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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.

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    • B.S.
      Steroid hormones are produced by various glands in every animal’s body, and those compounds are, in fact, present in the meat.

      Let’s not turn this post into a diatribe against modern animal agriculture. There’s every bit as much ignorance thrown around that issue as there is from the anti-gun crowd.

      • How about less artificial growth hormones? Although I know for a fact that the deer shot in my neck of the woods (near Friesland, WI) have munched on additives in the nearby corn and alfalfa fields.

        • “Name one of those “additives” found in corn and alfalfa fields.”

          Are we counting the pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, etc. that the farmer has put on the corn and alfalfa fields?

      • Most industrial cattle is fed corn, which its digestive system is not designed to handle, and which thus leads it to have various diseases present. Industry then pumps the cattle full of antibiotics to counter this. The animals are treated horribly. Chickens are fed to make them enormous sizes to the point that they cannot walk. Their beaks are cut off, they get dropped in scalding water to take off the feathers, etc…hunting can be much more humane. Maybe some of these practices have been reformed, but who knows.

        • For God’s sake Kyle, quit drinking the bunny hugger Kool-Aid!

          The most hilarious part of your ignorant little rant was this:
          “dropped in scalding water to take off the feathers”

          Scalding poultry to remove feathers is, and always has been, how it’s done. AFTER you cut their heads off. Good grief! Ask your grandmother, and get a clue.

          Livestock perform best (grow faster and produce more milk or eggs) when they are in a stress-free environment with good nutrition and veterinary care. Livestock and poutry producers know this. I worked in the livestock industry for decades. The ones who abuse their animals don’t last because their livestock don’t perform well and they fail to turn a profit.

        • Hey I am glad if I am wrong on those things. What about the poultry being grown so fat that they cannot walk and having their beaks cut off? Health-wise, industry doesn’t necessarily care about the animals, hence feeding the cattle corn.

        • My mother raises cattle (among other things). All intended to be eaten but she gets extremely upset if one of them gets injured or dies at birth. Like.. really emotionally punched in the gut so to speak. This seems pretty common with everyone that raises animals for consumption which probably seems weird to other people.

          That said, there are some people that mistreat animals; though they’re definitely in the minority and some are hunters as well. Pick any group of people and you’ll find idiots and assholes..

        • Kyle –

          Perdue contract farms most of the chickens raised in the DelMarVa area. I have NEVER seen a bird that couldn’t walk or had no beak on one of their trucks or on one of their farms. They pride themselves on raising large, strong, healthy birds. The inspect their contract farmers closely and supply the chicks, specially-formulated high protein feed and any necessary meds. Any farmer that raises substandard birds is dropped like a bad habit.

          Good, healthy chickens make for repeat customers; fatty, scrawny, sickly ones don’t.

        • Kyle, it’s not so much that the chickens are overfed (although you might want to read about the force-feeding of ducks to produce foie gras), it’s that industrial broiler chicken breeds have been selectively bred into monstrosities whose legs cannot support their own weight past a certain age. They’ve been bred to put on weight as fast as possible and efficiently convert feed to meat so that they can be slaughtered younger and produce the most meat. It’s a horrible thing to see one of these chickens living past the age they’re intended to be slaughtered at. They’re so unhealthy. Worse than English Bulldogs. As an alternative to industrial Tyson monstrosities grown indoors in a crowd, you can probably buy healthy, happy, and delicious chickens of a variety of traditional breeds healthy enough to roam freely around your local organic smallholding farmer’s homestead. I’ve helped raise such chickens and had a wonderful experience, feeding them table and kitchen scraps in the morning, wheeling over feed to the coop and gathering fresh eggs in the afternoon. They’re fun to watch and interact with.

      • “Steroid hormones are produced by various glands in every animal’s body”

        Yep. An obvious example is the adrenal gland – lots of steroids made there. (You learn about this when your wife develops Addison’s and gets to take hydrocortisone and fludrocortisone forever.)

  1. I’d love to see some articles on the post-kill process – everything after the bullet, up to taking it to the processor (and maybe more, I guess). And I’d like to see it for several game animals, not just deer.

    I have done a descent amount of hunting, but always with my step-father who, being an ex-butcher, insisted on handling all the meat-work himself (very picky and exacting, he was). Consequently, I missed out on that education.

    • In my family, you kill it you clean it. Its a good way to teach kids or anyone new to hunting the responsibility they have when taking another living being’s life. When you see what a ballistic tip or even a humble softpoint does on the inside, you realize very quickly that it isn’t a game.

    • As a follow up to this comment, I’d like to request a write-up/video/diagram of different butchery methods on deer. The way I was taught was field dressing and then a later breakdown with the idea that most of the meat was to go to someone who will age and process it for you while you take the backstraps and tenderloin home whole for storage or quick consumption.

      I’d like to see an illustration of how to make use of the maximum amount of meat while breaking the deer down into cuts like ‘ve is on chops (keeping in mind whether or not it would be adviseable to keep the whole side intact for aging and later breakdown or it would be best just to go ahead a cut it into chops.)

      Additionally, the input of a European or old world style butcher would be awesome. Old world style butchery of beef and pork typically was based around pre-refrigeration technology storage techniques and often had the animal broken down in a way that kept many of the smaller whole muscles intact. It would be interesting to see if there was a corresponding method of butchery for deer and other game and, if so, what the various cuts were used for, how they were cooked, and how they were otherwise preserved.

        • Awesome, thanks! I, also have Charcuterie by Ruhlman and Polcyn. They also have a new book out specifically on fermented sausages that is a follow up to their first book on charcuterie. I also have another book that is more technical that is on fermented sausages, but I don’t recall the name and author at the moment. I’ll check when I get home in case you don’t have that one.

        • The other book I was talking about is “The Art of Making Fermented Sausages” by Stanley Marianski. It certainly more technical than the Ruhlman/Polcyn books, but I appreciate that in a book on such a subject.

