hunter freezer meat share harvest
Courtesy NSSF
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By Mark Oliva

Hunters hunkering down through the COVID-19 quarantine might be tempted to look at their freezers full of butcher paper and shrink-wrapped wild game from last season and think this is exactly what we’ve prepared for.

It is. Except, it is not just for you. That frozen wild game is the perfect opportunity for every outdoorsman and woman to become hunting’s best ambassador. While you’re pulling out a pound of ground venison to make a pot of chili, consider taking out another and walking it over to a neighbor.

Governors are issuing orders, ranging from those instructing all citizens to stay-at-home to others that are limiting exposure and cautioning residents. NSSF has been gathering those orders to inform firearms retailers and manufacturers, available here.

Grocery stores are creating senior hours to make sure those who might be vulnerable to infection have a chance to get what they need for the pantry without worrying about contagion.

No Lockdown on Caring

Nothing is stopping hunters from walking over some of last fall’s goose breast, a pheasant or two or maybe a venison roast to a friend and neighbor you know who can’t get out and might need some help. It’s even better if that person happens to be someone who might have written off the value of hunting or been interested, but never quite found a good enough reason to literally pull the trigger.

Heck, if allowed and as long as gatherings are less than 10, invite them over and cook them the meal. Backstraps are better when they’re shared.

JWT hunting

Hunters could be easily drawn into a hoarding mentality. It’s gratifying at the end of the season to look over the freezer and see neatly wrapped and stacked packages of nature’s bounty, marked by species, cut and date. Hunting has always been better when it is shared, both during the hunt and later when we enjoy the harvest.

Breaking Barriers

Let’s be honest. There are those we know, most likely right across the street from us, who cringe at the thought of actually pulling the trigger on a live animal. They have no issue with buying meat from the store, but the visceral work of finding, harvesting, cleaning and butchering can be a big hurdle for some. This is a perfect opportunity to show nonhunters what we do and why we do it.

Our freezers are filled with clean and lean protein. They’re also filled with potential invitations and tales to be told. One pound of ground venison isn’t likely to turn “Chuck” from three houses down into the next Steve Rinella.

Eva Shockey’s job is probably safe from “Karen” with the minivan next door nudging into her lane. This isn’t about necessarily finding the next buddy to put in for sheep tags and climb mountains looking for a Boone and Crockett qualifier.

Wild Harvest Diplomacy

jeremy turkey hunt texas remington
Courtesy Jessica Kalam

That pound of venison, though, could be just that little bit of extra food that eases the anxiety of being able to feed a family during a stay-at-home order. It can also show your neighbor why you get up before the sun’s up.

It might help them to better understand the time spent on the range, making sure shots are accurate. Sharing the harvest could help someone who may have a dim view of hunting understand that ethical hunting ensures wildlife resources are used responsibly and perpetuated for the next generation.

Sharing wild game could convince someone who has always been curious to take a walk to a dove field with you later in the year or bring the coffee thermos to the duck blind when migration turns the birds south again. When they ask, be ready with the resources to show them, like NSSF’s, which is full of tips and recipes.

Want to get them started just cooking? Look to Steven Rinella’s MeatEater, which goes beyond the old camp cream of mushroom recipes. He’s got one up for Pheasant Pad Thai.

Hunters, this is our chance to stand out. It’s our chance to stand up and show that while antlers and mounts are treasured memories, the reason we hunt is to sustain ourselves. Even if we spend the fall season alone in a tree stand, the bounty and the reward of the hunt is bringing the harvest home to those we love.

Sometimes, especially during trying times, a friendly smile, a warm meal and genuine concern for our neighbors does more for our sport than donning the camouflage jacket to blend in. Hunters, stand up and stand out.


Mark Oliva is the Director of Public Affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

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  1. I remember as a kid, a store that had an old fashioned butcher shop that would give away a lb of ground moose for the asking. They did this for years(yes, here in SoCal). My mom would make spaghetti, and it tasted fine.
    I have heard from people that moose got old, real fast. I imagine that what was ground was not the best part, but it never bothered me.

  2. Next thing you know there will be a long line of people at your front door asking if you have some for them.

    • True. The politicians use crisis as an opportunity for evil, and we can also use it as an opportunity for good. It is a wonderful opportunity to love your neighbor.

      Many folks don’t know what to do with venison or goose. Maybe a sack of sugar or dozen eggs would be better.

      You all do have hens right?

  3. So you think I have any of my deer left? Already shared and cared till I was down to a few steaks, as well as feeding my own family since November, I have a whopping 3 pounds left.

    • Exactly, sharing with family is one thing, strangers, no. Don’t put up a big red sign that says FOOD HERE!!!

  4. I think trading would be better. If it’s free it has no value. When my office gave away free services people ALWAYS asked for more.
    If they gave something in return, they kept their pride and were more appreciative. (Even if they gave us a tiny jar or plate of something they made.)

