Turning Critters Into Food

At the beginning of this year, I set out to get closer to food.  It’s far too easy to think your vegetables come from the produce department and meat magically appears in Styrofoam and plastic wrap.  So I planted a garden and set out to shoot tasty animals.

Well, I got a few tomatoes, some cucumbers, spinach, carrots, and a lovely opportunity to bond with my son while we froze in the woods. Notice the lack of of tasty animals? I know, that’s why they call it hunting.  Besides, my permit is still good and deer season is upon us. I’m old enough that the Hunter Safety course isn’t required, but it is available online for many states. Try HunterCourse.com California, or select from many states. Even though the course isn’t required, we’ve been lucky enough to have guidance from friends.

But just because I didn’t shoot it, doesn’t mean I’m not going to eat it.  And there is a pretty substantial difference between pulling your meat out of packages and pulling it out of the skin of a squirrel.  Also, a fully skinned out squirrel is very strange looking indeed. (Links not for the squeamish.) So there are 2 gutted, skinned, and sectioned squirrels in my freezer ready for cooking. And a squirrel pelt in my bathroom (Again with the squeamish warning).  Right next to the Tannerite. What? Where else would you keep your skins and explosives?

Like Jay, I’m hoping to do my part in varmint eradication this weekend. We’ll see if that Rifleman patch I earned translates to prairie dogs! Should be good practice for deer season anyway.  We’ve seen them on the game cam. Wish us luck in getting them to the freezer!

This post is brought to you by HunterCourse.com California. All thoughts and opinions belong to the author.

 

New Hunter Musing

I don’t know if I can really call myself a new hunter yet.  I have my license now. I’m tanning a squirrel hide in the master bathroom (that sentence was nearly the title of this post just to make you look).

But I haven’t shot a critter yet.  I assisted in the gutting and skinning of said squirrel.  Honestly, she was very nearly my kill.  I had her sighted in perfectly and was applying pressure to the trigger when she moved. Ah well.  Next time.  I have learned that grabbing a handful of still warm squirrel and ripping her flesh from her body does not make me squeamish.  I figure that counts towards my 2012 goal of becoming more intimately acquainted with my food. Also, good to know. I don’t really know what I’ll do with the squirrel pelt once it is tanned, but my husband knows a thing or two about stuff to do with leather, so I’m sure we’ll come up with something.  Really, I wanted to know more about the process.  That’s all a musing of its own.

Sitting in silence on a cold Saturday morning prior to sunrise is a good time to think.  Here I was wearing some Doc Marten work-boots with reinforced toes leaving plenty of room for the much needed toe warmers stuck to my Hello Kitty knee socks.  My boots just happen to be red patent leather.  Yeah, I even have fabulous shoes for tromping through the woods.   But I digress.

I wondered what me 10 years ago would of thought of me on that cold Saturday morning waiting for sunrise and the temp to break the freezing point.  You know, the me that had never shot a gun.  Didn’t own one or really know anything about them.  The animal lover.  Note: I am writing this while flanked by a rescued cat and a rescued dog.  When I was still young enough to go camping* with my parents, I often tried to pet the raccoons that would come up to eat the food we had set out for them.  I would dream about finding a baby as raising it as a pet.

I had the opportunity to feed a deer out of my hand.  It looked at me with its pretty brown eyes while licking the salt from my sweaty hands.  The idea of shooting an animal seemed barbaric.

And yet, there I was Saturday morning watching bait previously placed in an area where we scouted wild pig** activity. Freezing my ass off with a rifle in my lap. With every intention of ending the life of one of God’s creatures.

Funny how maturity and education changes you.  I’ve always been a meat eater.  I knew that animals died for my food.  Even cute, furry ones***. At some point, I realized it was awful hypocritical of me to eat meat and yet take issue with those that hunted. But it was harder for me to get to a point where I thought I could do it.

And then there was the rabbit.  You remember? The one eating my garden. Hey, we worked hard for those nutrients, we had to get them somehow.

Um.  Full stop? Is this coming from the same girl that only a few years prior was trying desperately to save 3 baby rabbits? Feeding them KMR and snuggling them on her belly to keep them warm? The same girl that cried the day we had to bury them because they didn’t survive?

