From Vegan to Hunter: How Wild Meat Changes a Person

Every hunter knows that that deer meat is the highest quality meat a person can acquire. Not only does it taste delicious, but it is also 100% organic, sustainable, and ethical. It also has the power to change the way a person thinks and how they view the natural world.

Michael R. Shea in a Facebook post tells about his journey with a vegan friend. It details the process of using venison diplomacy to change the mind of a person who hunters usually see as an enemy.

This is G. G. is a vegan. Her kids and my kids became friends at Montessori. On our first few family play dates, we talked a lot about meat, about hunting, about her experience training as a veterinarian in factory farms. We talked about killing, and sadness, and nutrition, and exercise, and parenting, and guns. We talked about gardening. The deer were hammering her garden and yes, I’d like to help. Last year, I took two does in the first two hours of gun season on their perfect 10 acres in central New York. If God came down and waved his little finger and said, “With this I make 10 perfect whitetail acres,” it would be G.’s place—all overgrown orchard and brush lot. I gave G. and her family one of those deer, reduced to a cardboard box and butcher paper. They weren’t necessarily reluctant but asked a lot of questions about cooking. Then, that thing happened. That thing that hunters know, but is so hard to articulate. That feeling that comes with eating honest food from land you own, land you worked at, land you love. That feeling of watching your children eat it and love it and grow.

This year, G. borrowed my rifle and my bibs. She killed her first deer by herself last week. We’d seen nothing the morning we sat together, and when I left she kept sitting. And kept sitting. And kept sitting until it happened. This weekend she bought her first rifle. We sighted it in at my place Sunday afternoon. I asked if she wanted to go sit the last two hours while Rocio and I watched the kids. She did, and 15 minutes later her second deer was down. When I got there, the deer was dressed. Her little veterinarian scalpel at rest on the hide. We hugged and bumped fists. She told me the story. She was shaking so bad, she had to put the rifle down. She waited for the shakes to pass. “I spent my whole life trying to save animals, and now this—” she trailed off.

It was an easy drag over the snow to the dirt road and my tractor. G. stood on the hitch arms, the deer in the loader, and we slow crawled back to the house. We put the deer in my pickup, so she could take it to the butcher. We stood at the tailgate and looked at her deer. “I’m so happy,” G. said wiping at her eyes. “I don’t understand it. I’m so fucking happy.”

As most hunters know it is not the joy of killing that covers our smiling faces when we pose behind a kill. It is the satisfaction of doing a difficult task and providing food for our families. Sure we could just buy our meat from the grocery store but that would never could never provide the satisfaction of acquiring it ourselves.

People have asked me what is closest thing to the satisfaction of obtaining meat through hunting, and without hesitation I say gardening. There is something about putting in hard work and being able to taste the fruits of your labor. A fresh garden tomato tastes ten-thousand times better than a store bought. It is the same way with venison.

The meat on our table carries a story and a memory of long hour on the stand, countless days at the range, and for many a lifetime of study to gain the knowledge necessary to be successful.

Meat is the primary motivation that most people hunt. It is the first one I talk about in my book, Why We Hunt: The Five Motivations of the Modern Hunter. People understand meat and food and sharing a meal with them helps them understand why we hunt.

Hunters are consistently under attack from people that do not understand hunting. Sharing meat and food is one of the best was to show them that it is still a needed and ethical endever.

Approach non-hunters and anti-hunters with patience and love and you may be able to change a few minds. In my book, I discuss conversations that I have with a vegetarian friend. I took the time to explain why hunting is needed and ethical. It took many conversations but in the end she had a favorable view of hunting even though she said she could never participate herself.

As hunters we are all responsible for the future of our sport and we must take steps to preserve it, one backstrap at a time.