Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
4 Feb

Real Primal: Hunting for Dinner

2005BowbullFrom a reader email:

Mark,

Let me say that I thoroughly enjoy your web site and have been digging in to it since I discovered there are people and indeed a whole movement doing what I have believed in for quite a while.  I never knew I had such an untapped support group!  My search and practices started years ago after reading Paul Shepard’s “Coming Home to the Pleistocene” and of course Cordains “The Paleo Diet”.

My “beef” is this though-  I have seen on several sites, like yours, questions concerning cheap but good animal protein and how to obtain the best for your dollar; grass versus organic; free range versus yada yada yada…..

How about getting out and killing your own food?  That seems pretty Paleo to me….so that’s what we do in this family.  I’m not talking about the high tech, redneck, trophy hunter syndrome.  I’m talking about subsistence hunting- spiritual hunting.  Taking responsibility for ones hungry place in the natural world and reconnect..

Now we aren’t backwoods bumpkins, or survivalists fringe folks.  And I certainly don’t get all my meat from hunting- but for a family of three, we do supply ourselves with over 50% of our animal protein.  Whitetail deer populations continue to explode in this country and that is a great meat source- and contrary to some news reports- A LOT SAFER THAN COMMERCIAL MEAT. We usually will harvest 3 to 4 deer per year, which yields about 120 to 160 pounds of lean organic venison cuts.

It is a new skill and paradigm to a lot of your readers- but one that may come in handy in years to come.  It is not for everyone- but is certainly true to the Paleo lifestyle.  And being in the woods the past 18 years hunting every fall – (I bow hunt- less people, more solitude) is as spiritual and connecting a pastime as I have ever found.  There is reverence for my prey and the experience of not just looking at nature from a tour bus window, but being an active player in the circle of life.  Not to mention great Paleo exercise…..

In just about every state there are public lands, and timber company lands to hunt.  Resident state licenses and safety courses are cheap and available.

I know a lot of people will not be able to bring themselves to kill or have the time to take to the woods-but some do and would.  Death is a part of life- and no one survives without something else perishing- even the total Vegans are not immune.

We regularly hunt, process and freeze deer, wild turkey, rabbit, squirrel, a few ducks, and an occasional grouse here in Virginia.  So when you talk about our primitive ancestors and what meats may be similar for your readers, don’t leave out the option of getting out there and getting really primal and hunting.

Yours in great Paleo health,

Oh – the elk in the attached photo provided over 325 pounds of incredible protein for my wife, son and I….and I hiked more than 80 miles over 6 days at 9,000 feet in the Colorado mountains (on public land) to harvest him. For Colorado residents -elk are abundant.

Chuck Neely

______________________________________________________________

Thanks, Chuck, for the email. You make a great case for hunting, especially to those of us on the Primal Blueprint. You also gave me a great idea for today’s post.

I’ll admit – I’m no hunter. I don’t own a gun or a bow and arrow. I buy my (admittedly local, organic, and sustainable) meat. But the question Chuck poses is a fascinating one. Truly, what’s more Primal, more Grok-like, than stalking a wild animal for its meat? Poised over your prey, heart pounding, waiting for the perfect time to strike… the very idea feels raw, visceral, and utterly Primal. Pure. Man versus animal. Wit against brawn.

Now, I’ve done plenty of fishing. Spear-fishing, freshwater trout, dock fishing – pretty much whatever was available growing up in Maine. But spearing a fish isn’t quite the same as looking a warm-blooded mammal in the eyes and taking its life. That’s something you can’t ignore. If we’re pledging to live as Primally as possible, though, maybe it’s something we ought to try.

What do you think, readers? Ever considered going truly Primal and hunting your own meals?

It may not be feasible or even legal for some of our readers to hunt for their food. For one, if you’re going to hunt on a regular basis, it helps to live near actual wildlife (trees, too – they help). And it’s not the 19th century anymore; conservation laws prevent people from just going out and shooting any animal they can. There are limits. Hunting is now mostly limited to specific wildlife management areas, both federal and state-run, and you’ll need a permit and a license for most game. (Although vermin, or pests, can be hunted by anyone at any time without a permit or license. Wild rabbits and red squirrels are often classified as pests, but certain states have different classifications, so make sure before you start picking off bunnies.)

