Real Foodists: Bowhunting brings wild food — and conscious eating — to the table

by  Kristen A. Schmitt

Kristen's many outdoor articles have appeared in National Geographic, Field & Stream, Modern Farmer, Deer & Deer Hunting, Food Politic, Mother Earth News, Modern Hunter & more. She writes a weekly blog for Deer & Deer Hunting and is a weekly contributor to Field & Stream’s Field Notes blog.

New to bowhunting, Kristen recently completed a “Beginner’s Guide To Archery For Women” DVD that is available now through F&W Media.

My journey to bowhunting wasn’t a direct one. In fact, it was a path I never could have predicted that I would take. But my passion for nutrition and quality food fueled my desire to try to fill my freezer myself with organic free range meat courtesy of my local forest.

This means that I didn’t grow up learning the skill as a child – it was something that I decided to learn in my 30s with the support of my family and my continued quest for good quality food. While many in society eat meat daily and at nearly every meal, few question the origins of the piece of protein on their plate. Bowhunting brings a greater connection to where my food comes from and for that I am incredibly grateful.

While it is nearly impossible to directly compare the nutritional composition of wild meat to domestically-raised meat, there are other variables to consider. I do think that hunting is often overlooked as a viable alternative to animals that are raised in commercial feedlots. According to the EPA, these “farms” can house more than 125,000 animals under one roof, producing cheap meat, eggs, and dairy that may hinder our health – and the health of our planet -- more than it helps it.  Not only have we seen an increase in diet-related diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity, but the environmental impact of factory farms and their relationship to climate change is only now being studied.

It could be argued that hunting is better for the environment because it leaves a much smaller ecological footprint than a commercial cattle farm. Harvesting a single deer within its wild habitat is less obtrusive – and less damaging – to the natural landscape and requires the hunter to utilize expertise honed through time and skill.

Bowhunters also have the ability to live anywhere, hunt on one of the many tracts of state land available for public hunting (or with private land permission), and have the opportunity to harvest one of the last truly free range meat options available.

I also find bowhunting – and archery – one of the most empowering skills I could have ever pursued and hope that my daughter continues to follow in my footsteps. Of course, the bonus of bowhunting means that my freezer will hopefully be full of free range meat following the upcoming fall archery deer season. I am incredibly excited to climb my tree stand again this fall to see if I can make a successful harvest.

Any way we can bring consciousness back to the table is beneficial, whether it is raising chickens or ducks for eggs and meat, planting a garden, or picking up a bow to go bowhunting – all of these activities make us conscious eaters and consumers. To read more about similar journeys, check out two of my favorite books: “Call of the Mild: Learning to Hunt My Own Dinner” by Lily Raff McCaulou and “A Mindful Carnivore” by Tovar Cerulli.

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