By Mark Kenyon
Often here on Wired To Hunt when we talk about deer hunting, we talk about the thrill of the chase. It’s the physical excitement we feel as a mature buck approaches in the early morning darkness. The rapid beating of our hearts as we prepare for a shot. The final thrill of recovering our deer at the end of a long blood trail.
These kinds of emotions and reactions to the actual hunt are quite often discussed and celebrated. Right?
Unfortunately though, we often times gloss over or entirely forget to discuss the final and most important act in this journey. The making of a deer into meat and meat into a meal. So much is focused on killing a buck for his age or his antlers, that we sometimes look past the fact that we are also, most importantly, killing for food.
To be honest with you, this bothers me. It bothers me not just because of the responsiblity we have as hunters to use animals we harvest as food, but also because I believe many hunters are just plain missing the point. If you aren’t hunting for food, for sustenance, for that life enduring nutrition – you’re not realizing the true joy and potential of what hunting has to offer.
So why do I say this? How can the meal that deer hunting provides match the excitement of the hunt?
The first place most would jump to is the tangible benefit of providing and eating wild game. The wild game that we deer hunters enjoy the most is obviously venison, and venison is 100% organic, free range, antibiotic free meat. That’s a label you’ll pay extra for in the grocery store, but can get for free in the wild. On top of that, venison is a super lean, low fat, high protein food source. In fact according to a recent report I saw, venison contains 21% protein and has significantly fewer calories per pound than beef, pork or lamb. Most importantly though, venison just plain tastes good. To me, fresh venison seems to have a richness to it that reflects the same wildness that is inherent to the wise bucks we chase, and this deep, unique flavor makes beef in comparison seem rather uninspiring.
Almost more importantly though than the tangible benefits are the more abstract emotions and sentiments that we feel upon eating self provided, wild game. Just this past week, I breathed in a scintilating aroma of a fresh venison pot roast that immediately made my mouth water and brought images of a past hunt flooding into my mind. With each fork full, I felt past memories well up inside of a blustery evening spent high in a tree. With a taste of tender, fall off the bone meat I recalled an arrow drawn back, held and released. Each vibrant, juicy bite brought back memories afield, just like a meal from your past can make you feel like your back home again.
Simply put, the satisfaction of putting meat on the table isn’t just in the meat itself, but more so in the fact that all the blood, sweat and tears you put into the hunt for that meat comes back to you each and every time you sit down to eat. How can you beat a meal that not only makes you feel full, but also brings forth emotions of accomplishment, pride, and gratefulness? For these reasons, I can’t help but believe a self provided meal tastes a million times better than anything I could get at a 5 star restaurant in New York.
Turning an animal into a meal is a necessary responsibility as a hunter, but it is a responsibility and task that should be enjoyed and cherished. As great as the chase can be, in the end it’s the meat that matters.
The soul satisfying joy of eating meat I put on the table is a blessing that I thank God for every day. But when I try to explain that joy, I sometimes can’t quite find the words. I guess most simply put, the hunt for the meat makes the memories, but really it’s the memories that make the meat.