November 19, 2011
Diary of a Homesteader
Thanksgiving conjures up thoughts of warm houses, pumpkin pie, and roast turkey on a table filled with family. But it also brings another thing to mind. A past-time ever older than the Pilgrims who held the first rendition of this holiday: hunting. Some might romanticize the Native American hunt and its ties to life and land, but hunting in our era is no less romantic. As soon as your sitting in the woods in the cold, surrounded by the elements, nature has control. You can't stop the wind from carrying your scent or make the deer run into your clearing, you just have to wait and watch while everything runs its course around you. Squirrels make a whole lot of noise and are rather careless about being heard while they hunt for their own winter food supply. Birds peck at seeds in the trees above. Geese move from field to cut corn field, flying in their classic 'V' formation overheard. And moving too much willed have the crows gossiping all over the woods about who's sitting under that tree down by the gully. You become a rather small part of the whole.
Though it was only recently that I decided to acquire my hunting license, I have enjoyed the bounty it brings whenever my husband gets a deer. It is not my intention to gross-out anyone who hates the idea of killing an animal or to enrage those who do not eat meat. Each gets to make their own choice and I hunt happily knowing that deer have lived quite free and exciting lives. They've fattened up on corn and soy beans (and lots of Ted's lettuce) then roamed through forest and field making sure they cross every road along the way, stopping in the middle to say hello whenever you are driving.
Deer can populate the countryside with as few as 5 to as many as 100 deer per square mile. Only 10-15% die due to hunting. See, nature has set up a way of balancing wildlife populations on its own through the harsh Northeast winters. Only a small portion of deer will have enough to eat over the winter months (creating a population threshold) and so a hunting season is offered just before the worst of the weather. In a sense, the meat that would go to waste is getting a chance to feed people. Most of the deer my husband and I have tucked into the freezer give us 75-100lbs of meat. It comes out to less than $1 per pound because we had to buy the liscence. Fortunately, for the weak of stomach, there are taxidermists who can cut and package the meat for you. And as for the often criticized taste of game meat, I promise that if you ate chili or tacos or stew at my house without knowing my deer hunting secret, you'd never know the difference.