“All great change in America begins at the dinner table,” noted President Reagan in his 1989 farewell address to the nation. I hope the coronavirus quarantine of 2020 brought your family together around the dining table more than ever before. If so, great ideas were likely exchanged, some leading to change, big or small, in your family circle and beyond. After the threat passes, make an effort to continue this dining tradition. Use your hunting heritage to make wild game entrees the focal point of the meal.
Any hunter’s house likely contains a few deer mounts, antlers, a mounted pheasant or duck and maybe a tanned hide from a bucket-list elk hunt. But besides these trophies, never forget the meat bounty of your hunt is the one thing you can use to complete your hunt. It’s an avenue to connect with family and friends and the community at large. So it’s important to explain this aspect of the hunt to any new hunter.
Family Bond Family bond is critically important, as we’ve discovered during the recent crisis. This bonding connection dates to prehistory and beyond. Although the dining table replaced a firepit, meat has been a constant in this family bond and clan kinship. The archeological record points out this clearly with bone remnants unearthed around centuries-old firepits. In the university textbook Humankind Emerging, Bernard G. Campbell documents that early humans gathered around the campfire, and meat was central to the event.
“Once Homo erectus discovered the art of cooking, they seemed to have cooked much of what they caught. The Choukoutien cave floor was littered with charred bones of sheep, large horses, pig, buffalo, and especially deer.”
You must admire their taste for venison. Cooking meat over a fire brought many evolutionary advancements beyond an exchange of ideas at the table. It is, without question, a significant element of human connection.
Hunting was a vital element of that connection that included associates who undertook a variety of nutritional duties during long treks across landscapes. At the end of a migration centuries ago, a meal of meat around a fire was as comforting as a meal of wild turkey around your dining room table today. Communication barriers may have limited conversation around a cave fire, but you can bet there were smiles of satisfaction when a leg of impala was sizzling on a spit.
Nature’s Health Food Venison, quail, wild turkey and even feral hogs are a healthier choice than their domesticated brethren. As Americans, we’re grateful to agricultural producers for a seemingly unlimited supply of beef cattle, farm turkeys, chickens and hogs. These massive reserves of protein feed us all. They supply us with healthy protein. But few farmed species can offer the leanness and free-grazing, chemical-free quality of wild game. Early humans were oblivious to saturated fat, but the accidental discovery of cooking is linked to the rise of modern humans, according to Campbell.
“Roast meat not only was more appetizing and tender, it gave Homo erectus a benefit they did not know about—it killed parasites and offered increased food value, for heat breaks down some of the chemical compounds of tough meat and releases nutritious juices. Cooking also tenderizes food and may have brought about the reduction in molar size that was to characterize the evolution of Homo sapiens.”
Wild game is literally loaded with conclusive reasons to rally around the dining table. An illustrated article at the website goodgamehunting.com, “27 Benefits of Harvesting and Eating Wild Venison: A Look at Venison vs. Beef,” lays it out clearly. For starters, venison has 50 percent less fat than beef with virtually no carbohydrates. It’s high in protein and ultra lean, making it a great alternative to lean proteins you may tire of like fish or chicken. Plus, it has less cholesterol than farm-raised chicken or turkey. And you get this leaner version with up to 7 percent fewer calories than beef. Venison is rich in iron, and may make up to 50 percent of your daily requirement. Iron increases energy, thwarts anemia and is a needed boost for pregnant women. It’s loaded with a variety of vitamin B including B2 and B3 to aid in metabolism regulation. It also provides a needed boost of B6 and B12, which research has shown reduces heart attacks and stroke. It contains no added chemicals either, such as growth hormones, steroids and antibiotics.
Of course many attributes that make venison so healthy also are found in wild fowl, small game and other species hunted throughout the year.
Share the Bounty Meat, as priced per pound, is typically the most expensive component of a meal. Visit any food bank and they will explain why meat donations continue to be near the top of the list of needed items. Sharing any extra wild game you acquire is yet another way to complete the hunt.
The survival of early humans depended on sharing amongst a family that hunted, gathered, guarded and searched for shelter in amazingly strong, cohesive groups. With many game populations at record or increasing levels and high bag limits, you have ample opportunity to share your bounty.
White-tailed deer, elk and wild turkey are just three of a catalog of species thriving under modern wildlife management. Most states offer additional tags for antlerless harvest to help manage growing ungulate populations. Bag limits have been increased for other species such as sometimes troublesome resident Canada geese and the huge population of snow geese.
Venison is oftentimes accepted at food banks if processed by a professional. If you don’t have an extra Franklin sitting around to pay for processing, check with your state wildlife agency as many agencies now provide ways to donate venison and wild game to those in need. Organizations, such as Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry have created pathways for your game to reach those in need. Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry states it very clearly: One deer can feed up to 200 individuals. If you can’t locate a donation program, a simple listing on a community-wide Facebook page to inquire if anyone is looking for venison is typically met with multiple affirmative responses. Mention your interest in sharing your wild game at work and it’s highly likely some will take your offer out of an interest in trying wild game. Some may even need it to help boost protein levels in family meals.
Sharing your success and seeing its effect is as rewarding as watching your own family rally around the dining room table to enjoy wild game from nature’s pantry. A trophy memory should be cherished, but it’s meat that completes a hunt.
Fish & Game Info For links to state game agency programs, click here.