The Legal Stuff

Before you start hunting, you’ll need a state-issued hunting license. Most states divide licenses into several categories, each corresponding to a category of wildlife. License categories might look something like this:

Big Game: including white tailed deer, mule deer, moose, elk, reindeer, bear, boar
Small Game: including hare, raccoon, opossum, rabbit, squirrel
Furbearers: beaver, red fox, mink, musk rat, bobcat
Predators: cougar, coyote
Upland game bird: grouse, turkey, pheasant, quail, dove
Waterfowl: duck, goose

Some states allow online licensing; others require prospective hunters to go to a physical location. The laws vary wildly, but this page with links to every state wildlife office will clear things up and get you started.

Most big game requires a “tag” for each animal harvested. Buying a tag allows you to hunt a single animal, and it fosters conservation and quotas. For smaller animals, there is typically a “bag limit.” A bag limit represents the maximum number of a particular species that can be in a hunter’s possession at any one time. Ducks, for example, might have a daily bag limit of six, meaning you could hunt and carry six ducks per day.

Where?

This map shows all the federal preserves open to hunting. Far more numerous are the state-run ranges. Again, check out the various state wildlife office links for more information.

What?

The most commonly hunted – and prolific – game is the deer. East of the Rockies, the white-tailed deer reins supreme; to the west, the larger mule deer can be found. Large, lean, and meaty, deer venison is a great source of protein. Its incredibly low fat content makes it easy to overcook, and some people even blend it with bacon fat to make deer burgers. The leanness makes it ideal for jerky (if you ever get your hands on some wild venison, try our jerky recipe).

The recent scare surrounding contaminated deer meat can probably be ignored. There’s no evidence that chronic wasting disease (similar to mad cow disease) can be transmitted to humans, and the few cases that did pop up originated in farmed deer. If you’re going Primal and hunting your own, you can rest assured your meat will be far safer than any farmed meat.

Moose, elk, wild turkey, duck, and rabbit are also popular animals hunted for their meat. Different areas are better for different animals, and most animals have specific hunting seasons, so check with your local wildlife office for further details.

Why Not?

Fresh, wild, organic meat by the pound? Four days in deep, desolate wilderness without bleeping car horns or smog or cell phones? A potential life and death struggle with your future meal? Plenty of vitamin D and Primal exercise?

Sounds somehow exciting and relaxing at once. Count me in!

Still…

There’s a lot to think about when considering hunting. Practical concerns (Do you have it in you to make the kill?). Cost-benefit analyses (is it cheaper to just buy local, organic meat from the specialty grocer or just go cowpooling?). You’d need a weapon, probably a gun, unless you practice your archery skills (and with a gun comes great responsibility – do you want to bear that?). If you’re successful, you’re going to have a lot of meat on your hands (Do you have freezer/storage space? Are you prepared to butcher an entire animal?).

Intellectually, I know that the truly ethical act would be to hunt, to kill my own food. As Chuck said in his email, it’s important to make sure you’re “not just looking at nature from a tour bus window, but being an active player in the circle of life.” I worry that too often we’re so far removed from the act of killing, of harvesting an animal for sustenance, that we miss something in the process. Whether we order an entire side of grass-fed beef from the local farmer, or pick up a package of flank steaks from the grocery store, we are totally removed from the fact that a life was extinguished to support ours. Now, I obviously have no misconceptions about where my meat comes from. I know animals die to feed us. That’s how life works and I’m okay with it.

So why haven’t I been hunting (not counting fishing, of course)?

I guess it’s the fact that, despite the Primal Blueprint and Grok and everything else, I’m still a modern guy living in a modern world surrounded by convenience and creature comforts. As much as we model our lifestyle on Primal man, are we really just watching “from a tour bus window”?

That’s a tough one. I’m not sure I have a good answer for that. But maybe being intimately involved in the entire process of hunting and harvesting our meals would make all subsequent meals even more satisfying. And the act of hunting – at least how Chuck describes it, stalking an elk for 80 miles over the span of several days – is the perfect Primal exercise (low intensity, constant movement, punctuated by bursts of energy). We talk a lot about mimicking Grok by running sprints and lifting heavy weights, but stalking an animal through the wilderness for days on end is exactly what Grok would have done (knowing myself, though, I’d probably do pull-ups on branches for extra work as I went along). It’s the real deal. You can’t get much more Primal than that.

I’m definitely intrigued. Maybe I’ll give hunting a shot (no pun intended) and step down from the tour bus. What about you, readers? Any hunters out there?