  2. When I can get 100+lbs of meat at the store for a little more than a dollar I might begin to consider possibly thinking about maybe deciding on cutting my hunting habits back a little.
    But a juicy and rare inner tenderloin from a deer killed hours before is what I ravenously crave around this time of year. November 15th really cant get here soon enough.

    • I think the only reason my wife lets me disappear for unreasonable amounts of time during hunting season is precisely that, fresh tenderloin seared to perfection only hours after returning.

      • The way I address the wife issue is to bring home BBQ from a great place near to where I hunt. That way if I am hunting coyote or just about anything, by wife is happy.

    • My son and I got two deer, and I’m not sure exactly how much the meat cost. But here’s a relative cost of the hunt:

      Plane tickets:
      $359 x 2

      My license:

      His 1st time license:

      His practice / hunting ammo:
      About $70.00

      My practice/ hunting ammo:
      About $250
      (Copper 6.8 ProGrade 110 TSX, Hornady 165 grain SiperPerformance GMX .308, Reloaded .308, etc.)

      Son’s hunting clothes
      About $150

      Aw, he’ll, I don’t have time to list all the expenses. I’ve always envied people for whom hunting is actually economical. I’m working OT to pay for this years plane tickets, luggage, ammo, etc. Still, getting in the field with the family is awesome.

      • Buy land if you can. My total cost is usually less than $1.

        Last year I dropped one in boxers and earplugs. I had to go get dressed to process the meat.

        If you live in the city it’s difficult and costly to escape. When you live in the country you can go to the city whenever you want.

        • This part is key, and having land in the same state is preferable both from a travel cost standpoint and usually out of state hunting permits are far more expensive.

          Depending if I go to my own place or a friend’s a little further out, figure
          $60-$80 in gas
          $50 in food/beer/ice for the weekend
          $1-$2 per shot if you dont reload
          $100+ at the meat processor

          A medium sized doe will yield anywhere from 50 – 80 lbs of processed meat (I like venison sausage so half of that is pork) maybe another 5 lbs if the backstraps and tenders were big. So the final cost for me comes out to $2-$3 per pound, tell me one quality store bought meat that cost you that little per pound? For that price we are talking brine/hormone filled, opposite of organic, factory farm raised, non free range, abused meat for that price.

          Although that doesnt even start to consider longer term costs like the obscene amount of money I have spent on rifles/optics/toys, practice ammo/reloading equipment, gear, tools, your truck, your fourwheeler, food plots maintenance or feeders for those of us who own land. Yeah, maybe thats why meat in the store costs what it does.

          I will still never stop hunting for as long as I am physically able to.

        • “having land in the same state is preferable”

          Having the deer walking through your yard 2 days a week, when it’s completely legal to shoot and hunt on your little 5-acre lot, is even better.

      • I hunt private land (belonging to other people) and public land. I never pay a fee for that. My cost per pound of venison every year, including travel/tags/licenses/gear/processing is about $1.15 per pound, give or take a dime. I have the butcher add 15% beef fat which removes 99% of the game flavor… my wife insists on it.

        Beef from the store costs what… $7 per pound nowadays? I don’t buy that stuff anymore. I shoot three does per year and it fills my freezer. The occasional buck runs across my shooting path, but I usually let that guy go because he tastes yucky.

    • Last time I looked into the concept of hunting deer in TX (Del Rio area), step one was to pay around $500 for a deer lease, for which you might get to shoot two deer which dressed out under 100 lbs each. That was around 40 years ago, and at the time you could buy a lot more than 200 lbs of prime beef for that money. So, I’ve never hunted! Are you guys telling me there are places you can shoot a deer for the cost of the ammo, which property you do not personally own? Some manner of park? Forget the post-bullet discourse, how about the pre-bullet? Too late for me, I’m not in that kinda shape any more, but seems some here might welcome it.

      Actually, since I live outside city limits, I have considered shooting a deer in my yard, off an upper floor deck (shooting down, IOW), but haven’t since I wouldn’t know what to do with it anyway.

    • Yes, I think so. Though from what I’ve seen fishing is considered more acceptable than hunting by a lot of people… not sure why. It just seems more mainstream in general.

        • you can use evil guns to fish. I heard tales about my great grandpa, who would go up to the lake on a family picknick. He would take his .22 and check the overhangs in the banks and kerpow! 1 big old bass to be roasted over the fire. The dam was built in ’58, so this was in the 60s in California no less. This was also the same man who had a poaching charge dismissed against him during the great depression, because he shot a deer out of season to feed his family.

          California sure has changed.

        • Back in the old country, er I mean Misery in the 70’s and 80’s, I used to shoot turtles with my Marlin 60 or grandfather’s Remington 552. We owned 375 odd acres near Cape Fair on Table Rock Lake, and ranched beef cattle. The herd varied in size over the years from a few dozen head to over 400. There were a number of cattle ponds and every so often I would have to shoot the turtles to prevent over population (they bite and injure the cattle who wade into the pond to cool off). Never did eat them for food, in hindsight I wish I had. But yes, guns can be used to ‘fish.’


    • Sure?
      It’s the same concept. Getting out and experiencing the whole process of animal to meat.
      That’s why I think catch and release is kinda stupid… It might be fun but you end up harassing a bunch of fish that you don’t even want to eat.

      • And actually killing more than catch-n-release fanatics want to admit. Mortality on released fish is not zero, and it can be kind of high.

        Spotted Sea Trout, for example, have an estimated release mortality of somewhere in the ballpark of 15% according to one bio study I read recently. That’s considered pretty high.

        That’s nearly 1 in 7, and some of “release only” guys brag about catching 10+ in a day. Doesn’t make much sense to me…killing without even getting the benefit of the meat (and all the spiritual stuff Tyler mentioned).