  5. You might want to avoid what is coming out of the commercial meat packing plants. Meat packing is a very hands-on process, done mostly by people at the lowest levels of the trades who’s pay is so meager they can’t afford to miss a day’s work, so they have a powerful motivation to work while sick…

    • If that’s your concern then the time for it is long past. That was something to be concerned about two to four weeks back. Now it’s baked into the equation and there’s nothing you can do about it.

      Fortunately, properly handled meat shouldn’t cause a problem. I wouldn’t eat rare burgers for a while but that’s about it.

      The truth is that this is a situation that, due to the incubation period on this little beasty, by the time you know you have a problem you’re already fucked. The testing numbers we have, across the board, are a snapshot of probably two weeks ago in terms of the infected. On the plus side, the stats say that millions have probably already had this disease and gotten over it without knowing they had it or will do so in the coming weeks. If we’re being honest, this disease was already far more widespread in the general population than many people would like to think before we took serious note of it.

      Look, it’s more dangerous than the Chinese led the world to believe but this still isn’t unmanageable. The shitty truth is that it’s gonna take some grandparents away from people early and a few people with other complications/bad luck as well. But it’s not going to end the world. As contagious as it is it’s been here for awhile. We just weren’t looking for it.

      The real question is how to deal with this without destroying the economy. In that regard D.C. might be our biggest enemy.

  6. one pound of ground venison isn’t likely to turn chuck unless it’s processed from the correct roast.

  7. re: preparing wild game, if i may.
    ttak introduced me to hank shaw of hunter angler gardener cook.
    a good resource i’ve plugged before. he put a nice spin on my cranberries and i didn’t know mustard was so simple. keep some white trash yello around, but spend 20min making some. you won’t drop big coin on grey poupon again.
    scroll to the bottom for his essays. he writes of what it means to kill. and squirrel hunting.
    and this,
    good time to reflect now.

  8. When I went to Walmart last Thursday the meat aisle and all the lunch and breakfast meat was basically gone.

    I’m thankful I have a freezer full of venison from my hunter neighbor as a thank you for me allowing him to hunt my land. I probably have plenty to share but most folks around here already have their own or won’t eat it.

    I recall time I was changing a tire in Texas at a truck stop and a lady told me she and her daughter were hungry trying to get home. I happened to have a bunch of cucumbers and pears from my garden back in KY and was told they “wanted real food, not vegetables.”

    I’m kind of hurt when you reject my food, we did win the county fair purple ribbon for eggplant last year.

  9. Well sharing is all right if that is not what you are planning to feed your family all year because you cannot afford store meat because of the price of beef because I know there is a lot of senior citizens and disabled that are living off of 1200 and down a month that still manage to hunt and fish and that is what they eat for protein and these same people are the ones that are out there hunting TP and other stuff because they cannot get out and fight the crowds to get it heck I want to hunt and can hardly go because of health reasons so I have to get what I can from the Church during their food giveaways and sometimes the meat is not the freshest and some are too far gone and not usable

    • There’s this neat invention called the period. If you use it, someone might actually read what you write.

  10. I mean, I do think at a certain point you have enough meat. You you you didn’t build that. Those weren’t your lands.

  11. I’ve got 50-60 pounds left , ground, steaks , backstraps , hot dogs ( jalapeño and cheese ) garlic and romano sausages, honey BBQ slim sticks , I would share with some, sure , but they can just drive to Wegmans and buy meat … This is in NY btw the hardest hit state , the rush here was brief and the stores are being stocked again . Nobody here didn’t have food . I would cook up a chili or venison soup and give them that , as few non hunters know what to do with it , steaks need to be cooked to rare , nothing ruins it more then over cooking ,which even many hunters do .

    We just ordered a steak for myself and salmon for the wife from a local restaurant for tonight’s dinner, I’m not sharing that either …..

  12. Backstraps are better when they’re shared

    Preferably shared with your good buddy The Rookie.


  13. I think this is a great idea. I support my church’s homeless pantry & also my local community food pantry. I don’t hunt but I would “think” this would be great for hunting PR. FOOD for thought…

  14. Hunters do share their harvest, the guts, you’ve just gotta find where they buried them or the ditch they tossed em in.

    • As long as humans fill dumpsters, a possum will never go hungry… 🙂

  15. We have cases of chronic wasting desease in our county. Stopped dear hunting becouse of. Can’t legaly hut ferral hogs do to laws, yet. Turkey season coming up. But I agree if we can harvest it share it. Right now fishing is good, tree rat, sorry I meen squirrel is allowed and mabey some other stuff like groundhog or other but havent looked at this years rulebook and whats allowed. It seems to constantly change.

    • shoot possums you need fur harvester license. I think there something like forty thousand dollar’s

    • Damn haven’t had ground hog since the 70’s. Throw in some potatoes, onions, carrots and turnips. Long slow roast makes some damn fine eat’in. Grew up eat’in off the land and raising most everything else. Those were some fine times. Kinda miss’em.

