by Brian McCombie - Monday, November 29, 2021
As he has done every fall since he started his work with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), Game Warden Todd Long will visit high school classrooms and lecture halls in Gregg County this fall to give students his annual pre-deer season overview. Long’s talks have always been focused on Texas hunting rules and regulations. But times are a-changing, and over the last couple years he has added something to his presentations: game meat care and preparation.
“Our local students seem more interested in the meat part of the hunt than ever before,” said Long, a TPWD game warden since 2009. “I guess it’s part of the whole natural foods movement that’s been gaining steam around the country for a while now. In the past, my presentation was all about season dates and bag limits, hunting violations and reminders about gun safety while hunting. But then the kids started asking me, ‘Once I get a deer, what do I do with it? How do I make sure I keep the meat fresh and edible?’”
In Texas, each county generally has its own game warden, and Long’s Gregg County is home to dozens of schools large and small. Agriculture is a big part of local economies, and so 4-H is popular, as well as fishing and archery teams. And deer hunting is a huge draw for Gregg County residents, young and old.
As he fielded more and more questions about deer meat care, Long started to bring along posters and photos to help explain the various techniques for field dressing a deer, as well as for quartering the animal and deboning the meat.
Students have responded so positively to the meat-care portions of his presentation that Long hopes to do more than tell students about the meat preparation process. He’s been talking with school administrators and teachers and, this fall, hopes to bring a confiscated or recently road-killed deer into a more open setting like an agricultural class workshop and show students how to field dress, skin and quarter it.
Long’s in-class presentations also go a long way to building important connections with the students—connections that help him do his job in the field and, thereby, protect wildlife.
“People see the uniform and the badge, the gun, and they can get pretty leery of you,” Long said. “And a lot of times, the only contact people have with a game warden is when the laws have been broken. So, a game warden, in a lot of people’s minds, is someone to be feared.”
He continued, “But having me in their classrooms, talking about hunting and answering their questions, making a joke or two, helps break the ice. I’ll see these kids outside of class afterwards at the Dairy Queen or wherever and they’ll say, ‘Hey, Mr. Warden! How you doing?’ More than a few of these kids have even given me tips about wildlife violations they’ve witnessed.”
Hunting, of course, is a bedrock tradition in rural Texas, and much of Gregg County is rural. But Long noted he saw more interest in hunting than ever from people who live in urban areas like nearby Longview, with a metropolitan population approaching 300,000 people.
“I regularly get calls from parents whose children want to try hunting,” Long noted. “The parents aren’t hunters, so they don’t really know where to start.”
Long, who has hosted small- and big-game youth hunts for years, says his teacher contacts at the local schools often refer the above-mentioned parents to him directly. And Long is happy to do all he can to promote hunting and wildlife conservation to the next generation.
“These young people are the future of hunting and wildlife conservation,” Long said. “Their interest in harvesting organic, natural meats is a really positive development.”
About the Author
NRAHLF.org contributor Brian McCombie is a field editor for the NRA’s American Hunter and writes about firearms and gear for the NRA’s Shooting Illustrated. He is a member of the National Rifle Association and the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Brian likes hunting hogs, shooting 1911s chambered in 10 mm and .45 ACP, watching the Chicago Bears and relaxing with his two cats, Peanut Morgan and TigerJoe.
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