        I do release what I’m not going to eat and never understood how some guys toss what they don’t want up on the bank (if bank fishing, as an example) to die. That happened a lot when I was a kid and dudes who were rainbow trout fishing would do that for anything they caught that was not a trout.

        I release with the full knowledge that it might not survive, but at least try to give it a chance, and try to practice handling to increase those odds if I can.

        But I sure don’t understand “release only” fishing and fisheries. I fish for a lot of reasons, and one of them is meat. If management requires “release only” due to fish populations or whatever, I’d just assume they close the season temporarily and really cut fishing caused mortality to zero.

    • Ever priced a boat? There are two great truths in boat ownership..

      Truth 1 – Boats are holes in the water you throw lots of money into.

      Truth 2 – The two happiest days of boat ownership are the day you bought it and the day you sell it.

      (That also applies to aircraft ownership at a much greater degree.)

      • We repeat those sayings a lot – especially to potential boat buyers. But, they really do depend on the boat. A boat does not have to be expensive to own and boats can make people (families!) happy. Like everything else, it has a lot to do with fitting the right boat to a particular use.

        Also, you don’t have to have a boat to fish. Back in the early 90’s when I was living just at or a little below the poverty line for a few years, I fished a LOT (3-5 times a week) with no boat. Caught plenty of fish.

  3. So why didn’t you eat the raccoons? Anyway– never really hunted much, just went out quail hunting with my dad a few times (he was a deer hunter when I was very young, but he gave it up when his buddies got more interested in drinking at the cabin than in actually hunting; traded his rifle for a saddle and took up horses as a hobby). Between my own two sons, one occasionally dabbles in shooting critters, but the younger one has gotten solidly into it–he eats what he takes too, squirrels and all. Maybe I’ll get HIM to take ME out sometime…

      • I blasted a crow last week at the start of dove season. All the other hunters joked about eating what you kill but I reminded them that we all have eaten enough crow. One guy joke he had a Lemon Pepper Crow recipe for me.

      • Raccoon isn’t bad at all if you know how to cook and season it right.

        Slow cooked in apple juice then chopped and lightly fried in oil with sweet basil. Serve over white rice with a little sweet-n-sour sauce.

        It also makes good slow cooked pulled BBQ.

        Damn, now I’m hungry.

        • Look for some really old soul food cookbooks. Found a couple from the 40’s & 1968 really good recipes for coon & opossum. This is how bad NJ is went to the wifes class reunion, 2 other foodies and myself discussing hunting & eating coon. Uber liberal white guy hears coon calls us racist morons. The other 2 were black, foodies & hunters. We all decided it would be stupid & a waste of breath to even talk to him.

          Also regarding butchers A&P groceries were the last major chain that used trained butchers in the East Coast. Try and find a retired butcher usually happy to teach a dying craft.

        • I knew somebody would know how to cook it. Saw a poster for a “game dinner” in the area of Mason County, Tx many moons ago, menu included just about everything you could think of, including raccoon, rattlesnake, squirrel, etc. Don’t recall turtle being on the list, but I know it is eaten on occasion.

  4. “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 hope after this childish narrow-minded rant he became an ex-boyfriend.

    Hunting is literally and figuratively a religious experience for me. I would probably cease to be friends with anyone who expressed the above quoted sentiment. Granted I outsource the processing, but I strive to one day own the process from field to freezer. I have started small by building the rifle and loading the ammo myself 😉

    • “I hope after this childish narrow-minded rant he became an ex-boyfriend.”

      I wish that level of logic worked. My wife’s family are liberal ‘coasters’ (CT and SoCal), married more of their ilk, and breed up yet another generation of ‘urbanite progressives’. Once she graduated from college my wife moved to Alaska for a few years to get away from the urban liberal crowd and the midset that is associated with it.

      Needless to say gatherings are less than warm and each time at least one tries some tired old anti argument which they have no doubt been mulling over for the last year, which are almost always part of the normal tripe that we see trotted out by progressives. And those ‘debates’ almost always end up with them frustrated and walking off in a huff with “well that’s just stupid” or “you are evil” (I kid you knot) rolling off their tongues.

      Some of their children have shown a real interest in potentially going out to the range with “evil uncle X”, but they are told they don’t need to know about those evil guns. I have an open invitation to any of them (parent, kids, whatever) to have some range time (and make a point of extending it at each gathering), but they just scoff whilst drinking their $8 coffee, while sitting about in their PJs discussing the poor state of acting in CA (one of the brothers is an actor and his best friend is an starring actor in a popular TV crime drama).

      When my wife goes out for visits my boys come back and often say ‘Uncle Y is weird” or “cousin A is really strange”. I get such a belly laugh, but I’m just a barbarian after all.

      • Yeah I got into an argument with my cousin recently, a teacher and self proclaimed progressive, because she was all in a huff that Texas has the audacity to consider allowing teachers to concealed carry on campus. My response “I’ll take you to the range, if you still disagree we can continue this conversation, otherwise stop parroting a bunch of baseless claims and made up statistics”. My wife quickly changed the conversation after that. The invitation still stands, though she hasn’t taken me up on it yet. She also likes to harp on how “dangerous” guns are, but I don’t ever engage someone on that topic, I merely take them to the range and let them see for themselves that the gun is only as dangerous as the person holding. Verbally arguing against irrational fear usually leads nowhere.

        • “Verbally arguing against irrational fear usually leads nowhere.”

          Any evidence-based argument seems to lead exactly nowhere with progressives. They usually start throwing out already-disproved nonsense, which a handy laptop or tablet can quickly dispel. At which point it all goes downhill into emotional pleas and disjointed ranting.

