Michael Cravens - July 23, 2020
Why Wild Game
Catch and release fly fishing is one of the summer activities I'm fondest of. My family has been fortunate enough to go on several camping trips recently and shaded, shimmering rainbow trout have been a highlight of our warm mornings spent outdoors together. Like most folks these days, I've been spending extra time in the field and less time in the hot, midsummer kitchen. Since July is best spent in the water and not in front of an oven, I wanted to take a moment to expand upon the reasons why wild game is a part of my life.
I take a great deal of pride in the fact that, beyond a few chickens, my family and I subsist on primarily wild game meat year round. Wild meat that has zero environmental impact. In fact, when taking into account the system of wildlife conservation that hunting contributes to, it equates to a solid environmental positive. People conserve what they care about; they care about what they have a tangible connection to. There is no better example of this than wildlife and wild places in North America. In the past century, we have brought back wildlife from the brink of extinction. Hunters have played a leading role in wildlife management in the past and still do today.
Another reason wild game holds such a prominent and revered position on our table has to do with health. I have two small children and their nutrition is very important to me. I know that I’m raising them on the highest protein, lowest fat, and most nutrient dense meat available. In a time when commercial production of foods incorporates a wide range of steroids, antibiotics, and hormones, it brings me great peace of mind to know that my family is getting the best and cleanest protein available.
It might be difficult for some to understand, but most hunters care deeply about wildlife and go to great lengths to harvest animals in the quickest and most ethical means possible minimizing suffering wherever they can. These are animals that live free and healthy lives. This is in direct contrast to large scale animal agriculture. The atrocities that occur in these settings are an essay on their own and are beyond the scope of this article. With that said, the treatment of animals in these settings is something I’ve struggled coming to terms with my entire life and it feels great to know that by hunting for my family’s meat I’m not contributing to it.
Although I’ve already mentioned the main reasons why I’m a hunter (the environment, health, and ethics) that are truly important to me, there is one more reason that wild game plays such an important role in my life. It’s something that is difficult for me to put into words. I believe it has to do with something deep inside us. That same something that drives us to problem solve, to throw a rock that we’ve picked up off the ground, that same something that drove our evolution to our current human form. Hunting is an undeniable part of the human experience. All of us come from a long line of hunters going back more than 200,000 years. This is not something that can simply be erased in a few hundred years of living in a “modern” society.
I have spent a lifetime roaming hills, rivers, plains, and mountains happily fulfilling this important part of my humanness. I’ve done this in a variety of ways. I’ve chased birds with binoculars to check off a life list, I’ve hunted all sorts of wildlife with only a camera, and finally I’ve pursued game with a rifle to bring home meat for the table. While all these outdoor endeavors are worthy pursuits and bring me great peace of mind, it’s the last one that truly connects me to the natural world and fulfills that part of me that truly makes me human.