Further Reading:

It’s Time to “Get Real”

Insects: Not Just for Breakfast Anymore

Rule #1 of The Primal Blueprint: Eat Lots of Animals and Plants

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. In our area there are many who hunt for sport but don’t want the meat….???????……I don’t understand this attitude toward killing but I sure do appreciate the donations to my deep-freeze.

    new_me wrote on February 4th, 2009
    • My wife and I are hunters. We hunt with bows, rifles , handguns and blackpowder firearms. We eat all we the game we take. We are not trophy hunters but I’ll try to explain what trophy hunters are. True trophy hunters take very little game, many eat what they kill and some just don’t enjoy the taste of game. The majority of those that don’t donate the meat to state food programs set up for that purpose or to friends and other family members. Trophy hunters will spend years hunting for a true trophy, killing nothing in the meantime. They seek the top bucks (in the case of deer), with the largest bodies, haeviest-widest antlers. To get that way a deer must be at least 5 years of age but usually even older 6 or 7. By the time a deer gets to this age they are not generally active breeders as whitetail live only to 7 or 8 and their antlers and bodies are getting smaller and more spindly.

      Dave C wrote on July 9th, 2010
    • How would you go about tracking down someone that hunts but doesn’t want the meat then?

      Joel wrote on August 31st, 2011
    • How would you go about tracking down someone that hunts but doesn’t want the meat then?

      Joel wrote on August 31st, 2011
  2. Never hunted, but used to do alot of deep sea fishing back when I was a kid. From the age of three, my dad and I would capture large game fish, and skin them to make fillet much later on in the day. Nothing quite like a fresh-caught MahiMahi or Yellowfin Tuna. The meat was so fresh and tasty that we would skin the fish, put some lemon on it and eat it raw. To this day I still love to eat my fish raw. But the best part was the struggle in reeling the catch in, it would sometimes take hours to real especially heavy fish in.
    It is certainly much more satisfying to eat the prey that you fought hard for.

    JE Gonzalez wrote on February 4th, 2009
  3. Absolutely! I’m not much of a hunter—one deer, one hog—-but there is something special about harvesting your own game. I’ll compare it with the kilts I made—I’ve got nicer kilts, made by professional kilt makers, but none of them means as much TO ME as the two kilts I’ve made for myself. (One tweed, one tartan.) When you can say, “I did this. Just me.”

    On a spiritual level, that deer, and that hog, weren’t just “meat”—somehow, they were more than that. That meat meant something. I killed living things, gutted them, butchered them, stored the meat, and then cooked and ate them.

    The only way to describe the feeling is . . . primal.

    I know that some people have ethical issues with hunting, but I look at it this way. If I knew I was going to end up on someone’s plate, and had the choice between being raised in a pen until I was slaughtered, or running around in the wild, rutting and fighting and snuffling after truffles until I was killed . . . well, I know which of the two choices I’d choose.

    I’m glad I don’t have to hunt all my own meat, the same as I am glad I don’t have to raise all my own vegetables. At the same time, I think it’s something that everyone should do at least once or twice. It connects you to the world.

    Lewis wrote on February 4th, 2009
  4. People in the UK have become sensitive to meat nowadays,it’s very rare to see actual animal carcasses hanging in the butcher shop window.But there are Television programs that try to educate the public how animals are treated and slaughtered
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmeshttp://www.channel4.com/food/on-tv/jamie-oliver/jamie-saves-our-bacon/index.html/b006ywpr

    Graeme wrote on February 4th, 2009
  5. Oh I have definitely considered it. I live in a big hunting state and i own a lot of guns. Including hunting rifles. I have no idead where to even begin when it comes to hunting though… I have yet to find someone around here that I know hunts and would want to take me and teach me. My other concern is how to clean or butcher the meat once I have the thing.. i would not know where to begin.

    The SoG

    Son of Grok wrote on February 4th, 2009
    • There are plenty of resources out there to learn this stuff, but if learning from a book or website or youtube doesn’t seem like enough, have you tried social networking to start/join a hunting club? So long as you are a good shot, the rest is just learning about the biology and behavior of your prey, which is probably deer. Ask any old man who’s been hunting for a while, he’ll have loads of information; then go out and do it.

      Jesse wrote on November 5th, 2010
      • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EEYw6qtiJZY&feature=related

        Also, butchering is easy so long as you have a garage, some sharp knives, a bone saw, and don’t want very fancy cuts. By simply quartering it into large roasts rather than worrying about steaks, you simplify the process and can deal with it later (thaw a roast and cut into steaks when you want, rather than worry about it right away).