          Like the ‘guns are dangerous’ comment. After informing one brother-in-law and his wife that they had been staying in a home with loaded guns I was told they wouldn’t come back unless I ‘got rid of them’. I said if I had known that was all it took to keep them away, I’d have made a point of it earlier. 😉

  5. If I lived in the wild, I think I’d become a vegetarian. The insides of living things just gross me out. No one ever bothered to take me hunting when I was young and impressionable, despite my love of shooting. And I’m definitely not impressionable anymore. That said though, I have nothing but respect for those that do hunt. I’m glad I can get my meat at the grocery store instead, but if the price gets any higher I might have to go vegetarian anyway.

    • Right, because calorie for calorie, vegetables are just cheaper, yah?

      carb-loading on Pasta, that’s about it – and my gut can’t take that anymore.

  6. These deer and elk don’t eat themselves. I suggest that as an option to “hunting”, we introduce wolves to the continental US to control the deer, elk, etc. populations.

  7. Never done the hunting thing myself, even though I have owned guns for most of my life. Use to fish a lot, before I moved away from my regular fishing area. It shocks me every time some nitwit says something like meat comes from stores. These folks are so divorced from the reality of what happens before they walk up to the display and pick up a plastic wrapped foam tray of meat. I think they would throw a fit if they shown a series of pictures of that cow from calf to cooler

    • I’ve dressed my share of livestock as well as game. I’ve always felt that if I ever become completely numb to it, something inside of me must have died.

  8. Never hunted (aside from vermin control), never had anything against it, just that I don’t really know anyone who does or the first thing about it. Truly I didn’t even start considering hunting until I picked up my first shotgun a couple years ago (not a reason why I bought it, either).

    I do think about getting out there and trying it out, but don’t know anybody around here who would show me the ropes, plus I don’t have a rifle for it at this time. If I did ever go hunting, it’d probably be wild hog even though deer are more plentiful up here (N. KY). I’ve watched your vids on field dressing a deer so I know what I’d be in for in that regards, but seeing more about hunting as a whole would be nice.

  9. There nothing like fresh meat that has not been factory farm raised.

    I grew up on a farm, and we killed pigs, cows, chickens, rabbits and made our own cheese. All those proteins taste way better than anything you can get at the store.

    If you are a music fan, I would relate it to this. No music is better than vinyl records. When we went to CD’s, that music lost some of its sound, and when we went to MP3s it was further watered down for convenience. I see what we have done with food the same way. This is why the “farm-to-table” restaurants have done so well. It is about going back to real food.

    The CDC yesterday released a study about how salt is causing diseases in kids. Their conclusion, stop eating processed foods and casual dining foods. Make food at home the old fashion way. I know people who eat out or buy take out 3 or 4 times a week – they have zero appreciation of real food and are often the anti-hunting crowd.

    • I think any discussion of “factory farms” is really a topic for a different blog. It’s frankly a lot more complicated than gun rights.

      I do agree that as our nation has become more urbanized, we have become disconnected from the sources of our food. Farmers today have to deal with a lot of the same sort of ignorance that we constantly battle against in the world of gun rights.

      • Thanks you for you comment Curtis. It is disheartening to see the same type of ignorance displayed by the anti-gun crowd, on here when it comes to modern agriculture.

    • “No music is better than vinyl records.”

      That’s open to debate. There have been great strides in very high bitrate digital recently. Hard drives now sound much better than CDs. Massive oversampling leads to a cleaner output.
      The Super Audio CD (SACD) uses Direct-Stream Digital (DSD) and is a single bit converter at a rate of 64 times that of the CD Audio sampling rate of 44.1 kHz (2.8224 MHz)

      There is another TTAG reader who may chime in and is much more versed in the technology than I am.

  10. Pheasant and wild rice mushroom casserole, Citrus marinated bacon wrapped duck breat grilled with wild mushrooms, Braised Italian spiced Goose.

    Why I hunt.

  11. Only three more days here in Wisconsin! Won’t be making it up the tree this weekend, but I’ll be there bright and early next weekend.

  12. “You can get meat in the store!”

    Guess how they kill all those pigs and cows at the slaughtering plants? With a gun!

    Sure, it looks a lot different from a .30-06, but it’s still a gun.

  13. I had my very first veggie garden experience this season and it’s been incredible having real food right in your own backyard. We also got baby chicks in spring & are anxiously awaiting eggs (no, we aren’t going to eat them.)

    I have broached the idea of doing rabbits (for eating) w/ the husband but he’s a softie & it’s not for him. I think next year though we’ll learn about deer hunting. It’s an important skill to learn, IMO

    Good article!!

    • I hope you mean you’re not going to eat the chickens, you certainly should eat the eggs which you don’t give to neighbors! My brother and his wife got into chickens years ago, were soon overrun with more eggs than they could use, gave away more than half! If you have a few acres, can’t be beat for entertainment and free food. Just be ready to shoot the neighbors’ dogs, they love to kill chickens for sport.

      • We will very much enjoy eating the eggs however the feathery princesses will not be eaten! 🙂

        We had an out of work engineering friend build us a coop to end all predator-preventative coops w/ an attached and roofed run.

        There will be no predating of the girls if we can help it.

        (ps if anyone had told me how fun chickens were I’d have done this years and years ago!)

      • overrun with more eggs than they could use, gave away more than half!

        That’s when it’s time to eat some of the chickens.

        Just be ready to shoot the neighbors’ dogs, they love to kill chickens for sport

        My neighbors’ chickens used to escape and end up in my yard, tormenting my fenced-in dog (i.e. “teasing” her as they would strut and cackle right outside her fence). Fortunately, the neighbors upgraded their chicken confinement system, and I didn’t have to shoot any (chickens, that is).

  14. I love deer season for a few reasons.
    One, I love venison and even though I don’t hunt, my dad, brother and most of my uncles do–so I usually end up with some anyway.
    Two, it means there’ll shortly be a lot fewer of the critters running around and possibly getting hit by cars. You laugh, but deer strikes kill a lot of people and cause millions of dollars in property damage every year. (And unless you believe in the Broken Window fallacy, this is a Bad Thing) We HAVE to hunt the buggers or they’ll overrun us.

