Thursday, January 3, 2008

Hunting 101: Learn to Appreciate the Meaning Behind the Kill

I grew up in a family of outdoorsman that live for hunting -- whether its bow or rifle season or a perfect summer morning fit for bass fishing.

For the longest time, I never understood the principle behind it all. As a pro-animal rights lover, I always thought, "Why hurt Bambi and his cute family?"

Through the years, I've watched my dad and brothers pack up their camo and bright orange garb, freeze dried food and tents as they gear up to head north to the wilderness for one of their annual hunting trips during deer season.

"Why do you look forward to these trips so much?" I always used to think. "To go freeze in the cold, not shower for days on end and experience the 1800's by surviving without plumbing? No thanks. Not for me."

Regardless, they would always return from those trips with beards on their faces, stories to tell and bonds in their hearts -- whether there was a deer in tow or not. There was something about the nature in those woods that brought a peace to them that a suburban lifestyle just couldn’t bring.

As a young girl, I was absolutely mortified whenever my friends would come over and would see a dead deer being gutted in my garage. Oh, the nightmares that must have caused! However, looking back, I am grateful to have been exposed to the entire hunting process and through my observations (even the gruesome ones), I've begun to understand what draws people into the "sport."

I've learned hunting is all in what pair of eyes you choose to look at it with. Many people will be blind to the concept and will never give up their opposition to killing Bambi, or using guns at all, while others may choose to open their eyes and realize that destroying a deer’s reproductive abilities or relying soley on our cars for population control is really no less wasteful than just tossing fresh produce into a landfill (especially since the deer's meat will no longer be of use).

According to research, deer cause $250 million in landscaping damage and deer-related collisions injure 29,000 people and kill 1.5 million deer each year.

Nonetheless, deer should not be looked at as God's curse to man. They really are beautiful creatures that I believe have been put on this earth for many reasons -- one of them being food.

Speaking of deer as a source of food, right in line with the trend of low fat, natural and organic food -- venison tops the list in my mind as far as meat goes. It would be a great benefit to hunters everywhere if we were to simply re-label "deer meat" as free-range, grass-fed, organic, locally produced and harvested, sustainable, low-impact, humanely slaughtered meat. That way, perhaps people would continue to take their blinders off.

My inspiration for writing this entry came to me today when I came across an enlightening column, by one of my favorite local journalists --John Schneider of the Lansing State Journal. The story he uncovered focuses on a group who hunters who assist with local hunger issues... one more way to understand the "thrill of the hunt," all the while providing hungry and needy people with healthy sustenance.

Schneider: Sportsman aims to bring in more game for charity in '08

WILLIAMSTON, MI - There's no telling how many car wrecks it prevented, but there's no doubt the local Sportsmen Against Hunger campaign fed a lot of people.

The last of the various deer seasons - late archery and doe hunting on private land - ended Tuesday, and the numbers are in: Local hunters produced about 10,000 venison meals for the needy in this area.

That's a big leap from last year, when Thomas Cullimore of Williamston, the force behind the effort, delivered the meat from five deer - three of which he killed himself - plus half a moose to the Williamston Area Food Bank.

"I can't believe it," said the retired Cullimore, who, since early November, has logged countless hours on the meat wagon, schlepping carcasses donated by hunters to the processor, then retrieving boxes of 100-percent pure ground venison and delivering it to people who feed the local hungry.

And what did Cullimore get out of it?
One-hundred percent pure happiness.

"The joy I get out of doing this ...," he said. "I'm hooked."

Close to home Cullimore, a one-man distribution system, dispensed the venison burger - ideally suited to dishes like chili, spaghetti sauce and sloppy joes - to the Williamston and Haslett food banks, the Salvation Army, and St. Vincent DePaul.

He got a chance to talk to some of the folks who ate it, and the reviews were all positive.

Here's how Cullimore came up with the 10,000-meals figure: The average
deer, he found, yields 35 pounds of boneless venison - 140 quarter-pound meals.

Hunters donated 63 deer, which adds up to 8,820 servings. A 250-pound elk padded the yield.

Safari Club International, which sponsors similar programs in other areas, paid all the processing fees. Cullimore is a member of the board of Safari Club's Lansing chapter.

Cullimore, an avid hunter himself, lives on a 77-acre farm. Although his meat-distribution duties cut into his hunting time, he still managed this year to kill four deer, three of which he donated.

By the way, it's a sign of the time in Michigan that 10,000 donated venison meals weren't enough. "I was getting requests from other kitchens," Cullimore said.

Now, he's REALLY inspired. His goal for 2008: 200 deer. That adds up to ... lets' see ... about 28,000 healthy meals.

My moral from reading this article: Maybe I don't understand all aspects of hunting entirely, but I do respect my family members and I do understand and have a passion for quality food. In the future, if I ever go hungry, I know my family would be there for me and I wouldn't turn my nose up to any food -- even if it ends up being Bambi's daddy.

No comments: