I wish I had a penny for every time I’ve heard someone say, “I’m a meat hunter!” I’d have a lot of pennies, probably enough to buy one of those fancy, disgusting coffees at Starbucks. The other statement I love is, “You can’t eat the horns!” That’s a true classic.
This rhetoric typically appears whenever one hunter makes a comment towards another hunter for shooting what they have deemed to be a small deer. Or, it will show up on forums and Facebook pages when talk of imposing antler restrictions is mentioned. Either way, it exposes an unfortunate divide that exists among hunters today.
During different times of the year I would call myself a meat hunter. During archery seasons I am more than happy to fill a tag in order to put some meat in the freezer. During rifle season (in Vermont) I’d like to think I am more of a big buck hunter but that rarely works out. So yeah, I’d call myself a meat hunter from time to time. But don’t get me wrong, I’d much rather shoot a big buck than a small one any day!
It takes three seconds or less for someone to respond by reminding meat hunters that it’s cheaper to go to the store to buy meat. I can’t disagree with that, the math is hard to deny. Unless you’ve been taught Common Core math techniques, that is. All you would have to do then is provide a reasonable explanation for why it’s cheaper to hunt than go to the grocery store and it would be acceptable. (A+ Kid! You have a bright future!) But for those of us taught the old school methods, you’d be hard pressed to find a hunter that could say he or she filled the freezer by hunting for less money than it would have cost to purchase meat at the closest grocery store.
That’s not to say it can’t be done! Last year I took a youth hunter out and he filled his tag on a nice 100 pound doe. He borrowed a gun and bullets (only needed one bullet), didn’t purchase any special hunting clothes, and hitched a ride to and from the hunting location. By 8 a.m. we were back at the truck with the doe loaded up. Since we cut it up together, for only the cost of some freezer paper and his hunting license he was able to put 30-40 pounds of meat in the freezer. Not bad!
I admit, stories like that are more the exception than the rule, but I’m sure some hunters can still pull that off. There are those that haven’t purchased anything for years and hunt right out their back door. So it would be ludicrous to claim that there aren’t a few hunters who truly can hunt for meat cheaper than they can buy it at the store.
Not me, though. Like many others, hunting for me is a hobby more than anything. I don’t NEED the meat, I just like it. Like any hobby, that means I spend money on it. Some of the money spent is out of necessity, such as replacing a worn out pair of boots, but some of the money is spent on products intended to make me more successful or the hunt more enjoyable. Do I need a treestand and harness to hunt deer? No, but it does help. How about a trail camera or two? Are those needed? No, but they sure make it more fun.
So does spending money on these products disqualify me from being a meat hunter at times simply because it turns the financial equation upside down? No, it doesn’t.
Too many people focus on the money spent on the meat than the value added to it. I could go to the store and buy a tasty one pound hunk of meat for ten dollars, and if I were to ruin it in the course of preparing it I’d be bummed. But honestly, other than the ten dollars spent on it I’d have nothing else invested. Venison, on the other hand, is much more valuable to me, not only because I have spent money on the hobby of hunting for it, but because I have spent months practicing with my bow for the moment of truth. I’ve read countless articles on how to become a better hunter. I’ve studied my own notes and tried to learn from past mistakes. And then, when I finally have one on the ground, I work tirelessly to get it out of the woods and take special care of the meat in the process. I’ve run my fingers over every muscle fiber while removing the skin and personally carved every piece of meat off the bone. I’ve sliced the rough cuts of meats into steaks, stew meat, burger, jerky slices, and tasty looking roasts. Each package of meat placed in the freezer has already been seasoned with hard work and personal accomplishment. Cooking it only brings out the flavor of it all.
If it’s cool when your favorite hunting celebrity shoots a deer for the meat, then it ought to be cool if your neighbor does, too. So the next time you hear someone say they are a meat hunter, stop for a moment and consider that perhaps they simply like the meat and that they are not claiming to do it to save money. Perhaps they value the meat more than the money it takes to put it in the freezer.
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