re hoping to find someone to provide that for us.”
Other than the donated trips, the church purchases most of the door prizes and pays a speakers’ fee. The $20 admission fee is designed to help defray those costs, Horn said.
“It’s not a fundraiser. We’re just trying to break even and to celebrate life in the outdoors, as well as the spiritual aspects of that,” he said. “It’s a community-focused and family-friendly event, and it’s just a lot of of fun.”
For more information or to buy tickets, call the Rev. Joe Horn at 309-274-3761.