    • True, they are the most dangerous mammal in the US in terms of how many deaths they cause, almost all of which are by collisions with cars. They also destroy habitat for themselves and other animals when they are overpopulated. They HAVE to be controlled.

      • +1…deer are really just giant rats. I’ve come perilously close to hitting one. My exwife hit one head on. Not funny because my son was with her. At least the stupid boyfriend wasn’t a vegetarian. Not a hunter but pro eating what you kill.

        • My ex-wife nailed a mule deer with a Ford Explorer. She was lucky, and wasn’t hurt. The Explorer was badly damaged and couldn’t be driven, but was repairable. We lived in the foothills of the Rockies at the time.

          It was early in the morning-just before sunrise. The mulie took off after it happened. When she called me to come get her, she couldn’t understand why once someone had stopped to check on her, several others stopped and the guys took off into the brush to look for the deer. She wasn’t a hunter-her father was-but she was shocked when she realized that they were looking to see if they could find the deer and figure out if any of it was salvageable.

          She was just damned lucky it wasn’t an elk.

  15. Most store food not particularly good (it’s not particularly bad either). The easy access also causes people to eat less-than-ideal ratios of different foods. Hunt and grow a garden, maybe raise a few chickens, try your hand a some other animals, can and preserve, and you get a real appreciation for good healthy food in the best proportions.

    • Exactly! We started w/ veggie garden & chickens this year.

      Next year pickling, canning & freezing.

      Then next fall learn how to hunt. Deer is super tasty & we have a huge freezer in the basement.

      I am so over & done w/ factory food.

  16. Buffalo!
    Buffalo, Buffalo, Buffalo! That is some of the best animal I’ve had. Got a buddy that gets it from a ranch type place in Wyoming or Montana or somewhere in North(I’m from AZ)

    Buffalo Burger is Best Burger.

    • If you like bison meat, you would probably like elk. It is some of the tastiest meat I have ever eaten. In my opinion it is better than bison.

      I shoot lots of deer, but I have never shot an elk or a bison. I would love to go on a hunt for either of those big beasts! Elk hunt is actually one of two things on my bucket list: 1) Hunt elk for meat and fur. 2) Surf big waves in Hawaii.

  17. Excellent article, though it did bum me out a little. That’s only because my wife and I moved from rural, coastal Maine to a major metro area in March and this is the first year since I was 10 that I’m not going to be able to hunt ruffed grouse or try to hunt northern New England deer (before getting frustrated and giving up).

    One thing I’ve learned in my years as a hunter is to not bother engaging with staunch anti-hunters, and especially not to bother with the shockingly hypocritical types that are meat eating anti-hunters. They’ll never understand no matter how eloquently you make your case. That energy is best spent on newbies who are either on the fence about hunting or are interested in trying it for the first time.

  18. I have always thought that in these culinary schools like the Culinary Institute of America and such that the first day of Chicken 101 it should be mandatory to kill, clean, and gut a chicken followed by the quartering of a whole chicken. If a would-be chef cannot get past the first day then they have not right to go any further in the education.

  19. The Nuge is right, of course. Anthropologists regard hunting behavior as a “cultural universal”, something so deeply elemental that is shared across all human societies. My father, who was from a very poor family, began hunting as soon as he learned to shoot. For him hunting was subsistence, he was putting food on his family’s table. Being in the woods for him was as natural as breathing. Being in the woods with him was a mystical experience for a city kid. Except for vermin, my father never killed anything he didn’t intend to eat. Hunting was for food, not killing. Subsistence hunting brings you closer to an eons old reality that those of us who live in cities and only hunt for sport can sense but never fully own. In the woods, my father knew things, felt things at an intuitive level, that I’ll never know. But we shared one thing: you eat what you kill.

  20. To which he replied, “That’s ridiculous. You can get meat in the store!”

    Years ago. Took a first date out to dinner. (She was stunning, too!) During the getting to know you chat I mentioned raising rabbits for the table. Her reaction was something like, “Oh, that’s just sick!” I gave her a long look and responded with, “I don’t think that steak you’re eating came from a cow that committed suicide. I’m just honest enough about what I eat to skip the middleman.” She looked at her meal like she had never seen a steak before. After a long silence, she finally replied, “You’re right.”

    Dated her for about two years. First time I suggested a range date, she was all in. Became one of our favorite activities together. Might even say the second favorite. (Did I mention she was stunning?)

  21. I’ve mentioned in the comments of some of your previous articles that this will be my first year looking for fresh meat. I appreciate these articles because it is helping with the anticipation. I’m looking forward to that last weekend in November.

    Any suggestions for when I am out there and could we get a section for recipes? I’d very much like to try the chicken fried back strap.

    • @DrewR55

      Slice the backstrap into medallions about 1/4″ thick and pat dry. Toss in a bowl with flour, garlic salt, and black pepper. Dip in a bowl with some milk and 1 egg whisked in. Toss again in bowl of seasoned flour.

      Fry in med-hot oil on one side until red juice just starts to come out on top and first side is crispy. Flip to brown other side, no more than a minute or so. Should still be lightly red-pink in the middle. It goes quick.

      Best served with biscuits and gravy, or a slice of tomato and butter on a biscuit. Can’t. Be. Beat.

      • Thank you, Terry. My buddy, who will be taking a second friend and myself hunting for the first time, mentioned slicing some back strap right there at the camp for dinner. Now I can make sure to pack some ingredients.

        I’m really looking forward to this trip.

  22. “But I wasn’t hooked until a month later when I picked up a couple boxes of dried sausage packed in butcher’s paper.”

    “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.”

    If you’re taking your kill to be processed by someone else, it’s not that laborious.

    Get some good knives, a food saver, and “how to process game” DVD, and then you’ll know about sweat equity. It’s literally several hours and whole lot of effort from kill shot to freezer.