        Jesse wrote on November 5th, 2010
    • I know this post is long past, but if you’re still looking for this sort of information, check out the Foxfire books. Also, most areas where hunting is even half-way common have specialty game processors who will butcher and wrap your meat for you. You’ll still need to know how to safely clean and skin the carcass, but they’ll do the meat cutting.

      Kate wrote on April 3rd, 2011
    • Just curious, why do you own ‘a lot of guns. Including hunting rifles’ if you don’t hunt?

      I’m not a hunter (yet) but I have butchered animals, don’t let the unknown hold you back, in many ways it is as simple as cutting an animal into pieces, it doesn’t have to be pretty or a butchers ‘cut’.

      I recently cut up a whole hogget and rather than making chops I made a long loin. It’s not economical for a butcher to sell this (as chops enable them to sell bones) but it was some of the best meat I’ve eaten – just dive in!

      Primal V wrote on May 8th, 2013
  6. Hi Mark,
    i myself make my own bows and arrows,i make the bows out of hedge wood or red oak and the arrows out of ceader.There called selfbows and i make mine just like a longbow,i just finished one made of red oak it shoots great.I kill deer,squirles,rabbit’s and quail when there on the ground no turkeys yet.It really makes me feel primal making my own bows and arrows and havesting some meat.

    Bill wrote on February 4th, 2009
  7. Spear fishing. Huh, I didn’t even know that existed. I suddenly want to go out and spear myself a fish!

    Emily wrote on February 4th, 2009
  8. SoG – I have never hunted but grew up in a big hunting area. The hunters I knew all took their deer to a professional for processing. One guy I know doesn’t like the taste of venison and has the whole thing made into trail bologna. The trail bologna is good, but you may prefer real cuts of meat.

    Riley & Tiki's Mom wrote on February 4th, 2009
  9. I’ve considered taking up hunting many times, but I don’t really know where to start. Deer are so plentiful in my area (NYC) as to be a plague. In fact, southern CT (near where I live) has a five-month season and no bag limit, so conceivably I could get a lot of the meat I need from deer. I figure I could teach myself how to find and shoot them, but when it came to dressing or butchering I would be totally lost. Do any other readers have ideas for learning those skills?

    Alex wrote on February 4th, 2009
  10. Great comments. I want to thank Mark for publishing my mail to Mark’s Daily Apple. If you have questions about getting started with hunting, processing and storing meat or the spiritual and physical benefits, feel free to email me at vahardhunter@yahoo.com. As Mark mentioned, venison is very lean. So we will add some fat to it on occasion. We especially like to get some beef or pork trimmings from grass fed cuts at Whole Foods or other “natural” stores and grind them into our venison burger and sausage. Some of these stores will be glad to sell you these scraps for very little $$. Hunting can be as expensive a lifestyle as you want it to be. Or relatively affordable. There are hunting opportunities for all here in the USA if you know where to start. Mark has provided some great resources here. I would be happy to help anyone investigate their options. Believe me- I am not fond of the trend I see on TV where hunting is concerned. It seems hunters are getting hung up too much on technology and huge antlers these days and losing sight of why GROK hunted in the first place. Although the sight of a mature bull elk or whitetail buck certainly gets my primordial DNA boiling, broiled antlers are pretty bland! I love the wildlife I hunt and wish to promote the act of reconnecting with our human wildness- we are all genetically still wild and we should celebrate it- even in this modern crazy world. If things keep going the way they are, we may all be glad we learned to hone our wild side. Yours in primal health, Chuck

    Chuck Neely wrote on February 4th, 2009
  11. Terrific article on a topic my wife and I have been discussing lately as we’ve adopted a primal diet and fitness lifestyle. I’d be particularly interested in a breakdown of the costs vs. savings – once you factor in equipment, licensing, butchering (assuming you don’t do your own butchering), etc., how long does it take to become a better deal than the supermarket?

    As for how to get started, well, I’m no hunter; but on the day I decide to become one, I know exactly what I’ll do: go talk to one of my long-time hunter friends. Most people probably know someone who hunts, who would be happy to show them the ropes.

    Avdi wrote on February 4th, 2009
  12. I and my family hunt for a great deal of our food (beaver, duck, elk, deer, turkey, quail, rabbit, dove, blue jay etc) and even my eight year old daughter knows how to set a snare or shoot dinner.

    Dressing is pretty easy and common sense but there’s lots of tutorials online and in books. All’s you need is a sharp knife really (and a way to keep it sharp, nothing worse than a dull knife in a slippery, sticky, bloody mess for cutting yourself up).

