The other night a few friends gathered around our kitchen table to share the first piece of backstrap from my very first deer. It was a beautiful and delicious experience that, just six years ago, I never would have imagined happening in my life. I didn’t grow up hunting and neither did Nick. In fact, up through early adulthood I didn’t know a single person who hunted. I didn’t know a single person who even owned a gun or a bow.
Now in my late 20’s, here I am — a new hunter with a new blog. There’s certainly no shortage of hunting websites and blogs out there. Was there really need for another? I think the answer is ‘yes’, and here’s why.
Fresh meat, field to table: this is the dream of meat lovers, hunters, and locavores alike. But for anyone who didn’t grow up around hunting, farming, or butcher shops, knowledge of how to turn a whole animal into an individual meal is usually missing. It certainly was for me for most of my life.
Three years into my hunting journey, I am by no means an expert in wild game processing or butchery — I still consider myself a novice — but I do have expertise in the art of being a self-taught hunter. Everything I know about animal processing I have taught myself through the use of mostly free and widely accessible resources. It is not only possible to do, but a lot easier than you might think. So, for the new hunters and the do-it-yourselfers, I’ve compiled a compendium of videos and instructionals to help you break down whole animals in the field without an in-person mentor. You can teach yourself to process wild game!
Are some non-lead bullet options, like these copper bullets from Barnes, possibly toxic?
Lead is toxic to humans and the environment. This fact — rooted in solid scientific evidence — is the source of much debate among hunters and shooters. Many claim that the science isn’t settled or is wrong, oftentimes relaying personal anecdotes about how they’ve eaten animals shot with lead ammo for years and haven’t noticed any ill effects. Others attest that the notion that lead is toxic is merely a ploy to further regulate hunting and shooting sports. But the science behind the toxicity of lead is sound. Lead harms the nervous and reproductive systems in the human body and accumulates in and harms animals and their ecosystems. Really, it isn’t something we should be tossing into the environment in large quantities. It also is certainly something we don’t want to be eating.1
In response to its proven toxicity, lead ammunition is in the process of being slowly phased out. However, when lead is phased out, other materials will be phased in. How safe are these primary substitutes and how well do they work? Are non-lead bullets toxic too? I wanted to know the answer to these questions to make sure that I could harvest wild animals humanely while minimizing ammunition-based contamination of the meat and the environment. Unfortunately, some of what I found in my research is rather concerning.
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers protects wild lands like these for our enjoyment.
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers — one of the leading hunting and fishing conservation organizations — just posted a story of Nick’s on their blog. In the story We Could Be Deer Hunters After All, he recounts the final weekend of last year’s season where he and I find a big buck but leave empty-handed. We took away only the lessons we learned from the experience (some of which I detailed in my last post). In his story Nick talks in detail about the mule deer spot and stalk and — due to some adrenaline-addled choices — the harrowing situation in which he found himself. From that day we came away with one of our most important lessons: we could be deer hunters after all.
Enjoying the outdoors via hunting should be equally open to everyone.
When I asked a friend to name the first famous hunter they could think of, they replied ‘Ted Nugent’. When asked for the next, they replied: ‘Dick Cheney’. ‘George Bush’. ‘Teddy Roosevelt.’ And so on. What was and is very clear is that hunting has traditionally been associated with white1 men who are politically conservative. The mere sight of a liberal president shooting a gun creates a buzz. Plainly, liberals are not associated with hunting and many conservatives seem to like it that way. Lots of liberal groups actively distance themselves from hunting by either not supporting the activity or by denouncing it, turning hunting into a divisive political wedge issue. Must hunters be conservative and male? The simple answer is: ‘No’. There are very good reasons for both liberals and conservatives and men and women alike to support and take up hunting.
A number of years ago I made a list titled “Things I am afraid of”. My intention was to do as many things on the list as possible. Solo backpacking was one of them.
But it looks so beautiful and innocent out there…
I had been going on a few backpacking trips a year for a while, so I was fairly comfortable with the basic concept. The thought of going it alone, however—particularly when my female-ness was on my mind—remained a frightening prospect. What if I get kidnapped? What if I get attacked by a bear? What if I get lost? The mind can go in seemingly endless directions with this sort of thing. But at this particular time, my mind was in motivated-fear-conquering mode. So, I made a plan and started preparing. This is the story of what happened, what went wrong (spoiler alert: things went very wrong), and what I learned.
So, I’m a hunter—and that means I’m a killer. I end the lives of wild animals to consume them. For a human, being a killer is a pretty common thing to be, at least from a historical standpoint. But, today killing—especially direct killing—seems to arouse a host of emotional reactions in people. Some find it admirable that I kill and consume my own food. Some seem to find it a little distasteful, though being too polite, they’ll never really communicate this distaste. And some others are quite extreme and open in their disapproval: the willingly chosen blood on my hands causes them to respond with vitriol, to disparage the act of direct killing and those who take part in it—namely me.
But when I kill, I do it for a purpose. I kill because it is a more ethical way to live. As contradictory as that may sound on the face of it, it’s true.