In The Stand With Keith Warnke
Our tradition of hunting is a modern answer to environmental concerns.
By Keith Warnke, Wisconsin DNR Hunting and Shooting Sport Coordinator
I always knew that one of my primary reasons for hunting is to obtain food. I enjoy everything about using wild game as food — all the way from processing to preparation to eating it. In fact, I really prefer wild game to all other meats, and the same is true for my family.
Lately, the terms “green, sustainable, free-range and organic” have gained greater prominence in society. People care about their environment. They care about where their food comes from and how it got to their table.
Looking around, I see a generation of young adults working to live with lower impact on the environment, to live more “green.” It got me thinking; modern hunting has always been a green activity. What better way to get ethically raised sustainable protein?
As hunters, we recognize the fact that unregulated market gunning the 18th and 19th centuries was in part responsible for the decline of game populations. In fact, hunting without limits threatened many species with extinction. But everyone needs to be aware that modern hunters were the original agents of change. They demanded regulations to protect game populations, provide bag limits and closed seasons and developed a system that protected habitat for all species.
Hunters’ and conservationists’ leadership led to revolutionary changes in wildlife conservation in North America and resulted in a system that is envied around the world. Our system of wildlife conservation in North America also provides for sustainable harvest of “green” protein.
The key principles that make up conservation in North America are:
- wildlife in North America are publicly owned;
- wildlife laws and policies are established from a basis of science;
- hunting and angling opportunities should be available for everyone; and,
- conservation, management, research, habitat restoration, and enforcement are funded primarily by hunters and anglers.
Hunting is critical to conservation in the following ways.
First, the revenue from hunting and fishing license sales and excise taxes on equipment make up the vast majority of the Wisconsin conservation budget. These funds are earmarked solely for conservation spending and are used for species management, research, and to manage, and restore tens of thousands of acres of habitat annually in Wisconsin. In short, a large portion of conservation funding comes from hunters and anglers.
Second, regulated hunting has been an effective, low-cost method for maintaining wildlife populations at levels that are socially acceptable and within habitat carrying capacity.
Third, hunting is a great way to obtain free-range, ethically raised food in a highly sustainable system.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, hunting promotes a deep physical and spiritual connection with the natural world. It is an activity that shapes a culture and lifestyle around the importance of learning the intricate details of how nature works and how wildlife interacts with their environment. Hunting gives humans a participatory, hands-fully-on, sustainable link with nature and conservation.
Hunting for food is a perfect fit in an increasingly conservation-oriented “green” world. Today’s young adults have demonstrated strong interest in lower impact living, food co-ops, farmer’s markets, and sustainability, and invented the term “locavore,” meaning you gather your food as close to home as possible. Hunting is, and has always been, a natural part of this movement.
Our challenge, as active hunters, is to provide the opportunity for these people to get involved. How many of us know someone in this age group who shares these interests? How many of us are members of a club or chapter that is looking to reach this generation? Perhaps your rod and gun club is looking for younger members, or new members.
The tools exist to introduce adults to hunting. How about hosting a Learn to Hunt event for adults? Use a DNR website and/or Facebook page to announce your event and invite adults and families in the area to attend. Make contact with your neighbors and friends, or maybe the friends of your children, offer to mentor them into hunting this year and in the future.
The next generation of hunters is out there. It’s our responsibility to reach out to them.
F+W Offers Resources For Venison and Wild Game
If you have a deep interest in preparing sustainable foods for your family, check out F+W Media’s latest title on cooking foods sourced from an outdoors lifestyle. Happy Healthy Family: Tracking the Outdoors In has recipes that use nutritious wild game, fish, and vegetables that are exceptionally delicious and surprisingly easy to prepare. Not only are the recipes delicious, there are health facts and cooking hints sprinkled through the book along with vivid photographs of every recipe. Anyone with a desire to be healthier, dine on exceptionally delicious and surprisingly simple food, and get back to the natural ingredients that were meant for the body, needs Happy Healthy Family.
Another great option is the cookbook We Kill It We Grill It. It provides fun, easy and tasty grilling recipes from the folks who know venison best — Deer & Deer Hunting readers and contributors. This compilation highlights the favorite recipes of hundreds of cooks from all regions of the country. These are fast, easy, family-favorites you can produce on your own grill without a chef’s pedigree.
Finally, we also recommend Gut It Cut It Cook It by Eric Fromm and Al Cambronne. There’s just something satisfying about knowing you’ve done it all yourself — from pulling the trigger to washing up the dishes. Gut It Cut It Cook It guides you every step of the way from the field to the table. No detail is left out—from proper field dressing and butchering to storing and preparing your venison. It offers checklists and descriptions of tools you’ll need to get the job done right and affordably; advice for shot placement and ammunition so you don’t damage valuable meat; step-by-step photos and instructions for proper field dressing and skinning; butchering — cut by cut; best practices for wrapping and freezing venison; instructions for saving antlers and caping your buck and a BONUS CD includes 50 venison recipes, field dressing chart and meat cuts chart.