    But, it’s as satisfying an effort as any a hunter can have, in my estimation.

  23. 17? Wish I got started that early. I’m 25 going on my first deer hunt this year. Any articles on game prep or processing would be greatly appreciated!

  24. If my father hunted, he never once mentioned it, but having been raised in a backwoods community in the Pennsylvania Allegheny Mountains during the depression (pop. 5000), I would be surprised if he didn’t. My brother hunts, but didn’t much care for deer hunting, just hunting turkey and pheasant. I have never been hunting, and at my age and physical condition likely never will. My son would like to hunt birds, but needs someone to take him out and show him the ropes.
    I have never understood the economics of hunting either. By the time you buy the necessary gear, take the class, and pay for the lottery for a tag, then go out on the hunt itself, or spend thousands on a guided hunt, the price per pound of the meat must be astronomical. It is no different for certain fish. In California, the price per pound of salmon you caught is two or three times what you can buy it on the docks for, fresh wild caught.

    • Of course the economics don’t work for a city-dweller, which is really an unnatural way to live in the first place. There are fewer and fewer places where simple subsistence hunting is viable anymore.

      A rifle, a bullet, a knife, and a couple hours in the woods. That’s all you really need.

      • For some of us it’s not about economy. After a 40 year hiatus from hunting I’ve basically started from scratch. I live in the crowded bay area in CA. The nearest public hunting land to me is 2-3 hours away. Since I got back to hunting I’ve bought 2 new long guns. Expensive non toxic amo for use on Condor country. A toyota 4runner to get me there. Etc. so on and so forth.

        And I live in a vegeterian household. Why do I hunt? Because the generation below me wanted to start. And because I worked 2 jobs for most of my kids lives we missed out on a lot. Hunting has brought me together with a bunch of 20 and 30 somethings that were drifting away from me and had no real connection.

        Frankly, even the days when we have no success afield are great days for me.

  25. People forget that meat comes from animals, and farm animals, especially in big mega production farms, sure, they don’t suffer, but they are product and are raised and treated as such.
    Which is more humane, killing your own meat or paying someone else 2 states away to do it on an industrial scale?

    I dunno.

  26. “You can get meat in the store!”

    Yes, and you can get sex in a store, too, but it’s better when you don’t.

  27. IMO you shouldn’t eat something if you can’t kill it and/or prepare it.

    I don’t eat the meat on the head because I can’t skin the head. A shame actually since the meat on the head is pretty good.

  28. Great article Tyler.
    I’ve been an avid hunter for about 35 years. And you’re right on about it being spiritual. I still feel overwhelmed when I walk up to my harvest. Touch it, take a moment to give thanks, then start working.

    • “. . .Touch it, take a moment to give thanks, then start working. . .”

      This is something urban cosmopolites, people who think meat “comes from stores”, will never, ever understand.
      In their ignorance, they think hunting is about shooting things.

      • You really “understand” it when you take the animal’s life with your bare hands. The first (and, so far, only) mammal I killed was a rabbit. Boy Scouts, when I was about 15. Leaders had procured a few rabbits that had been raised for consumption. We were instructed, with a demonstration, on how to humanely kill the animal, then how to gut, skin, and butcher it. Most of us were quite hesitant, but a few of us were able to do it. Dinner that night was a little more “reserved” than usual (for a bunch of 12-15 year olds), and not a scrap was discarded.

    • This article and comment thread has been the most interesting thread on TTAG, in my opinion, that I have read. Your comment, “touch it, take a moment to give thanks, then get to work…” captures the heart of hunt. I don’t think this can be understood until a hunter has shot a deer, stood over its body, then reached down to feel its warmth and the softness of its fur. Its a humble moment.

      On a few occasions, I have walked up on my shot deer in time to look at it and see the sparkle fade from its eyes. It is sad. It is also glad. And every time I eat the meat, I remember the animal as it moved just before I had crosshairs on it; the time of day, the temperature of the air, the place the animal stepped into eyeshot, the health and age of the animal…

      By remembering, we don’t take the gift for granted. Instead, we are filled with gratitude, to the animal and to God.

      • I really enjoyed writing it, and I was pleasantly surprised to see how much conversation went on in the comments. I hope that future hunting articles, many of which will be based off the comments here, will generate as much discussion.

        And yes, when I saw the comment about touching, giving thanks, and getting to work, I smiled because it really does capture how I feel about hunting. Your thoughts echo mine about being humbled by hunting. I appreciate you taking the time write them down.

  29. We go through 4-5 deer, and 3-5 wild hogs a year at my house. Thank God deer season is right around the corner, my freezer is almost bare.

  30. That’s got to be the dumbest quote I’ve heard in a long time. Yes, there’s meat in the store. And where does he think it comes from? Animals raised for the masses (industrial animal agriculture) are often treated very harshly, far more so than an animal that has otherwise been living a happy life and then gets killed quickly and humanely by a hunter.

    Cattle-based meat in the store, unless you buy special meat, is pumped full of antibiotics because they feed it corn, which cattle are not designed to eat. This leads to lots of diseases forming in them, and thus the antibiotics to counter them. Corn subsidies actually are one of the reasons why meat became a lot cheaper in the U.S. than it used to be decades ago. By subsidizing corn, we subsidize cattle for people.

    • The solution to all of the extra ingredients is to buy black Angus meats. Their requirements for feed and where they can graze are much more strict than the Fedgov. My restaurant only sold black Angus products because the standards for raising Angus are so high.

      Sad but true, if you don’t live in rural America, or relatively close to it, hunting turns into an expensive, and a downright uneconomical vacation. 40 acres? Compared to my property, that’s a dang game preserve.

      • Out_Fang,
        Let me clue you in on the Certified Angus Beef (CAB) program.
        If a cow/steer walks down the kill chute at a slaughterhouse and it’s black, and he/she grades USDA Choice or better, the meat gets the CAB label.

