Monday, November 29, 2010

Harvesting Venison

From the time I was 12 years old, I've been a hunter. My dad took me every year as a kid and then as an adult I also hunted with my husband's family. It's just kinda what you did. Living in rural PA, the first day of buck season is like a holiday...no school, many folks don't have to work, the lines of cars traveling to even more rural areas is almost like a parade with folks dressed in camo and florescent orange, with racks on their cars to carry home the harvest. Camps all over the mountain for such a time as this. Apparently it's not like this in other places because folks new to the area just stand back in awe as we transform into our hunting mentality with all the excitement of the beginning of baseball season in the spring. It's a serious business.
Proper training is a must and all license holders must first graduate from a hunter's safety program where they learn about hunting and most importantly, how to safely handle a firearm. I know this gives people the creeps and accidents do happen. Still, if kids are not taught the proper way to safely handle a gun, their curiosity will often be the reason for shooting accidents in the home and field. And as far as crime goes, if a person wants to commit a crime with a gun, chances are good that the gun will be stolen and used whether safe training has occurred or not. Now, this isn't my platform about whether guns and gun ownership are proportionate to crime rates so I'll just stop here.

As part of a sustainable life style, hunting and fishing can provide lean, grass fed (or stream fed) meat for the family nearly year round.  I'll admit that while we've never hunted merely for sport and always consumed what we've harvested, I didn't really look at it as sustainability until the last 12-15 years.  My daughter was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome at the age of  8.  After much testing the doctor asked us about her diet and mentioned that one thing we could do to help her would be to use only lean venison and fresh trout.  My husband and I looked at each other and laughed.  We explained that she was certainly in the right family for that because we hunt and fish and so does our extended family.  But we didn't do it to provide meat outside the occasional venison meal or once or twice a year, trout.  Of course my husband was thrilled!  A documented reason to hunt and fish more!!!  One that I couldn't argue with!  Well, that's OK.  We found that through adding freshly harvested meat and fish to our diet on a regular basis and drinking raw milk (not at the recommendation of the doctor, but that's a different story!) made a huge difference in her health.

As a young homeschooler, she was fascinated with the whole dressing process which afforded us many opportunities to study anatomy up close!  It was a very rewarding science lab and we used the chance to teach the kids a lot about a good many things.  When she reached 11 years of age, she wanted to hunt too, so we enrolled her in a hunter's safety course and since she had grown up around most of this stuff and learned a respect for firearms at a very early age, she passed the test easily and got her first license at age 12.  Unfortunately, that wasn't the case with all of her classmates.  She turned out to be a really good shot and harvested deer almost every year.  She's in college now and listened a bit wistfully as we planned for today's hunt. 

Now, it's little sister's turn.  She's been hunting since age 11 when they changed the age if properly mentored.  It will be just the two of us today.  She's nearly 15 now and still looks forward to the anatomy lesson.  We've dissected eyeballs and examined body parts and of course the needed lesson on hydrochloric acid by having the junior hunter puncture the stomach.  A lesson they'll never forget and a mistake they won't make again if they can help it.  My husband is out hunting with all the guys in the family; uncles who've come home for this big event from Florida and Montana.  As they get older, he's taken on the torch of being a bit of a host hunter who drives, etc for them since his dad is getting older too and experiencing some health issues.  Unfortunately, we don't get out as often as we'd like and as we get older, there are more demands on our time that take the place of hunting and fishing.  But today, we'll participate in the annual ritual once more.

All in all, the hunting experience has been a time to spend together as a family; learning from the wisdom of older generations; listening to the many tales of hunts past.  Memories to last a lifetime. 

As I look at the clock, I see that it's time for us to head out into the woods so here's praying for a safe hunt and a bountiful harvest.

2 comments:

  1. What a wonderful family tradition! We have a nice woodlot here where we can hunt for deer and other smaller game, but so far have had little success, due to lack of experience. Are you looking to adopt? ;)

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  2. Haha! Do you have anyone who can mentor your family? There are often folks who would love to take an inexperienced hunter under their wing. I'm assuming you are familiar with gun safety.
    Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful this year. I was hoping to can some of the meat this year. Regular rifle season ended Saturday but there's still muzzeloader season after the holidays.
    Always hopeful!

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