    We live pretty primitively and don’t even have refrigeration, which makes processing something that needs to be done quickly and well but it’s not difficult when you get into the rhythm. I’ve never been taught any particular way to cut up an animal, I just taught myself by looking at the way the meat lies on the bone and what seems to work best.

    In addition, lots of people just take the animal to a processing plant and pay someone to do it for them. I’ve never done that, but if you can afford it and are intimidated by the process it might be worth thinking about.

    I find it deeply disturbing how very far most people have gotten from the natural world, and thus their home, their food, their instincts. Hunting’s not terribly difficult (or else we would have died out a long time ago) but it is intense and eye opening. I’ve cried EVERY time I’ve killed an animal… but it makes me realize how meaningful, and precious, food really is. My eight year old always kisses the dead animals before we butcher them and says a prayer for them.

    I once carried a young (gutted) elk up a mesa on my shoulders (about a hundred lbs or so). I tell you what, that’s a serious primal workout, especially for a medium sized woman like myself.

    And don’t forget to eat the heart, it’s just about the tastiest bit of nearly any animal.

    Kiva Rose wrote on February 4th, 2009
  13. Thank YOU, Chuck. I’ll be covering this topic more in the future. Your insightful and helpful comments are always welcome on this issue. Thanks again.

    Mark

    Mark Sisson wrote on February 4th, 2009
  14. Alex and Avdi:

    Two books I recommend to start learning about caring for your harvest all the way from field to table are- Preparing Fish and Wild Game: The Complete Photo Guide, and Butchering Deer- The Complete Manual. Both are available at Amazon. Of course you can google- filed dressing deer/game, skinning/quartering game/deer and get tons of cyber info.

    Chuck Neely wrote on February 4th, 2009
  15. Save that liver too…unbelievably full of nutrition and without all the crud in commercial liver. I havent quite worked up the nerve to take a bite out of it or the heart the way the native american hunters did right after the kill….so I cook it!

    Chuck Neely wrote on February 4th, 2009
  16. My husband’s parents bought a 26 acre piece of land two and a half years ago. While they were building the houses on it and during the winter we noticed the HUGE amount of prints int he snow. We have moose, white tailed deer, rabbits, squirrels, all manner of rodents really, pheasants and grouse. We’ve even seen the signs of bobcats and lynx. All of this and it borders on a lake that had tons of fresh water fish.

    I’ve talked about it with them on several occasions and I’m seriously considering trapping the rabbits at least, but after reading this, and knowing lots of people that DO hunt every fall, I may give it a try. Or at least look into what the laws are about hunting on your own land.

    Christine wrote on February 4th, 2009
  17. Thanks for posting this, Mark. My husband hunts mule deer (for food not trophy) and would love for me to come along on hunts with him. I’m not at all averse to eating what he worked hard to obtain (deer, hogs, elk, etc.). I just wouldn’t be able to keep quiet for that long in the woods, which is why I would make a terrible hunting buddy.

    I’ll email Chuck Neely to thank him too.

    Conny wrote on February 4th, 2009
  18. I would just add a couple of things to what Chuck said. Wild animals can and do have parasites, and Elk are known to suffer from BSE (mad cow) so you may want to send off their heads to a lab for testing. It’s helpful to know how to slaughter an animal in a safe way if you’ve never been taught.

    Typically it’s illegal to sell hunt meat (at least in Canada) but you can give it away. I personally eat quite a lot of Elk.

    Bow hunting, even with a compound bow, is tough.

    Robert M. wrote on February 4th, 2009
  19. Yep, venison is very tasty: we harvest in our back yard and elsewhere (hey, fed on the best of shrubs — it’s gotta be good!). Plus locally-raised and purchased bison, occasional donations of elk, pheasant, and so on. I prefer to butcher my own, and found it comforting to know how the meat was treated: part of the process is inspection of the animal, which will reveal many potential problems. Does are better eating than bucks, IMHO, and I’ll cheerfully hunt (preferably by bow). Deer liver is wonderful marinated in red wine & herbs, then sauteed.

