Gentlemen, welcome back to another edition of “All Things Manly”. I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus lately doing manly things like wearing my boots in the house, not shaving my beard, and doing one-handed push-ups in the forest. The idea for this article came to me this past hunting season on a 5° morning around the break of dawn as I was sitting with my back against a tree with my trusty Winchester 30-30 lying in my lap. But just like Mr. T says, “Enough with the jibba-jabba”. Let’s get to the point. There are plenty of reasons why you should hunt for your food instead of going to the grocery store to purchase it.
Cost. I know every one of you reading this has been to the grocery store and seen the prices of chicken, beef, fish, and pork. They can range from somewhat reasonable to outrageous prices for “organic” meats that are supposedly nutritionally superior but you still don’t know where they came from. The average American spends over $250 on chicken and over $400 on beef every year. But if you’re providing for an entire family, you can see how expensive it can get. And remember, that’s just the average American. Well I’m here to tell you that you can put all that money back in your pocket and save it for things like a new set of headers for your truck or a nice autographed Chuck Norris poster for the living room. Now, there are some basic start-up costs if you decide that you want to hunt for your food. You’re obviously going to need some type of weapon to knock down your prey and this would include bows, crossbows, black powders, rifles, shotguns, or your wife’s minivan.
Everybody has their preferences for weapons, but for this article we’re going to stick with what I use and that would be the rifle. If you’re looking to buy a rifle brand-new expect to pay anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousands of dollars. However, the expensive rifles are not something you really need unless you’re planning on doing some trophy hunting. But if you’re like me and you really only interested in putting meat on the table then you don’t have to have deep pockets to be successful. You can find a used rifle that’s been well taken care of for a couple hundred bucks. The rifle I use was a present from my dad when I was a kid. That’s the thing about rifles, if you take care of them, they will last a lifetime. So let’s say that you’ve made an initial investment in a used rifle for $250. Now you’re going to need ammo. Depending on the type of rifle that you’ve purchased, your ammunition could be more or less than what I pay. I can buy a box of 20 shells for my rifle for about $15-$20. But here’s the thing, I’ve only pulled the trigger twice in the last two years and taken home about 120lbs of deer. That weight is without the guts, hide, head, and bones. If I’m not mistaken, my home state of Virginia allows a six deer limit every season. So with some basic math we can figure out about how much meat I could actually be bringing in legally. 6 deer x 60lbs of meat = 360lbs. If I’m spending 75 cents per shell, then I’m only investing $4.50 for 360lbs of deer. One of the benefits of my stepson hunting is that he can contribute to the family as well. If we wanted to (between the two of us), we would only have to spend $9 per year for 720lbs of solid meat. Yes, we have giant freezer on the porch. How much are you spending at the grocery store again?
Nutrition. One of the other benefits of hunting for your food is wild game is often more nutritionally dense than store-bought meats. Remember, wild game is not being fed steroids or hormones or any of that other crap that you find in the grocery store. They are all free range and grass fed. Let’s look at the nutritional value for white tailed deer. Did you know that only 4 ounces of deer meat contains 50% of your daily protein? That’s about the size of the deck of playing cards you and your buddies use on poker night. That same 4 ounce cut of deer only has 20 milligrams of cholesterol compared to 76 milligrams in beef of the same cut. Deer meat only has 33 calories and only 1 gram of fat per ounce. So a 4 ounce slice of deer has about 130 calories while the same size slice of beef harbors about 310 calories. But not only is deer meat high in protein and low in cholesterol and fat, it’s also high in vitamins and minerals. Iron is important for oxygen transport throughout the body and it also helps to create connective tissue. Deer meat also provides an array of B vitamins that help to break down protein, carbs and fat for energy, and they also help with red blood cell formation. Also, if you and your wife have a youngin’ on the way, make sure she eats her deer. All that iron reduces the chances of low birth weight and premature delivery. It’s also high in niacin that promotes the development of skin and nerves.
Experience. I think one of the best reasons to hunt for your food is the experience it provides. It gives us men an opportunity to get out of the house away from the noise and into nature. If you’re a hunter then you know what I’m talking about. The quiet right before dawn is reason enough to get out into the woods. You can replace the sound of those chatty radio hosts talking about all the crap you don’t care about every morning with the sound of squirrels playing in the leaves. Replace the smell of diesel fumes in traffic with the smell of dirt and gunpowder. Stop staring at that cubicle wall and watch silently as the animals forage in their natural habitat as the sun peeks over the mountains.
Even if you don’t kill anything, it’s worth it just to go out there and sit. If you’re on the wood line in silence for hours, you’re going to think about everything there is to think about. And if you hunt often, you eventually run out of stuff to ponder. Then something really crazy happens. You don’t think about anything. For hours. Nothing. Your mind is completely clear. You’re in the moment doing nothing else but observing your senses. Just like the animal you’re hunting. But let’s be clear, hunting isn’t always just about you. It’s a great opportunity to share experiences with your loved ones. Especially your kids. You have an opportunity to teach them about the outdoors and their surroundings. How many 12 year olds can walk through the forest and identify the trees? Let them know there’s a world out there much bigger than their game system and Facebook. Maybe most importantly is the opportunity to teach your kids how to hunt for themselves. You know the old saying, “Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime”. The same goes with hunting. You can rest assured that you’ve passed down a set of skills to your kids they can use to not only feed themselves, but eventually feed their family as well. “My dad/granddad is teaching me how to hunt!” You can be that man. To wrap it up, hunting for your food just makes sense. It’s cheaper than going to the store, it’s nutritionally dense, and it provides great experiences. It allows you to entertain your primal side as well. I can tell you from experience that watching my family lay around the den with bellies full of deer and eyes half closed in sleep is a great feeling. But what might be even better is knowing that I ventured out into the woods to slay the beast, dragged it back to the house, and then put it on the table. So go forth into the wilds and hunt for your food. It’s what men do.