Tomorrow begins an annual tradition, the fall deer harvest. Growing up in Hillsdale, my family did not hunt; however, friends would proudly share venison from time to time. I remember Dad making a big deal of these gifts, and I always wondered why. I started to get my answer around 5th grade. I would spend weekends with friends and eat venison for meals. Later, I learned that many rural families lived in poverty, and the gift of venison from a hunter in the community provided the majority of their meat for the year.
After marriage, Chad started hunting and filling our freezer with venison. I didn’t enjoy eating this on a regular basis, but I could handle venison spaghetti sauce, meatloaf, and roasts (with ample doses of gravy). As time went on, I developed a preference for these dishes and the many kitchen experiments we tried. Today, I look forward to a few specialties, canned venison (served over noodles) and Chad’s homemade venison bacon.
The bigger lesson here is what the hunt represents. I see now why Dad made such a big deal of hunters’ gifts. To bring meat to the table fulfills a basic need for many men, providing for their families. The sense of community is vital as well, sharing the harvest with friends and those in need (Many hunters even donate extra deer to local soup kitchens). There were many lessons taught to our kids through hunting, care of the land, patience, responsibility, respect for the animal (specifically, taking the time to shoot properly for a clean kill), and pride in putting food on the table. I remember the looks on my boys’ faces when they shot their first deer and the smiles when we made a big deal about it at dinner.
So hunters, be safe, be smart, and may you have a plentiful harvest!