    Samantine wrote on February 4th, 2009
  20. I had been a vegetarian for 17 years until recently because I am unable to have soy I made the decision to go back to eating animal flesh. I’ve mainly only had wild caught fish but have had a piece of local bison jerky. There is a HUGE difference in respect of the animal’s life (why I became vegetarian) between a burger at Applebee’s and the animal that you tracked and hunted down. I respect you for that. It is so much more of an honor to the animal to die that way and is a beautiful thing. Thank you for writing in regarding this. I do get very upset when people can eat animal flesh but not have enough respect to take their life honorably. It puts a separation between the animal and whats on the plate- one that places like McD’s survive on pushing.

    colleen wrote on February 4th, 2009
  21. Colleen: I’m pretty sure you weren’t talking to me, but I’m vain enough to respond anyway. I think you have emphasized an important part of what hunting means to me. Hunted meat isn’t just a commodity. Given how little I’ve hunted, I’m sure that, per pound, my hunted meat cost much more than my “store bought.” (Cost of rifle, ammunition, range fees, licenses, etc.)

    A friend had sent me a video of a Bushman running down a kudu (it was on youtube, don’t know the linkage). The Bushman ran and ran, and the kudu ran and ran, and the Bushman finally ran the kudu down. And when the Bushman had killed the kudu, he stroked it, closed its eyes.

    It wasn’t just meat, not the way meat is just meat for most of us.

    Let me put it this way: after I had killed my first deer, I decided to be buried in a pine coffin, so that the worms could eat me too. I’m not all “hakuna mattata” but when I ate that venison (a really good chili, for the most part) I had a better understanding of my connection to the world.

    “Meat doesn’t come from the grocery.”

    Lewis wrote on February 4th, 2009
  22. I used to hunt a lot. And have taken 6 deer by bow and arrow. But this year was the first year I’ve hunted in about 15 years. I was able to take a spike buck on a friends ranch in Texas. A lot different than the hunting up in Northern Minnesota where I grew up. But this year seemed to have a lot more meaning to the hunt, it felt more respectful to the game, and more primal. Probably because of reading this site. My kids love eating venison, even the heart. I’m the only one that likes the liver though.

    SuperMike wrote on February 4th, 2009
  23. I think hunting your own meat definitely is Primal and something my family has always done. Also, growing up on a farm where we raised our own food I quickly learnt the lessons of where food came from.

    I am often saddened to hear kids say things like “But bacon isn’t a pig” we are all so far removed from where our nourishment comes from. I think it is valuable for people to join Community Shared Agriculture programs that allow you to visit the farm not only for organic, local food but to be educated in the way you’re food is produced whether plant or animal.

    In our consumer society, we often get caught up with our material wants but we need to get back to the Earth.

    onelasttime wrote on February 4th, 2009
  24. Yes there is great satisfaction in hunting for most of my own food. As I mentioned in my letter to Mark- we still buy some of our meat. There is a cost associated with hunting that can vary wildly. If you get into hunting- expect to spend several hundred dollars to get set up with the proper gear including a bow or fiemarm and accesories. An in-state hunting license is not too bad- here in VA I can purchase all my tags for archery, big-game and blackpowder hunting for about $50-60 per year. I do not pay to hunt or go on guided hunts. I do have 120 acres of my own land that I am fortunate enough to have saved for years zand bought- so I obviously hunt there quite a bit. But I also hunt public land- namely the George Washington National Forest here in VA- over 1.5 million acres and plenty of wildlife and mountains to keep me occupied. This is all within 90 minutes of my home. Most states will have public opportunities. I highly recommend a free hunters safety course from your state’s Department of Wildlife- these free courses and certifications are now becoming a prerequisite to getting a license- which is great. Be safe first always. I too process virtually all my game. I know exactly who’s hands have cared for this meat. The whole process of killing, skinning, quartering and butchering your own deer or elk is very gratifying. These are skills that were commonplace to most all of our ancestors just 100 years ago, just as gardening and keeping orchards were. Today people continue to become so disconnected from their natural world and their own inate abilites to be self sufficent. Develop the ancient skills- I know that no matter which direction the world spins in over the next few years, my family can go totally GROK in a moments notice.

    Chuck Neely wrote on February 4th, 2009
  25. I’m with Chuck! Hunting for your meat not only provides you with a great primal workout but provides you and your family with an excellent source of organic protein.

    Hunting keeps us carnivores honest.

    More power to you, Chuck!

    Lisa Pietsch wrote on February 4th, 2009
  26. DH has been hunting and fishing since he was a kid. Right now we have venison, pork, rabbit, goose, dove and bass in the freezer.

    nonegiven wrote on February 4th, 2009
  27. The “hunting ethics” can easily be muddied by simply wondering what would happen if the whole city of new york were to go hunting on the weekend for their meals. It’s not sustainable in the least. We started farming, and expanded to population levels that farming supported which hunting couldn’t.

