For the last two-plus decades, Americans have been turning to natural, organic food as the healthier choice. And what could be healthier than the lean, low-fat protein found in wild game meat?
That’s the message the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is using to encourage people to try hunting. The DNR’s relatively new “Learn to Hunt for Food” program focuses on hunting as a source of sustainable, natural foods for the organic lifestyle.
Though the program currently is fairly small, it is attaining notable success in introducing people to the health benefits of hunting. It has even helped to steer a few former vegetarians toward hunting.
Held around the state, the Learn to Hunt classes usually fill up fast, “with a mix of environmental studies students, DNR employees, former vegetarians and others interested in hunting as a food source,” the Capital Times reported. “The multi-week Learn to Hunt classes are focused on deer or turkey [hunting], culminating in mentored hunts and including everything from firearm safety to hands-on butchering lessons.”
Leo Roth, a University of Wisconsin graduate and former vegetarian who took the class in 2015 said, “I wanted to see what it takes to make the sausage, so to speak, from an ethical standpoint. It’s a serious thing to eat an animal. The animal lived and died so you could eat it.”
The attraction of harvesting “health food” during hunting season led to a pilot program started by members of the Quality Deer Management Program (QDMA) a couple years ago. Launched in Georgia, Field to Fork tapped into people who identify as “locavores,” meaning they eat foods grown and produced locally whenever possible.
According to an article on QDMA.com, “Field to Fork spawned from a realization that an exponentially increasing percentage of Americans are becoming more concerned with where their food comes from, commonly called the locavore movement. We wanted to provide a program to offer people of this mindset a chance to take ownership of their protein source and increase the relevance of hunting in this segment of society in the process.”
Not coincidentally, the very first Field to Fork participants were recruited at a local farmers market.
“We had overwhelming interest with demand substantially exceeding our capacity,” according to QDMA. “The final roster of participants, ages 18 to 47, came from all walks of life including a school teacher, organic farmer, chef, nutritionist and a landscape planner just to name a few. We provided the participants training and field time resulting in a fairly holistic view of deer hunting. The program received excellent feedback, involved a few harvests, and resulted in the majority of participants going hunting again afterward.”
As a recent article in the Log Cabin Democrat noted, “Survey research shows that American hunters most often name the meat as their most important reason for hunting, and that the percentage of hunters who hunt mainly for the meat continues to grow.”
Healthy meat and a healthy lifestyle: These two factors may well create a whole new segment of American hunters!