      • Either mom fckd it up or it wasn’t no good to start with, coon pot pie was a one time deal. Beaver ( the dam building kind) is one of my favorites

  16. I’ve given away every deer I’ve harvested for the last 5yrs to Hunters For The Hungry.

      • I like it just fine. Wife wont eat it, yet. Not worth the hell and heartache and cooking 2 different meals. Cant afford a divorce. Cheaper to keep her and give the meat to folks who really appreciate it.

  17. Just wondering, where could I go to learn how to properly dress my harvest? That is what it is called, yes? Basically, i want to be able to cut up the animal, on site, package the cuts of meat and properly dispose of the parts that are not edible.

    I have not gone hunting before, i might want to do it in the near future but outside of California. The rules here are just so restrictive. I’m thinking hunt out of state, FedEx the meat back to California. I know there are regulations about meat passing through borders etc. but that I could easily Google.

  18. If that was from my freezer… That goes to the dinner plates of my family. I don’t need people at my door taking advantage of me and taking food away from my family.

  19. Well I thought about getting a salt lick a few weeks ago it might be a nice back up encase the freezer starts looking bare. I shared some sausage we got from a pig we bought off my in laws.

  20. If you give them give from the heart. You give and expect nothing.
    I can see both sides of the coin on viewpoints.
    I’m going to pass. This wasn’t a fast moving event. I had a family meeting months ago before anything left China over it. There was more than ample time to prepare.
    Speaking of preparedness they all look at me like the crazy uncle no one wants to talk to at thanksgiving when you mention buying extra and storing water or getting a case of ammo on sale cause they are too busy going to Disney, the lake, loading the skido, ATV and the light bar on the truck that’s never left the pavement once.
    Not one neighbor has checked in me, offered me anything and only one responded likewise when I checked on them. But it was an okie dokie because I did it and he felt it necessary.
    Every year people hit me up about deer meat. It was 20 and sleeting the first morning we got one. I hunt an area where no motor vehicles are allowed so you pack it out yourself and the other was a mile in. There aren’t any feeders, bait or even crops in that area. It’s real hunting. Not one of them took the invite to come hike the canyons with me. Yeah they want the meat with no work. Most are still in their beds when I take the third.
    Social distancing and stay at home? Nah my neighbor bought a new truck yesterday at the dealership.
    Yeah they want my meat, ammo, gas can, to group up for protection and all that now but they can have my middle finger.
    I’m welding hedgehogs for the likes of them so no they aint getting my deer meat.

  21. Best (and Worst) game meats I’ve had:

    Black Bear: bear was some great eating. Couldn’t tell you what cut it was, just that it had been simmered for hours like a pot roast. Would eat it again and again.

    Spit-roasted wild boar: The only thing better than the stewed bear meat. Best pulled pork I’ve ever had.

    Ram: Pass. Too mutton-y for me.

    Venison (deer): Great to meh, depending on cut/preparation.

    Elk: Had elk backstraps once. Even better than deer, IMHO.

    Mountain goat: Great flavor, but really tough and chewy the time I had it. Probably would have been better stewed than grilled.

    Alligator tail: Good. Not all that, but good.

    Would like to try: Nutria, rattlesnake, moose, Canada geese (I hate those things, and will eat them out of spite).

    No interest in trying: Possum (possums keep tick populations down, and I hate ticks more than any other critter on this planet, even Canada geese), and any sort of big cat.

  22. Oh for the record I did give 30 some pounds of deer meat to a family in need at my buddies church, but that was in Nov. Also I gladly take one for anyone who asks , so ask me before the season , I’ll bring you a whole deer .

  23. There’s plenty of food around in most places. Besides grocery stores, farmers, ranchers, and commercial distributors are being hit by restaurants shutting down and going to take-out only. Cafeterias and lunch rooms are closed. They need somewhere to sell their inventory. Check Craigslist for bison, beef, chicken, eggs, etc. The guys with booths in farmer’s markets still have fare to sell.

  24. I remember when actor Kurt Russell tried to organize a Hunt for the Hungry in southern california many years ago. The left shut it down. In fact the protest against him became quite violent.
    The Liberals should know that Adolf Hitler was also an animal lover and vegetarian. And he was also an anti hunter. He spoke out against it to his general staff who hunted.

  25. The feral hog population, which has been considered an agricultural plague in many States: may well end upmbeing a protein life line for many. Hunters can develope a need based neighborhood contact line or coordinate needs via Church or neighborhood orgs (maybe food banks). This can eliminate freezer storage requirements and put food on the table that day. Hunt what can be used, invasive hogs may become a critical resource. You folks are inventive and have initiative: make it work!

  26. People eat all sorts of animals bought in grocery and meat markets, b
    ut become nearly comatose when you tell them about eating a squirrel or rabbit. If they saw my mom, back in the day prepare a chicken from scratch, they would pass by every KFC on the road. As long as people continue to eat meat, then they cannot look down their sophisticated noses at any hunter.

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