    It’s fine as a hobby/bonding ritual/weekend getaway for a small percent of the population, but it’s not a plausible way of life or means of feeding a planet/country/city/town that stopped relying on it and reproduced wildly as a result. once it reaches a certain population size it isn’t possible, and humanity passed that point long ago.

    I’ve been hunting often, with delicious results, but there isn’t enough wild animals around anymore to recommend hunting as a viable way for everybody to go out and get food. Beyond primal it’s also ecologically irresponsible. numbers of large game are so small in many areas that you need to win a lottery just to be allowed to kill one. It follows that any claims of sustainability are false.

    This “primal blueprint” still has to function in reality. And if it’s truly something that is recommendable and applicable to EVERYBODY, then hunting shouldn’t be a part of it, unless we’re ready to shrink our population size accordingly.

    Bow hunting is also understandably repulsive to many people. And well, nobody wants to be a persistence hunter anymore.

    A quick google search estimates colorado’s elk population at 247000 or so in 2005, and the number of elk hunters at 246000. It’s currently considered the “golden days” of hunting in the region, and so this is potentially the best the odds will ever be. If 50000 more people in colorado were to head out and kill themselves an elk, the golden days would end pretty quick. With colorado’s population being 4.3 million, that’s not a large % increase in # of hunters.

    nathan wrote on February 4th, 2009
    • I know that here in SE MN and WI whitetails are massively overpopulated, beyond even what the DNR offices say (and they say the numbers are too high too.) All in all, while hunting is far from sustainable for the whole population, we are currently suffering from *not enough* hunters, not too many.

      Of course this varies from species to species, but for whitetails it’s absolutely true.

      Jesse wrote on November 6th, 2010
  28. I typically don’t like hunting and I’m not crazy about guns, but I like Chuck’s ideas on many levels. It just makes so much sense and his self-reliance is impressive. Nice work, Chuck.

    Mike Carlson wrote on February 4th, 2009
  29. Anyone thinking about taking up hunting should make a serious appraisal of the dangers inherent in the activity. Hundreds of hunters are killed and wounded every year through carelessness, poor training, and just plain bad luck. I say this as a man who grew up hunting and one who contemplates going back to it one day. I consider myself a very safety-conscious person, but even I had some very close calls, usually with other hunters. Weird things happen in the bush when you’ve got a loaded rifle in your arms, it’s raining, you’re tired and hungry, it’s getting dark, etc. Do not underestimate the risks.

    MikeL wrote on February 4th, 2009
    • I know this is an old comment, but Mike that is way out of proportion. Unless you are including those that encounter things like DOMS (sore muscles) from being out of shape. I certainly won’t minimize the responsibility and care that must be taken to handle fierarms and other weapons safely. But in virtually every state now it is required that all hunters complete a firearm safety course before buying any sort of hunting license. According to National Safety Council statistics, far more people per 100,000 participants are injured while bicycling or playing baseball than while hunting. Yes, weapons are powerful and must be respected, but what about cars – people are killed every day in car accidents and we don’t avoid them. I hunt a lot – about 70+ days per year and shoot targets weekly year round. I hunt mostly birds with other people and have done some guiding for ducks and geese (a lot of things going on at once and moving targets) with never an accident. On the contrary, I’ve been in a few car accidents. Maybe that just says something about my driving. Handling firearms is a responsibility, but for the most part a very manageable one.

      DB wrote on September 1st, 2011
  30. The first time I went hunting years ago, a very close friend of mine took me and showed me the ropes. I sat alone in a tree stand in the early hours of the morning with a pounding heart.
    Suddenly a beautiful doe was right in front of me.
    I must have moved a little cause she looked up, she did not dart off but looked at me. We locked eyes and I could not shoot. It took me 4 more times of going out with my friend to make peace with the feeling of killing. Eating vension stew (my favorite) with a feeling of humble appreciation is an experience everyone should have.

    Marc

    Marc Feel Good Eating wrote on February 4th, 2009
  31. Marc of Marc Feel Good Eating:

    It should always take time to become at peace with killing, as it should always take time to become at peace with life.

    Life is not about killing.

    Killing is not about life.

    But sometimes living and killing are intertwined, and when we kill, it should be to advance life, not to reduce life.

    These are hard things to think about, harder yet to talk about.

    We take life from death; if we don’t take life from it, why cause death?

    When I took life, when I caused death, I celebrated the life, the sustenance, that came from it.

