I always have trouble grocery shopping. When I’m wandering down the refrigerator section, staring at what seems to be an endless supply of meat, trying to decide if I want a t-bone or a ribeye for dinner, I start to feel anxious. I stare at and sort through the meat menagerie, each piece wrapped in its cellophane packaging, glistening under fluorescent lights. I read about each non-gmo, steroid free, free range, grass fed, self contained little illustrations of protein in front of me and just feel overwhelmed. It’s because, like so much else in this modern world, in our constant striving to adapt our environment to suit our needs we’ve distanced ourselves from our past. By domesticating animals to make meat convenient for the masses to acquire, we’ve somehow made it over-complicated. Therefore, whenever I can, I go hunting, just to simplify my world and remember where meat should come from.
Hunting, killing, butchering, and eventually eating an animal gives you a whole new appreciation for meat in general. This is partially because hunting lifts this veil we’ve put in front of ourselves. It gives us a peek behind that curtain separating those cows we see in the fields on the way to work to the cheeseburger on our plate when we get home for dinner. Eating wild game allows us to feel connected. It helps us to see our part in the great big wheel of the world. Those oak tree’s in your back yard become more than just trees, because their acorns dropping on the ground fed the deer that fed you and your family the night before. Everything just becomes significantly more… well, significant.
Aside from its philosophical importance, wild game meat is also simply better for you in general. This is because domestic animals are raised to be fat, because fat tastes good. Cattle are moved from field to field to make sure that they have an ample supply of grass. Chickens and turkeys are kept penned in small cages and practically pumped full of corn. It’s no wonder obesity and heart disease are such a big issue in America. No one ever really thinks about how damaging it is to ingest all that fat we layer onto the animals we eat. The fact is that three ounces of even a lean cut of beef contains around 250 calories and 15 grams of fat. In turn that same three ounces of venison contains around 130 calories and only 3 grams of fat! Venison also has almost twice the number of vitamins and minerals per serving than beef does. Hell If you factored that in along with the amount of calories you burn to hunt a deer compared with the amount walking into a butcher shop for a steak, along with the cost of said steak per pound versus the cost of a box of 30-06 rounds, you’ve defeated any anti-hunting arguments you may have with simple math!
There’s also the act of butchering. It’s a skill that everyone should have. A lot of hunters I know simply take their game to a processor or a local butcher shop to be turned into chops, steaks, and ground chuck, that is then packaged and picked up at the hunter’s convenience. While it may work for some, I never do this, preferring to butcher myself. The process of seeing an animal that I hunted a few days before suddenly become meat on the dinner table, all by my own hands is, in my opinion, the best part of hunting. Home butchering is a much simpler process than a lot of people think it is, mostly involving learning how to skin an animal and how to separate the different cuts of meat from the entire carcass. A great butchery kit is essential to this process. I’ve had a couple over the years, but my favorite is the Outdoor Edge Game Processor. It’s a simple kit, has only four knives, a set of game shears, and a saw. These pretty much cover all my needs in home butchery. When first getting into it, I’ve found that the best way to learn how to break down a game animal is by starting on small game such as rabbits and gradually working your way up. Eventually you’ll find that everything from squirrels to bison are pretty much made up of the same cuts of meat.
People are often turned off from eating wild game because they worry about how it’s going to taste. Yet wild game meat when properly prepared can taste even better than anything you buy in a store and can be easily substituted into some of your favorite recipes. Small game animals like rabbits and squirrels, along with game birds like grouse and pheasant, can easily act as an alternative meat in your favorite chicken dishes. Animals like beaver, raccoon, mountain lion, woodchuck, and of course wild boar, make a great substitute for domestic pork. Venison from elk, moose, deer, and antelope is comparable to almost any cut of beef or lamb. The best thing about wild game is that you can experiment and find a tasty recipe for almost anything!
Hunting is something that has gotten a lot of scrutiny over the last couple years. With the advancement of social media, wealthy assholes shooting tame lions in national parks, and veganism running rampant, hunting carries a lot of negative connotations. The truth of the matter though is that if done respectfully and safely, hunting is a beautiful thing. It’s a way to reconnect with not only our past but our food, with what we’re putting in our bodies and what it takes to get it. Hunting wild game is the way to get away from guess and check at the grocery store and to truly know where your meat is coming from.