As much as I write and talk about hunting, here and elsewhere, you might think I’ve been doing it all my life, but the truth of the matter is that I didn’t pick up a gun and shoot a deer until I was 17 years old. My buddy Will thought it was a travesty that I lived on 40 acres of land, and I hadn’t yet hunted it. I didn’t own a rifle, or camo, or doe urine to spray on my boots, or anything else that I’d seen on hunting shows on television. Will told me not to worry, that he’d take care of everything, spent the night at my house, and woke me up early on opening morning to take me out.
Long story short, I got a buck within about 30 minutes of it being legal sunrise. But I wasn’t hooked until a month later when I picked up a couple boxes of dried sausage packed in butcher’s paper. The first bite had me hooked for life. And since that day, I’ve eaten damn near everything I’ve killed save for a couple raccoons. But it wasn’t until recently that I got spiritual about eating meat.
I think it had a lot to do with living in the big city, and seeing the endless rows of meat available in the local grocery store, and then watching as families loaded up on bacon, and sausage, and steaks, and chops. Shortly after seeing these folks lining up to get their pretty shrink-wrapped packages of meat, I’d head out to the ranch for hunting season. I’d shoot a deer, spend all morning preparing the meat for the processor, and once a year I’d process the whole thing myself making jerky.
Taking an animal on the hoof and turning it into something you can safely eat is hard work. And hard on the mind too. You take the life of something that was previously munching grass and enjoying the morning sun warming her coat. Sometimes, death doesn’t come immediately and you sit with an animal knowing they aren’t feeling pain, that the brain is the dead, but the body is fighting on. In that moment, you become connected with a dormant part of yourself. People joke about being apex predators, and being atop the food chain, but when you stop outsourcing the gritty parts of being a predator, you gain a better understanding of yourself.
Putting that kind of sweat equity into a meal is something that a lot of folks just don’t get the opportunity to do, and if they did, we’d probably have a lot more vegetarians. I’ve often weighed the prospect of moving strictly to eating meat that I’ve taken from the field. And in the past year, I’ve become more enamored of the idea.
The line in the title of this post is a direct quote from my sister’s boyfriend shortly after they started dating. He’s pretty rabidly anti-gun, a somewhat unavoidable characteristic among many Austinites. One evening, he went on a rant to my sister about how ridiculous it is that I own, shoot, and write about firearms. While my sister was defending my ownership and usage of firearms to him, she mentioned that I take to the woods each fall to hunt. To which he replied, “That’s ridiculous. You can get meat in the store!”
I guess it has been almost two years since she relayed that conversation to me, and I realized hearing that was the moment where I started taking hunting very seriously, and I doubled down on taking new hunters to the field. Because at that moment, I realized how divorced my fellow humans are from their food. If you’ve never taken to the field, put another living thing in your sights, pulled the trigger, and subsequently taken good care of the kill, you’re missing out on a truly human experience.
People make fun of Ted Nugent for his “Spirit of the Wild” ramblings, but he’s dead on when it comes to killing and eating animals. There’s something borderline spiritual about eating a meal consisting of a protein that you took from the field. And yes, I’ll concede that a two-inch thick corn-fed ribeye cooked to the rare side of medium-rare is damn near sublime on the tongue. And a late breakfast consisting of chicken fried backstrap from a healthy doe that was munching acorns that morning is a meal fit for a king.
I encourage all of you to take to the woods and hunt for your meal if you haven’t already. We’ll do our best to provide as much information about hunting, and post kill food preservation as we can, and if there’s anything you want us to cover specifically, leave us a comment and we’ll do our best to get the info out there.