Hunting: A New Hobby

In the past few years, I’ve been thinking about eating healthier. Partially, as a result of battling cancer, but my thought processes on healthy eating began before that. You see, getting good vegetables in my diet hasn’t been difficult. A lot of people, in an effort to eat healthier or for ethical reasons, switch to vegetarian or vegan diets. Not me.

I’m not willing to give up meat for a few reasons. Primarily, because I like it. It tastes good. I like a juicy grilled steak, smoked meats, and I like foods that include meat like chili, stews, soups, and the like. Good meat is also healthy. Yes, the hormone and antibiotic-ridden meat from animals confined in feedlots and pens is not that great. But meat from animals that eat what their bodies are adapted to eat (or what they were intended to eat, if that’s how you lean) is MUCH healthier than its factory-farmed counterpart. For example, grass-fed beef from cattle that roam the pasture or the range is healthier than the meat that comes from grain-fed feedlot beef. Poultry from free-ranging chickens and turkeys that eat bugs and everything else that they’ll scratch for naturally is much healthier than poultry from the same animals raised in cages and pens and fed commercially manufactured feeds that include large quantities of grain and even the byproducts of other animals. It would follow that meat from wild animals is also much healthier than that from factory farmed livestock.

The farmer’s market is a good source for stuff I don’t grow myself. Meat is a good bit more challenging. There’s a great ranch not 2 miles down the road from me, Belle Brook Farms, that sells excellent grass-fed beef at the local farmer’s market, local health food stores, from their website, and through some local co-ops. Free range poultry is surprisingly difficult to find in the area considering what a major poultry-producing region it is. What is available at the local health food stores is limited in availability and when it is available, it comes from places far away, like California.

Even though the process of cleaning and butchering an animal makes me a bit squeamish, it’s something I’m willing to do because hunting is a very good way to supplement my diet with lean, healthy meat. Wild animals have to move to get their food and they have to run/fly away from predators. They’re going to be a lot healthier than cage-raised poultry or feedlot livestock. A lot of hunters will probably think my motivations to hunt make me sound a lot like a hippie. They wouldn’t be entirely wrong. I just think people should be connected to their food and the means by which it winds up on our plates. I think we’d all be a lot healthier if we all knew the animal our hamburgers came from and knew the person (or were the person) who picked the tomatoes in our spaghetti sauce.

Additionally, purchasing hunting licenses contributes to wildlife management and research funding. My own graduate study was funded in part by a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department grant that was in turn funded by hunting.

The opportunity to start hunting was presented to me because my father, due to his injury (I mention it in a post about my battle with cancer), feels that a shotgun is too much firearm for him to hunt with anymore and when he feels up to it again, he plans to hunt with a handgun. He decided to give me his shotgun so I could start hunting. It’s a 12ga Remington 11-87 Premier LC (light contour barrel) with enhanced receiver engraving. My dad bought an extra barrel for it, a rifled slug barrel, which he also gave me. It’s the firearm I learned to shoot back in the early 90’s. I remember it bruising the snot out of my shoulder, but it was easy to shoot.

Remington 11-87 Premier LC with New Enhanced Receiver Engraving

Remington 11-87 Premier LC with New Enhanced Receiver Engraving

My wife questioned me after she took a good look at it why such a masculine thing as a gun would have flowers engraved on it. Beats the heck out of me, but I like the engraving.

Our freezer is already maxed out, though. If I manage to bring home a fair bit of extra meat through hunting, I think we’re going to have to buy an extra freezer to store that meat.

I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to hunt to start with. It’s getting on in deer season already, and it’s not too easy to find places to hunt deer with a gun locally, either. Many people here lease private land to hunt and there are relatively few public hunting areas. Waterfowl and small animals are a bit easier to hunt on the available public land because the state game management areas tend to be set up for waterfowl. Hogs are also easier to hunt on available public land especially since there is no closed season on them, but they’re big and can be difficult to get out of the area. Turkey and quail are uncommon locally, so it’s unlikely I will hunt those species here. We’ll see. I may start out with small game like squirrel and rabbit since they’re small and relatively easy to hunt and branch out from there as I gain experience and gear.

4 comments to Hunting: A New Hobby

  • Tim

    small game is the best way to start…it helps you ease into it.

    If you’re serious about hunting big game later in Texas (deer and hogs are about it in East Texas) I recommend checking out the national forests. They are close and for the most part all you need is a TPWD hunting license, no public hunting lands permit unless you hunt the portions designated WMA’s. Davy Crockett to the west is a good place to deer hunt. You can put in for an anterless permit in the fall just visit the forest service website for Davy Crockett.

    A good place to hunt for squirrels, rabbits, and other such things is along the Angelina River near the tram road. Loads of big mature oak trees for the squirrels, and as long as the river isn’t flooding it is a narrow but fairly extensive area to hunt within 15 minutes of Nac.

    Good Luck in your new hobby. Soon your hobby will become an obsession.

  • The GPS Geek

    Thanks for the tips and suggestions. The wife’s excited about the potential for keeping some bird, venison, or hog in the freezer…but she’s not so thrilled about small game like squirrels and rabbits. I may be eating that by myself, though I suppose I could possibly sneak some of the meat into a recipe, but that’d probably land me a camping spot in the backyard for a week.

  • Tim

    My wife is the same way with the rabbits and squirrels. I keep saying the same thing about sneaking it into a meal, but I don’t wanna camp out in the backyard either, lol.

  • Casey

    Nate, you’re in a great area to give waterfowling a try and it can provide a new focused objective for the exploring, biking/hiking and canoeing you so enjoy. I trust you’d find puddle ducks like Teal, Gadwall & Mallards good table fare and cooking process should entertain you too. Waterfowling and especially hunting dux over decoys is fun due to the interaction with ur quarry; to eat them, you gotta fool em with decoys and calling while remaining hidden well enough for the trick to succeed ~then shotgunning skill puts them on ur strap. A couple dozen decoys, waders, feet, bike or canoe +your GIS skills could turn a desire to harvest supper into a winter obsession. Huntin dux is fun with buddies and fine done solo too; also the web offers tons of info to source a rookie’s questions.

    Onto a biking and outdoor blogging segue check
    http://my-life-outdoors.blogspot.com/
    today he linx to a TPWD ‘tube-video’ of MTBin in BigBendRanch SP ~good video and you’ll like his other outdoor ‘missions’ as well. Live Well Bro, peace, casey.

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