A busy hunting season drew to a close on Nov. 29 and now the real work begins. Mike and I process our own meat, which I think is really cool, but quite the undertaking.
Mike harvested a bull, cow and buck, and I harvested two does this season, so we have a lot of meat. We also have some antelope and bear meat from earlier this year that is yet to be processed. We have two huge chest freezers in our garage and they’ll be jam packed without a doubt. We’ll also able to share meat with family and friends – Mike always processes elk for his mother, who lives near Flathead Lake, and we like giving wild game to folks who don’t hunt, or who have a lot of children and therefore a lot of mouths to feed.
Fortunately, we have a handful of friends who also process their own wild game, so we had a meat cutting party. I shouldn’t say ‘we,’ though – I was at work all day and arrived to find all the meat processed … all I could do was help with clean up! They spent the day in an assembly line, churning through the work, all while enjoying great company. The effort is worth it – I haven’t purchased meat (other than bacon) at the store in more than a year.
Our freezers are full of steaks, roasts, burger, bacon burger (delicious!), many kinds of sausages and jerky. And all that meat comes from animals out of our very own backyard.
I know hunting isn’t for everyone. For that matter, eating meat isn’t even for everyone. And I respect that. But I’m a meat eater and I love the tradition that surrounds hunting in Montana. Hunting is a centuries-old custom well alive today. It takes people to some of the most beautiful, remote places in the world and allows them to form a unique relationship with wildlife and wilderness. Hunting cultures a respect for creatures, but is also a way to provide for oneself and family.
This fall was my first taste of hunting season. I cannot say that I will be a die-hard hunter, but I can guarantee you I will take advantage of all Montana has to offer during each hunting season. I’ll enjoy time in the mountains and explore the country on horseback. I’ll hunt for substance and put in the time and effort to butcher and package whatever wild game Mike and I harvest so we have full freezers.
I had a wonderful conversation with a Sheridan resident last week about what hunting means to him. In his mind, it’s all about providing for his family and friends. When family freezers are full, they purchase doe tags and get to work helping others. They harvest, butcher and package wild game for friends who are not able to hunt for a variety of reasons – often older community members. What a great way to give back.
Hunting and Montana go hand-in-hand. But, as my hunter education course emphasized, it is important to remember that hunting is a right, not a privilege. If you’re going to hunt, hunt responsibly.