Why should you eat the deer that you kill? For a moment, let’s dismiss the obvious reasons. Forget the nutritional value of venison, which has higher protein levels and less fat than domesticated, grain-fattened beef and pork. Set aside the flavor, which is more substantial and interesting than anything you’ll find at the grocery. Never mind the economic benefits of a pursuit that can reward a day’s work with enough meat to feed you for a year. And toss aside how properly stored venison allows you to relive the memories from a great season around your family’s dinner table.
What’s left? Probably the biggest reason of them all: because we love our rights as hunters. Every year, American outdoorsmen lose critical wildlife habitat, hunting privileges, and access to land due to the actions of a public that all too often views hunting as a cruel and frivolous sport. Responsible hunters battle these losses with their votes, wallets, and pens–all very important tools–but we shouldn’t forget to use our forks as well.
Through the examples of our eating habits and our thorough care for and preparation of game, hunters can demonstrate to others that we count on wild places and wild animals for an important and irreplaceable part of our physical sustenance. Now is the time to make this connection, because current national discussions about food rely on catchphrases that will look familiar to hunters: locally harvested, free-range, organic, humanely slaughtered. Some nonhunters will never understand the passion that pulls us into the woods, but many of them will sympathize with our passion for what we bring home. In my mind, this puts hunters into a pretty good position. In the battle to protect hunting, the most effective tool might just be the most delicious.