        It’s one of the three big scams in the food industry, along with “farmer certified” BST-free milk, and anything “organic.”

        I love angus beef, but their CAB program is pure marketing genius with no basis in actual genetics.

    • Kyle,
      A quick story from days gone by:
      I was traveling through Wisconsin during a particularly nasty cold spell, when they went for a week without the temperature exceeding -15F. I was thinking about all the deer and other wildlife that would freeze to death in that environment. Yes, it’s all part of the whole “survival of the fittest” world of nature. But then I thought about all the cows and calves in the dairy barns around the state. They were warm and dry, with plenty of food and water, and veterinary care if they got sick.

      You’ve got to quit reading the PETA propaganda man. The animal “rights” groups in this country make Shannon Watts seem honest and truthful by comparison.

      • Well I wasn’t thinking of the small farm livestock but rather the livestock in the big industrial operations.

        • The livestock in big, industrial operations were also warm and dry, with plenty of food and water, and veterinary care if they got sick. If you don’t take good care of your stock, you’re out of business pretty quick. It’s really not that complicated.

    • With regard to corn-fed beef: Farmers throughout the world have been feeding corn and other grains to cattle for hundreds of years. They were doing it centuries before there were antibiotics or manufactured hormones, with great success (meaning the cattle grew and fattened up fast without getting sick).

      Grain-based diets for cattle are not new. Antibiotics and various forms of hormone therapy have been used in animal agriculture for decades, but not for the reasons the bunny hugging lunatics would lead you to believe.

      • Why do they pump them full of antibiotics then? Why is corn considered a very bad form of food for the cattle?

        • If livestock and poultry were “pumped full” of antibiotics, the meat, milk and eggs would contain antibiotic residues and would get rejected. There is a zero tolerance level for antibiotic residues in food because even small amounts can cause allergic reactions in some people.

          The use of specific types of sub-theraputic (very low dose) antibiotics, for specific species at a specific stages of life, has been shown in some cases to be beneficial in terms of growth rates and weight gain. The actual, biological reason for the benefit is not always understood. Antibiotics need to be removed from the ration long before slaughter to avoid the aforementioned residues.

          Corn is not considered a very bad form of food for cattle. Corn and other grains are much higher in energy (calories) and lower in fiber, compared to forages (grass, alfalfa, etc.). Think of it like candy. A little candy gives you extra energy (and can make you fat in the long run). But too much candy will give you a bellyache. Corn can be fed to cattle, when mixed with forages in the proper ratios, without making them sick. Feed rations for livestock are carefully prepared by people who understand livestock nutrition. The bigger operations can afford to have veterinarians and nutritionists on staff to manage and monitor such things to a precise degree.

        • I see, this is very interesting, thank you for the information. I have one other question though, what about the stories of the over-fattened chickens that can’t walk, are those true?

          One industry I have read suffered a lot of propaganda was the fur industry, however I didn’t know the meat industry did as well.

        • Kyle, I appreciate your sincere desire to learn. I don’t know where those stories come from, but the thing to do is run everything you hear through your “common sense” filter.

          Animals that are sick don’t grow or gain weight as well as healthy ones. Sick cows don’t give as much milk and sick hens don’t lay as many eggs. The same goes for any kind of stress on the animal (too hot, too cold, overcrowding, poor air quality, poor feed quality, etc.). When you make your living selling meat, milk or eggs, you need to do everything you can to keep your stock healthy and comfortable, and it’s just as true for large operations as small ones.

          The whole “too fat to walk” story is rather mind-boggling, because generally, animals need to stand up to eat and drink. Anything that affects an animal’s mobility would affect their ability to eat, grow and fatten up. So it just doesn’t make any sense to me.

          Farmers need to produce what consumers demand. That generally means meat with enough fat to make it taste good but not so much fat as to make it unhealthy to eat. There is no profit potential in producing a product that nobody wants.

          Keep your “common sense filter” ready, and ask critical questions when something doesn’t make sense. It works as well for animal agriculture issues as it does for gun rights issues.

  31. If you want tasty meat you get well marbled aged corn fed beef. Venison/grass fed beef/etc you make into sausage.

  32. What I would really like to see is the entire process of gutting, skinning, quartering, and butchering. I would also like to see different ways of preparing the meat. Four instance maybe you could show how to make sausage, how to make ground meat, how to make jerky? I’m a newer hunter and am learning quickly from some friends and in-laws, but would like to be exposed to different ways of doing things.

    • Right there with you. I can watch YouTube videos all day long on how to process a deer but until I stand in front of one, have someone show me what to do and get my hand dirty, I mean bloody, in the process I do not think I have learned anything. Call it theoretical knowledge vs. practice and experience.

  33. I haven’t seen it addressed here but how about teaching people to hunt? I’m talking about guys like me whose father didn’t know about the outdoors and didn’t have anyone else to teach him. I struggled as an adult to learn how to hunt. But should it be this hard?

    Look at the BOW (becoming an outdoors woman) program for women. My wife loves this program. So why aren’t there programs like this for men?

  34. Admittedly, I eat a lot of Ramen and cereal (I work a lot, and I get lazy when I’m tired). I would hunt though, but what about animal wasting-disease(s)? Our state always puts out warnings. I don’t know why a cow is/would be any safer, but…

  35. I just hunted for the first time last weekend. and while taking a hog wasn’t a profoundly moving experience, butchering, cooking, and feeding my family the pork i had caught was.

    Also one of the guys i was with was a cop and I’m an EMT student so we discussed the wounding and vital trauma from the bullets. it was cool.

    • “we discussed the wounding and vital trauma from the bullets. it was cool.”

      Right on!

      There’s no better way to learn terminal ballistic performance than to observe real results.

      Congrats on your pig.

