Wednesday, August 3, 2011

New Trend: the Locavore Hunter - and Welcome!

A pair of sharptailed grouse from last year - the beginnings of a couple gourmet dinners.
The summer is flying by. Now that southwest Montana rivers are finally getting into good shape, it seems like the fishing season is just beginning. On the other hand, we look at the calendar and realize that the 2011 hunting season is just a few weeks away, with upland bird hunting beginning on September 1 and archery season on September 3.

Hunting was a hot topic at last month’s annual conference of the Outdoor Writers Association of America, held at Snowbird resort at Salt Lake City.

Keynote speaker Hank Shaw predicts a wave of new hunters coming on the scene, helping to reverse a decline in hunter numbers in many states. Shaw calls them “Adult Onset Hunters,” people who have not grown up in hunting families or in a hunting culture.

Shaw is a longtime political reporter who has gravitated towards a new career as a food writer and blogger, and he counts himself among this new wave of Adult Onset Hunters, people who are out there for the food. He says, “I’m a cook who hunts. We enjoy the experience, but at the end of the day, we want food on the plate.”

Shaw, who also describes himself as, “the omnivore who has solved his dilemma,” (a reference to the bestselling book, “Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan) is a person who enthusiastically looks for natural foods and writes about it at his blog, “Hunter Angler Gardener Cook” (http://honest-food.net). He also wrote a book on the topic, “Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the forgotten feast.” To indicate he’s serious about it, he reports that grackles, a bird that mostly annoys people, are great eating. “They’re seed eaters, and as a general principle, seed-eating birds are good eating.”

Shaw says he is continually running into prospective hunters at places not traditionally associated with hunting, such as food co-ops or on online forums, or at restaurants where there are chefs who feature game and foraged food. He asserts that there’s a whole new world of hunters out there and they’re eager for information on how to get started hunting, and then how to turn that bounty into food on the table. That wild bounty includes things such as starlings, jackrabbits and the like, as well as more mainstream wild game. His website also has many recipes for wild game and foraged food.

Shaw also suggests that state game agencies should offer additional hunter education classes geared for adults, as a beginning adult hunter may feel like a misfit in a class of 11 and 12 year-olds.

Jackson Landers is another hunting advocate who has made a reputation by teaching hunting basics to people who hadn’t been part of any hunting tradition but recognize wild game as an excellent source of locally grown, natural food. He regularly teaches classes on deer hunting, including field dressing animals, meat cutting and cooking. The New York Times produced a video about his classes, “Closer to the Bone,” in 2009, which can still be viewed online.

Landers recently completed a book, “Hunting Deer for Food,” which will be issued next month, and is working on another book project, “Eating Aliens,” about hunting and eating alien invasive species. He also has a website, “The Locavore Hunter.”

Landers grew up in a vegetarian household and never tasted meat until he was ten years old. He learned to enjoy eating meat and when, in his 20s, he inherited some guns, he took up hunting, and has turned that into a career.

Of his classes, Landers says, “I’ve had hundreds of people take my classes and they’ve become serious hunters.”

Landers does point out, however, that these new locavore hunters haven’t gotten much recognition, especially by the mainstream outdoor press, which generally focuses on lifelong hunters. He asserts that, “New hunters need the wisdom of old hunters; old hunters need these new hunters to maintain hunter numbers.”

Maintaining these hunter numbers is essential to preserving our hunting tradition as a mainstream, politically accepted means of outdoor recreation and, of course, meat in the freezer.

Welcome to the gang and bon app├ętit.

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