Personal reflections from local outdoorsman and guide, Cosmo Genova, for the Get Your GreenBack blog.
I can’t remember the last time I bought meat from the grocery store. This revelation hit me during a conversation I had with a friend about our general eating and food-buying habits. Sure, I break down and buy the occasional hamburger or Italian sub if I don’t have time to pack a lunch, but that’s about it. The rest of the year, I’m eating venison.
Whereas most hunters learned through a family tradition passed down from generation to generation, myself and many new-age hunters did not grow up in hunting families, and had to learn or seek out help on our own. Through persistence, and a lot of failure, we have learned to enter the woods not merely as visitors, but as active participants in the ecosystem. We have learned to navigate the legal and ethical fabric that holds together the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation and Management. We pay for the conservation of the entire ecosystem with the sale of our licenses and through taxes on our gear. We volunteer our time to the creatures and places we love, and to pass on the ethic of stewardship and responsibility to those who wish to join our ranks. We promote sound environmental policy, and condemn attacks on our planet, public lands, and beloved wildlife.
And we taste the fruit of our labor every night around the dinner table, where the prize of our success afield is shared and enjoyed among family and friends. We eat meat that we can feel good about. Meat from an animal that lived as it should have, and died a good, quick, and humane death. A death far kinder than what mother nature had in store. We each played our role in the predator-prey dynamic that is as old as time itself.
Instead of thoughtlessly picking a piece of meat off the shelf, wrapped in plastic and styrofoam, emotionally devoid and relatively meaningless, we get blood on our hands and take part in the transformation of wild animal into food. The feeling not unlike what a gardener feels as they wash the dirt off of their hands and their harvest. A meal of wild game means more than just another piece of dead animal on a plate. It is an emotional and jarring experience because it should be. Our love for that deer in that moment is more pure than anyone could possibly understand that hasn’t done it themselves. It is gut wrenching, but also a joyous experience, full of gratitude for the animal and excitement for the supply of beautiful, wild, sustainable protein. Gratitude for living in a country and region that values its wild places and creatures. Gratitude for the opportunity to hunt, live, and eat in congruence with our values. This is the hunting that I know and love. This is the ethic that I practice and preach.
And so as the harvest season comes upon us, my mind is filled with more than pumpkins and apple cider donuts, but also of a freezer full of venison. A freezer full of memories, and of challenges overcome. The outcome of a year of practice and preparation culminating in nature's wild bounty. Another year of living and eating meaningfully and sustainably.