Yep. And you know what? In some ways it feels like an act of worship.

It’s easy to take for granted the bounty God has provided for us when we fight the crowds for meat in cellophane and Styrofoam. For me anyway.  I am not feeling particularly thankful when I have to push past the lady dressed in size manatee spandex leggings (NOT PANTS). And really, must you people walk through the middle of the rows in the parking lot? I’d really rather not run you over, but it’s been a long day, you shouldn’t push it.

But in the bitter cold, out in the elements of raw creation, it’s hard to deny it.  Long before sunrise, a predator better equipped for the night and the woods was curious about us, and yet moved on to other things. That’s a good story, but I’ll leave it to EvylRobot. All I will say is that I’m glad I didn’t have to face it in the dark.

From our little spot in the trees, we watched the world awaken.  The stars faded and finally, the sun filtered in.  Unfortunately, it seems our piggies are not morning piggies, but that’s okay.  We’ve learned something for next time.  Sometimes God deems to bless us by saying no to what we ask for.  Also, we failed to take the time to ask before we started our hunt.

I still love all of God’s creatures.  I’ve realized that hunting them is anything but callous towards them.  Callous is ordering a basket of chicken wings without noting the lives lost for your meal.  In taking the time to study the habits of an animal before setting up in their habitat, you must respect them.  Their lives become very real. You are forced to recognize exactly where the bounty that God provides comes from.  In taking this step, I’ve learned to truly love and respect these creatures.

Even though this hunt did not net us any meat, it was not unsuccessful. The consolation pork shoulder I purchased later at the grocery store had a greater value.  Sure, it came from some pig on a farm living a life of luxury prior to harvest.  But I had just spent the day hoping to meet its wild brethren.  Brethren worthy of researching for weeks on end.  Potentially deadly brethren at that.  That can certainly change your perspective on things.

I don’t have a problem with people that only ever see meat as something from the store or restaurant.  I just think they are missing out.  My goal is about not missing out on the whole picture of our blessings.

*Camping as a kid meant my parents rented a cabin a state park.  We were roughing it because we didn’t have cable. 

**In the interest of full disclosure, I did have a friend that had one of those trendy pot-bellied pigs as a pet when we were kids.  It would stick its nasty snotty nose on everything. I hated that thing and wanted to kick it most of the time.  I think this may be the true origin of football.  

***When I mentioned to my mother that the garden rabbit was the first rabbit I’d ever eaten, she told me it was the first time I’d known I was eating rabbit.  Apparently, I’d had it often as a kid, but no one told me.  Explains why the flavor was so familiar and yet I couldn’t place it.  

 

Tracks in the Woods

We took the kids out to undisclosed location on Tuesday for some exploring and rim-fire goodness.  Been meaning to scout some tracks and take pictures for DanielS so we can plan an excursion that hopefully bolsters our food supplies.

Now, I’m a city kid that is still learning about all this outdoors stuff.  I like camping and hiking and exploring the woods and all, but I’m no where near an expert in such things.  Seriously, growing up, my parents idea of camping was to rent a cabin in a national park.  We were roughing it because we didn’t have cable.  Yes, they brought a television.

I’ve still never been hunting.  I really want to.  Bambi is tasty. But no, I’ve never looked in her big brown eyes and sent lead through her heart.  Can I do it?  I think so.  But I’m not going to know until I’ve got her in my sights.

So anyway, tracks. We’ve got pig

Lots of pig

Some kind of big cat

And????

What on Earth is that? There were several, this one was just the clearest. Here’s another pic.

Any ideas?  That’s my foot in the picture.  I’m wearing a ladies size 8 shoe. That print is the size of my head.  I really don’t think anyone is out there bouncing around on their head that far back in the woods (I had kind of  lost my bearings at this point and had lead the group out farther than I realized. We made it back just fine though.). Besides, I’ve never seen anyone with toes on their heads.  It’s not bear country, but I suppose it would not be completely outside the realm of possibilities.

I’m at a loss, but I know many of you have spent a lot more time in the woods than I have.  Surely someone has seen some oddball track like that one, right? I’d appreciate any and all suggestions there.

And this post has gotten long, so I’ll put the shooty stuff in another post.