Recently, I was bringing a couple of nice venison round steaks for a buddy who had never eaten deer and was interested in hunting. He was genuinely excited about getting the steaks and offered to pay me for the meat. I assured him to not worry, the venison was a gift. Also, I explained, that the sale of wild game in the United States is illegal. He was surprised and wondered why that was. I used the opportunity to explain the history of the Lacey Act and how the North American Model of wildlife conservation is so effective. Getting prospective hunters talking about the more meaningful aspects of hunting such as conservation and sustainable protein is one of the keys to recruiting.
For someone who has never eaten deer meat, the first medium-rare venison steak can be a transformative experience. Bridging the connection from food to hunting is the type of link that helps to build responsible lifetime hunters and hunting advocates. Rather than just searching for a set of antlers, the venison cements the connection to our past, the natural world, and our place in the food chain. When we feed ourselves and our families with food that we have hunted or gathered, it instills in us a deep understanding of the preciousness of the resource and the cost required in sustaining our life. It’s a massive responsibility and a story that needs to be shared.
The story of how market hunting almost drove many animals extinct and how hunters led the recovery efforts is an equally important one to share. Care must be taken to distinguish the modern hunter from the profiteer hunters of the late 1800s. Their only goal was to kill as many animals as quickly as possible to sell them and make a living. The industrial revolution introduced efficiency to the world of commercial hunting which had catastrophic consequences as modern technology was used to almost drive extinct many species of waterfowl, deer, elk, bison, and many others. The passage of the Lacey act in 1900 stopped the bleeding, but did little in itself to recover the species of animals which had been so decimated up to that point. The conservation efforts that followed and the hunters who participated in them has led to the wealth of wild animals that are found in all 50 states today.
Check your freezer before hunting season starts. If you find you have an abundance of extra venison and know that soon you will be filling your freezer back up, consider giving some to people who’ve never hunted but have expressed an interest. Use it as a springboard to get them talking about conservation, the history of hunting, and why you hunt. Offer to take them out once this fall and show them the ropes. You never know, you may be inspiring a new lifelong hunter.