Hunters hunkering down through the COVID-19 quarantine might be tempted to look at their freezers full of butcher paper and shrink-wrapped wild game from last season and think this is exactly what we’ve prepared for.
It is. Except, it is not just for you. That frozen wild game is the perfect opportunity for every outdoorsman and woman to become hunting’s best ambassador. While you’re pulling out a pound of ground venison to make a pot of chili, consider taking out another and walking it over to a neighbor.
Governors are issuing orders, ranging from those instructing all citizens to stay-at-home to others that are limiting exposure and cautioning residents. NSSF has been gathering those orders to inform firearms retailers and manufacturers, available here. Grocery stores are creating senior hours to make sure those who might be vulnerable to infection have a chance to get what they need for the pantry without worrying about contagion.
No Lockdown On Caring
Nothing is stopping hunters from walking over some of last fall’s goose breast, a pheasant or two or maybe a venison roast to a friend and neighbor you know can’t get out and might need some help. It’s even better if that person happens to be someone who might have written off the value of hunting or been interested, but never quite found a good enough reason to literally pull the trigger. Heck, if allowed and as long as gatherings are less than 10, invite them over and cook them the meal. Backstraps are better when they’re shared.
Hunters could be easily drawn into a hoarding mentality. It’s gratifying at the end of the season to look over the freezer and see neatly wrapped and stacked packages of nature’s bounty, marked by species, cut and date. Hunting has always been better when it is shared, both during the hunt and later when we enjoy the harvest.
Let’s be honest. There are those we know, most likely right across the street from us, who cringe at the thought of actually pulling the trigger on a live animal. They have no issue with buying meat from the store, but the visceral work of finding, harvesting, cleaning and butchering can be a big hurdle for some. This is a perfect opportunity to show nonhunters what we do and why we do it.
Our freezers are filled with clean and lean protein. They’re also filled with potential invitations and tales to be told. One pound of ground venison isn’t likely to turn “Chuck” from three houses down into the next Steve Rinella. Eva Shockey’s job is probably safe from “Karen” with the minivan next door nudging into her lane. This isn’t about necessarily finding the next buddy to put in for sheep tags and climb mountains looking for a Boone and Crockett qualifier.
Wild Harvest Diplomacy
That pound of venison, though, could be just that little bit of extra food that eases the anxiety of being able to feed a family during a stay-at-home order. It can also show your neighbor why you get up before the sun’s up. It might help them to better understand the time spent on the range, making sure shots are accurate. Sharing the harvest could help someone who may have a dim view of hunting understand that ethical hunting ensures wildlife resources are used responsibly and perpetuated for the next generation.
Sharing wild game could convince someone who has always been curious to take a walk to a dove field with you later in the year or bring the coffee thermos to the duck blind when migration turns the birds south again. When they ask, be ready with the resources to show them, like NSSF’s LetsGoHunting.org, which is full of tips and recipes. Want to get them started just cooking? Look to Steven Rinella’s MeatEater, which goes beyond the old camp cream of mushroom recipes. He’s got one up for Pheasant Pad Thai.
Hunters, this is our chance to stand out. It’s our chance to stand up and show that while antlers and mounts are treasured memories, the reason we hunt is to sustain ourselves. Even if we spend the fall season alone in a tree stand, the bounty and the reward of the hunt is bringing the harvest home to those we love.
Sometimes, especially during trying times, a friendly smile, a warm meal and genuine concern for our neighbors does more for our sport than donning the camouflage jacket to blend in. Hunters, stand up and stand out.
Mark Oliva is Director of Public Affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for the firearms and ammunition industries. He is a retired Marine Master Gunnery Sergeant with 25 years of service, including tours in Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Albania, and Zaire.