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This past week, following my attendance of the NAFB Trade Talk event, I went on my annual deer hunting trip.  Every year, for deer season, me and my boyfriend Cameron make the trip to north Missouri in anticipation of killing a deer or two and filling our freezer.

The hunting this year was AWFUL.  It was SO windy, I was terrified being up in a tree stand.  Opening weekend we saw a total of three deer, and there were no decent opportunities to take a quality shot.  To make matters worse I broke my tree stand, completely.  Last year, on opening morning, all 118 pounds of me broke the last step.  Since then we have been resorting to Cameron hoisting me into the stand.  Its quite comical actually.  This year the stand that has been faithfully providing me a perch to hunt from for 12 years, bit the dust.

Even once my stand broke me and Cameron didn’t give up hunting.  To me and Cameron hunting is our lively hood.  We hunt (or fish) for our food, because we are broke college kids that love God’s great outdoors and all of its resources.  So why not make some use of the wildlife He has provided us with?

Cameron, with a goose he shot in his back yard.  In case you're wondering, goose is delicious.

Cameron, with a goose he shot in his back yard. In case you’re wondering, goose is delicious.

Lets look at the affordability of hunting for a food source.  When I deer hunt I, as a Missouri resident, pay $17 for an any deer tag.  Meaning I can shoot a doe or a buck.  If I’m really in a financial jam I can chose to buy a doe only tag which is only $7.  This money in turn goes to the Missouri Department of Conservation to support and fund wildlife conservation programs and resources.  Small game, turkey, waterfowl tags and fishing permits are close in price to deer tags.

Small mouth bass caught off of the James River (one of those was his cousin's catch!)

Small mouth bass caught off of the James River (one of those was his cousin’s catch!)

Me and Cameron also butcher/process our own deer.  This increases the value of our freezer stash by saving us the money we would normally pay a processor.  Last year when I shot a doe it took me and Cameron under an hour to completely process the deer.  For $17 I not only filled my entire freezer, but I also had leftovers that went to Cameron’s cousin’s wedding cuisine.

The doe I shot last year.

The doe I shot last year.

Me and Cameron don’t just stop at deer hunting.  We turkey, waterfowl and squirrel hunt.  I have been unsuccessful at having the chance to kill a turkey, but Cameron on the other hand is quite skilled.  Cameron is also an avid fisherman and during the summer months is always on the river trying to catch something.  Between all of these sources our freezer tends to stay decently stocked!  Every animal we kill is brought home and used as a food source, we waste NOTHING.

My first duck, a green winged teal.

My first duck, a green winged teal.

Flathead catfish caught by Cameron & his cousin Buck.  Yummy!

Flathead catfish caught by Cameron & his cousin Buck. Yum!

People tend to forget that wildlife and hunting is a valuable part of agriculture and our food system as a whole.  To me, wildlife and hunting is how I can afford to even feed myself.  I know I’m not the only household in this situation.  So the next time you see a hunter, don’t assume they are chasing a trophy kill or on a fun vacation day.  They could be seriously be trying to feed their family.  Offer them some encouragement!

The Missouri Department of Conservation promotes Share the Harvest, a program that donates venison to needy families.  If you are running out of freezer space or just hunt for the fun of it, don’t waste the meat!  Donate it to a family in need!  More information can be found here: http://mdc.mo.gov/hunting-trapping/deer/share-harvest

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