THIS IS THE most gratifying meal I have had in a long time. My wife Lisa cooked fried turkey breast strips from this incredible Eastern wild turkey I took in New York last Wednesday.”
That Facebook post with a photo of the fried turkey breast and me with the bird got a tremendous, positive response. To be honest, I expected some blowback. After all, some of my followers are wildlife lovers, not necessarily hunters or anglers.
Hunting for me has always been about connecting with nature and getting excellent meat for the table. Whether it is a wild turkey, wild boar, flounder, salmon or whitetail deer, the Moore household has always enjoyed wild game.
If we don’t eat it, we don’t kill it. Period.
There is no doubt hunter, and fisherman-based conservation works tremendously well, but hunters in the age of social media haven’t always done a good job putting forth that message. That’s why I think it’s time to start Trophy Cooking.
Yep, I said it.
The most prominent trophy should be what’s on the grill or in the pan instead of what’s on the wall. I’ve got antlers hanging in my house too, but the beauty of the harvest is best expressed in the kitchen, not just in the taxidermist studio.
For the Moores it’s about celebrating a successful hunt and eating tasty meat that doesn’t come from a corporate farm. It blows me away that people are okay with someone buying something often brutally killed in a factory farm, but are not okay with someone killing their own meat.
For some, like my friend Jennifer (@Savagetexan on Instagram), eating wild game is about health. After a horrendous health battle that left her in the hospital and nearly dead, she decided to start eating clean and saw quick results. Along that journey, Jennifer decided she wanted to start killing her own game and eating the most organic meat possible.
“I didn’t come from a hunting family, so I had to learn on my own,” she said. “There were great challenges, especially being a woman, but I have found it to be extremely gratifying.”
Jennifer says she mourns the kill, but celebrates the harvest.
“I pray over each animal I kill and thank God that he allows me to be part of this circle of life. I appreciate every animal I have the opportunity to hunt, kill and eat, and I am grateful for what it does for my health,” she said.
A study entitled “Perceptions of Hunting and Hunters by U.S. Respondents” showed some exciting results concerning eating wild game.
An online survey of 825 U.S. residents was conducted to determine their views on hunting, hunters, and hunting practices within the United States. Overall, 87 percent of respondents agreed that it was acceptable to hunt for food. However, only 37 percent agreed that it was acceptable to hunt for a trophy.
For hunter-conservationists who wish to promote healthy, sustainable wildlife, maybe it’s time to focus on the meal instead of only the photo with a dead animal.
Demographics change and fewer people are growing up in hunting and fishing families. So, there has to be a way to get people interested in these pursuits and to accept sustainable hunting.
A recent survey from marketingcharts.com shows that nearly half of Americans watch cooking television shows regularly. Only 21 percent say they never watch them.
Millennials, in particular, show a deep interest in this type of programming. Venison recipes feature regularly on these programs, so maybe it’s time to reach out via the kitchen.
A big reason why I love wildlife and fisheries is that I grew up fishing and hunting. I learned very early in life that if you take too many deer, they disappear. If a stream is polluted, it’s not good to eat the fish from it.
We need to build bridges into communities that support all means of keeping wildlife populations high, and keeping wild grounds and waterways healthy. Whether that’s hunting, fishing, birdwatching, or diving, we need to unite over habitat and things that get the job done for wildlife.
Over the coming year, I will gather and dispense numerous wild game recipes and other aspects of game and fish cooking. If you have any you would like to share, please email me at [email protected]
There’s an old saying that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Perhaps the way true hunter-conservationists can reach the hearts of America is in the kitchen through cooking. Maybe even more important, it can help win back the soul of hunting in America.
Posting only kill shots on YouTube and dead animals on Instagram shows an incomplete picture of what hunting is about to young people interested in pursuing this lifestyle.
Teaching that hunting is a sustainable way to provide healthful food for our families might begin the process of turning hearts toward conservation instead of social media status.
In my opinion, trophy cooking can be a big part of saving hunting from our enemies as well as ourselves.
Feral hogs are a nuisance but they sure are tasty if cooked right. Regional cooking expert Jesse Griffiths, author of “Afield: A Chef’s Guide to Preparing and Cooking Wild Game and Fish,” turns these wild pigs into a melt-in-your-mouth southwestern classic.
—story by CHESTER MOORE