    I could be wrong, but it felt primal, and I honored the venison more than I’ve ever honored plain old hamburger.

    Peace, and primal grease,

    Lew

    Lewis wrote on February 4th, 2009
  32. Mark, you definitely seem to be pondering this quite a bit in this post? I might be willing to wager you give this a try sometime soon!

    Chuck, after you have harvested – you have to go ultimate primal, and eat it with your hands! (but I am biased :)

    Ryan Denner wrote on February 4th, 2009
  33. 50,000 more people in Colorado were to head out with the intention of harvesting an elk, most of them would go home empty handed. DH gets at least one deer every year now but he hunted for years without getting even one, it took practice and we ate a lot of rabbits in the meantime.

    nonegiven wrote on February 4th, 2009
  34. Yeah! Loving this post, Mark.

    I got my gun license last year. I don’t have a gun yet but will someday soon. I want a muzzleloader just to make it that much more fair for the deer. This is coming from a life-long vegetarian and 5 year vegan — I just began including fermented dairy and eggs in my diet in January. Will add animal protein, but going slowly. I’ve gone Primal and am not looking back.

    Margi wrote on February 4th, 2009
  35. Nathan- I respect your opinion but you need to understand- I’m not talking about hunting as an answer for the masses- it is sustainable for us. How many of us Paleo people are there?? Im not advocating that every one in Colorado or Virginia jump out there and shoot dinner- but I dont have to worry about it because 90% of our fellow humans are totally oblivious to everything that we are discussing here. And in no way is it a sustainable activity for the world’s population- which oh- by the way is bloated beyond belief due to mass argiculture and its total disservice to earths resources and the natural balance of life across the planet. Now if mass grain based agriculture had not come into play- there would probably be less than 500 million people on the planet- and hunter gatherer tribes would be very sustainable. Now the question is– given the precarious state of our earth and our global, consumer based economies- which side of the equation do I want to master? I choose to be a hunter. When our systems break down and that may not be a totally abstract idea- I want to be one of the 10% that is primal and self sustaininng. And game populations are at an all time high in the US due to the conservation efforts and $$ of hunters and conservatonists.

    As far as safety in the woods goes- BOY WILL I EVER TAKE MY CHANCES ROAMING THE MOUNTAINS AND VALLEYS AS OPPOSED TO DRIVING OUR FREEWAYS AND WORKING IN OUR CITIES. Out of 15 million annual hunters there are going to be some accidents and incompetent people- but the statistical data is about the same as getting electrocuted or dying from a bee sting.

    Chuck Neely wrote on February 4th, 2009
  36. I’ve hunted & trapped since 1958.

    It’s a far more ethical, spiritual & natural way to get your meat then to buy it at the grocery.

    You can hunt in all 50 states. Some critters are “in season” all year long depending on your state.

    Don’t overlook small game (rabbits, squirrels).

    Terry

    Terry wrote on February 4th, 2009
  37. My buddy at work hunts locally, but mostly smaller game or birds. He said if I go to the hunter education class he will take me with him.

    Like SoG, I own guns and know how to shoot, but have never been hunting. Deer season just ended here and the farmers’ market meat lady has a farm where they process deer for hunters so they’ve been really busy.

    I’ve also been wanting to learn to shoot a bow and arrow. I don’t know if I could actually kill an animal eye to eye (except of course for humans, but I tend to like animals better than most people).

    I do have Ted Nugent’s Kill It and Grill It book!

    Maybe the farm lady would be a good place to start… see if she can introduce me to someone who can teach me. And I would have no idea what to do if I did kill something… how to dress it or whatever.

    Good topic. I’ve been thinking about it for a while now.

    TrailGrrl

    TrailGrrl wrote on February 4th, 2009
  38. To all who have emailed me- thanks – keep em coming. I will try to help any way I can. And remember that the animal you harvest is not most important- the magic is in the preparation and pursuit….

    Chuck Neely wrote on February 4th, 2009
  39. I just wanted to take a minute to personally thank Chuck for a great post that has obviously struck a chord here with many people. Not only was the post great, but Chuck has gone above and beyond by answering personal email from the likes of a novice like myself. Lastly, thanks to everyone for keeping what could be a touchy topic civil regardless of your views on hunting. That’s what makes this site so refreshing!

    Rodney wrote on February 4th, 2009
  40. I completely agree. Nothing could be more hunter gatherer than that.

    Dr Dan wrote on February 5th, 2009

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