  36. Let’s have some recipe and cooking articles. Be nice to build up a cool database of game recipes on the site submitted by commenters and writers.

  37. I’d be interested in the pre-shooting parts of hunting. ie- how does someone who has never gone hunting before get to the point where he has a buck in his sights?

    Absolutely stuff on butchering/field dressing. Hell, even recipes. But as someone who’s never been hunting- it’s the beginning process that I know nothing about. I’m happy to spend all day in a tree waiting for a deer that may come. I don’t want to spend all day in a tree waiting in an area that never sees deer. Which any hunter would know to avoid- but I staked out because I’m an ignoramus.

    I’d also really like to see some stuff about black powder hunting and stalking (rather than waiting for) deer.

    • Finding an animal that is within range is often the hardest part of hunting. That said, once you find good habitat and learn the game’s habits, it can become much easier.

      A great deal depends on where you are and what hunting land you have access to. In my experience, having lots of game on your own land is the best… and the hardest to achieve.

    • Yeah, I kinda get a laugh at the “hunting is so easy nowadays, no challenge” segment of the anti-hunting crowd.

      True fair-chase hunting takes a lot of work, both before and after the shot. Scouting takes time and past experience helps. I think there are few people, if any, that grab a high powered rifle with a scope drive to a random spot on the woods, walk in, plop down and kill a deer on their first try with no instruction or mentoring.

      One thing you can do is get in the woods in the off-season with a camera, and “hunt” that way. Look for sign, look for patterns. That itself can be fun. Trick to learning the woods is spending a lot of time in the woods. Like anything else, I guess.

  38. Thanks, great article, Tyler. I sense there is a lot of sort of pent up interest in “how to” hunt in youth today. Some who have no adult in their lives who did, which of course is not a fault, just an observation of how many people dont have that.

  39. 32 yrs old and I’ve never hunted. I know it’s another skill I should be familiar with. I feel remorse when killing snakes and (some) bugs. I’m afraid I’d break down and cry my eyes out seeing something that was formerly beautiful as it lay dying. I’d be interested in hunting as a skill, but have no friends or family that hunt. Suggestions? SE Louisiana.

    • I was in the same boat for as long as I could remember but adding to it was if I shot a deer and didn’t like it I didn’t want to waste the meat (no one I knew at the time liked venison). I just kept telling people that I am interested in hunting and this past spring I found someone willing to take me and help me out for my first time, and if my family didn’t like it he said he would take the meat (win win…we try something new and no matter what the meat isn’t wasted). Well, Thursday I harvested a black tail doe and I was surprised that I didn’t feel remorse but more of a feeling of accomplishment knowing I will be able to provide a meal for my family from my own hands. This Saturday I pick her up from the butcher and am debating on if I should make tacos or hamburgers to break them in on the taste of venison (I figured go easy in case I mess up the steak wrong…I can get distracted while on the grill). Hopefully the hard work will be worth it and the family let’s me hunt again.

      • Very cool. Congrats.

        It’s entirely possible that you make either the tacos or burgers and don’t tell them, and they won’t know it is anything different. I know someone that swears she won’t eat venison (too much like eating Bambi), but she eats it all the time because people in her family cook it at family functions and don’t say anything.

        Not saying you should do that to your family, just saying that it may not be a big deal for them to ‘accept’ it. Play it up as a positive and don’t set the stage for it being some big different potentially bad thing and chances are they will dig it.

        Tacos is not a bad idea, in my opinion, since there’s a lot going on besides the meat so it won’t be a ‘focus’ if that makes sense. Burgers are good, too, of course. 😉

        • Thanks for the reply. My wife and our teenage daughter have both said they are willing to try it as long as I wait until after they’ve eaten it before I tell them it is venison. I’m getting back some apple and breakfast ranch sausage which I’m thinking of using for the tacos. Or should I use the ground venison?

        • Unless you usually make your tacos from sausage, I think I would personally stick to the ground venison myself. Don’t stray too far from “normal.”

          Your call, though. You know ’em best.

          Gotta admit, though, I’m basing my comments on experience with whitetail, not blacktail. Wouldn’t hurt to get some opinions from folks with experience with that species.

  40. To all the guys in the thread wanting to hunt but not knowing where or with who, see if you can find a hunt club in your area (and “your area” may need to be “as far as you are willing to drive”).

    A lot of hunt clubs allow a guest to hunt with a member. Introduce yourself, explain you want to learn and see who will take you hunting.

    NC has a semi-formal “Hunting Mentor” program organized through the state WRC. Other states might as well.

    Do a little research, and I’m willing to bet you can find someone local to help you get started.

  41. A question about hunting that I’ll ask you lot because I trust some of you… How does a new hunter get into the field? Other that taking my state mandated class and hoping they cover anything useful. Has anyone ever had any luck just looking for local state based hunting forums and asking around about people showing them the ropes?

    • See my reply right above your comment. 😉

      “Has anyone ever had any luck just looking for local state based hunting forums and asking around about people showing them the ropes?”

      Yes, that can work.

      One thing I did not mention above…ask around at your local rifle range if you have one. This is a good time of year for meeting hunters at the rifle range, because guys are checking out their equipment. Don’t be a goober about it, of course; maybe talk to the RO’s or other range staff, and see if they can recommend someone you can talk to.

      Ditto the local gun shop or sporting goods shop / outfitter. Talk to the staff and ask them to introduce you to someone they know that might be willing to help you get started.

      Another option might be finding some state land and just going into the woods to scout….BEFORE the season starts, not during. You might run into some other hunters scouting or might find some places you want to try. Plus, being in the woods is awesome anyway.

  42. I would love to see a hunting article looking into CJD transmittance from infected deer. It seems like this is more prevalent in New England but I would love to see how healthy herd populations are around the country and maybe some good places to hunt for those of us worried about eating local deer due to wasting diseases and CJD.

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