First off, to satisfy my own personal insecurities, I’d like to throw out that I don’t typically do anything social media related…I’m a rare breed that doesn’t even own a facebook or twittergram account or anything close for that matter. However, my wife asked me to write something as a contributor to her new blog, Roots and Knuckles – it’s important to her, so it’s important to me. Also, the subject is very near and dear to me so I’m happy to provide my own perspective on hunting culture.
In general, Tiff asked me to write about something related to fishing and the hunting culture – more specifically my own perspective on and around the topic of harvesting the meat we feed our family. It’s a loaded topic and I really struggled to find a place to start. So I guess I’ll start from the beginning. How I got into hunting.
HOW IT ALL STARTED
I suffer from AOH, or “Adult Onset Hunting”. As the title suggests, I didn’t grow up hunting and only picked it up later in my adult life. It’s a condition that is circumstantial to my roots and upbringing. First off I grew up in a big city – San Francisco. Flat out, there’s not an abundance of hunters in San Francisco and thus, a hunting culture. You’re likely to encounter more anti hunters per capita than pro hunters or even those neutral on the topic. Secondly, in case you haven’t already noticed, I’m Asian. Nothing racial about it…but simply put, Asian culture and the American hunting culture haven’t really crossed paths yet, (personal observation and potentially anecdotal). I feel this is important to call out mainly because of the extreme complexity that surrounds hunting – from passing hunter education; understanding the tools of the trade (guns, bows, binoculars, boots, knives, clothing); land access; seasons, animal behaviour, ethicacy, and of course the culinary aspect….all this can create barriers to entry for those starting out. You can argue the vast majority of hunters got into hunting because their parents hunted and their parents – parents hunted – as a result, decades of knowledge (and folklore) get passed down from generation to generation. For those starting out, it really requires an obsession you bake into your overall lifestyle that gives one a fighting chance to fill your freezer with game meat year after year.
My obsession really started when I was a kid – years, decades even, before I even completed my hunter education. While I grew up in a big city, my old man always made it a point to get us outdoors. As kids, my brother and I literally went camping once a month, every month throughout the year. During the summers we’d camp two weeks straight – last week of June into the first week of July. So yes, every year we’d celebrate America’s birthday with a campfire overlooking the lake. It was awesome and I never felt more at home. There’s just something so primal and natural – whether you hunt or not, about being in nature.
One day, I ran into a coworker, an avid bird hunter. Every Monday he’d talk about his exploits. Like a moth to a flame, I gravitated towards his stories. He took notice and invited me out. As quickly as humanly possible, I passed my hunters ed and got my hunters license. The rest is history. I’ll spare you the details, but my first duck hunt – goose egg, unsuccessful. My first deer hunt – scared a buck away due to over-excitement and lack of planning, overall – lack of experience. Both outings turned out to be the most fun and exciting experiences of my life. Oddly enough, something so new and unfamiliar – scary even – felt so familiar, as if I had amnesia and just started regaining memory. That’s what my first set of hunting experiences felt like. Even though they were unsuccessful, I was hooked onto the hunting culture. And even though they were new experiences, I felt like I was at home.
I’m going to skip the chapter where I finally shot a duck and buck. All I can say is this: I’ve been very fortunate my entire life – I’ve never had to worry about where my next meal came from. I’ve also had some pretty monumental achievements related to food – my first dinner I cooked for my parents, to the first dinner I paid for with my first paycheck, to the first Michelin star restaurant I took my wife out to, even the first meal I served a customer at my restaurant. None of that compares to the first wild game dinner I served my family. One of the proudest days of my life.
That in a nutshell summarizes my passion for hunting. It’s not about guns, it’s not about showing off how macho I am on the twittergram account I don’t own – it’s about an experience, a hunting culture even, that can’t be summarized into simple words.
WILD GAME AND RAISING KIDS
Ok this part was an unexpected surprise. My oldest kid is 4, my middle 2, my youngest 1 – yeah we’ve been getting busy apparently – pun intended. We make a conscious effort to expose them to all sorts of food early and often. You don’t’ like it, well shit…don’t eat, go hungry – that’s our general philosophy. At an early age we got them drinking vegetable and fruit smoothies from our garden every day. They eat fresh eggs from the chicken and duck coop almost every morning. Non wild game meat we typically buy through Butcher Box – beautiful grass fed meat (and we get free ground beef and bacon for life!). Overall, our kids are pretty darn good when it comes to finishing their meals – but from time to time we do have to glue their butts to the chair to make sure they finish. With deer however, I kid you not, clean plates, and requests for seconds every time. It’s their favorite meat. Perhaps it’s the taste, or even the texture, or perhaps they’re compassionate enough to appreciate the amount of effort it took to provide them with that meal – I’d like to think it’s all of the above.
Another added kicker is the life lessons it teaches them. It’s hard as parents to explain to young kids the concept of the circle of life. It’s a complicated subject that covers delicate subjects like life, death, and survival. We’ve never had to cover this subject, yet our two oldest picked up on it early. They love animals. They have 13 chickens – yet they know we eat chicken regularly. We have two ducks – they know daddy and uncles shoot ducks, and they love eating what we bring home. They believe the deer is a beautiful animal, yet they know daddy hunts them for food. Throughout all this, there’s no conflict. It’s just, simply put – the circle of life.