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Hunting for food is the new old thing

With a long-overdue return to caring about sustainably sourced, local, authentic food, hunting is becoming cool again. A new book, The Beginner's Guide to Hunting Deer for Food by Jackson Landers, breaks it down.

My husband is a hunter, as was his father and grandfather and on before that. When we met in college, he was the first person my age I’d ever met who actually shot live animals. I honestly didn’t know what to make of it. It seemed so violent, so unnecessary. Why kill something when you could just go to the store and pick up a Styrofoam-backed slab of beef or chicken legs?

But soon after we started dating, I went with him and his brothers and dad on a snowy, below-zero winter day and saw for myself the process of hunting for food (in this case, ducks and geese). I came to understand the integrity behind hunting for food: knowing exactly where the meat came from, how the animal lived and died, and a respect, even reverence, for life and the environment that you simply don’t get from a shrink-wrapped package.

The Beginner's Guied to Hunting Deer For FoodOver the years, my husband has mostly kept his passion for hunting quiet because most people’s responses ranged from disgust to anger. (I remember one of my relations turning green at the very thought of it—though this same relation happily eats sausage.) Many people (and the media) consider hunters to be rednecks or bloodthirsty animal-haters. And yet, humans have killed their own meat for nearly the entire history of humankind, up until very recently, when concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) replaced the historical predatory relationship, for both humans and animals. So it’s fascinating, and, I must say, heartening to me to witness the slow but steady shift in attitude towards hunting.

For a couple of years now, I’ve heard about hunters who take people out for hunting tutorials. And this week a new book came across my desk: The Beginner’s Guide to Hunting Deer For Food  (Storey 2011), by Jackson Landers, "The Locavore Hunter." Raised in a vegetarian household, Landers' "desire to avoid factory-farmed meat led him to take up hunting as an adult," according to the book blurb. He now teaches classes and workshops on locavore hunting and home butchering (a la Mark Zuckerberg). He’s jumping on the locavore bandwagon from a carnivore perspective: hunted meat is naturally lean, naturally organic, and as local and free range as it gets, as well as ethically "the next best thing to being a vegetarian."

The book covers all the basics of subsistence hunting: taking a hunters' safety course (required in most states to get a license), choosing a weapon, shot placement, butchering, and cooking—even a lot of info on deer habits and anatomy. It looks like an excellent, basic resource for someone who wants to take up hunting to help feed their family (though I think I’d still recommend shadowing a hunter once or twice just to be extra safe).

With a long-overdue return to caring about sustainably sourced, local, authentic food—in no small part due to the exposed horrors of factory farming and agribusiness, which in my opinion we have to thank for the increasing incidence of deadly food-borne illnesses—hunting, like vegetable gardening, is becoming cool again. 

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