By Mike Willis
Nowadays, every aisle in the grocery store has products displaying the words “antibiotic-free,” “non-GMO,” and “free-range.” These are the exact words used to describe animals in their most natural state.
Isn’t it funny how some of the very people who criticize the lifestyle of the outdoorsman go to great lengths to enjoy the quality in life that we have?
You don’t get more organic than eating something that spent its life walking around the woods, eating acorns. Free-range? Seriously….
Most ethical hunters don’t find joy in the killing process but rather the hunt itself. There is no deeper respect for an animal as when you exhaust all of your time and resources actively working toward a chance encounter. When an animal eludes you despite your greatest efforts, deep respect is born in the chase.
I would like to also touch on the personal connection to the animal, which has been lost as a result of our society only getting food from the grocery store. There is something pure and heavy that comes with the understanding that something died so that you can live. You can’t get that deep appreciation in a grocery store when your food is wrapped in plastic.
Removing yourself too far from the cycle of life numbs you to the sacrifice made to provide a meal. After successfully harvesting an animal, the very first thing that I do is hit my knees and thank God and the animal.
It is a beautiful and sad moment filled with a full spectrum of emotion. I go from the joy of triumph, following weeks-worth of persistence, to a heavy heart for the animal who gave itself for the benefit of my family. The emotional roller coaster ride brings you through every high and low, but always returns you to a place of gratitude when it is finished.
As I leave the woods with my game bags full, I am grateful for the experience and the incredible meals that will be provided for my family over the next year to come. I can go home knowing that my family will be consuming the best-quality of meat available. No amount of money spent could place a superior cut on the table.
No label provides a better life for the animal harvested and better nutrition for those who will enjoy its bounty. As I package the individual portions for the next year’s meals, I give no thought to antibiotics, hormones, or cleanliness of living conditions. I know that the meat has not been injected with an odd-colored dye or served on a platter of Styrofoam and cheap Saran Wrap.
I can enjoy the process of feeding my family, knowing exactly how this meat was cared for from the moment it was harvested to the moment it gets placed on our table.
There are slaughterhouses across America that bear the certifications and badges that the typical consumer desires. The reality of how meat is processed upon reaching these facilities would weaken the stomach of even the most seasoned hunter.
Having the opportunity to enjoy pure food, as it should be, is a gift. Between the exercise, nutritional value, and the deep appreciation for life, the benefits of hunting are endless.