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.
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.