Dear Steve and the MeatEater gang,
I just successfully completed my first hunt, and I have you all to thank for that. I’m a mid-thirties, highly-educated female who used to associate hunters with Confederate flags and low IQs. I never would have imagined myself hunting to procure my annual supply of meat, but a move to northern Idaho a few years ago and the debut of Steve’s first TV show changed my trajectory. Steve’s insightful discourse mirroring Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic philosophy in his shows and his fantastic books convinced me that not only was I capable of hunting, but that, because of where I live, hunting is likely the most sustainable and ethically sound lifestyle an environmentally-concious omnivore like me can adopt.
Since Idaho doesn’t have an official hunter mentoring program, I was lucky to find a neighbor who graciously and patiently took me under his wing and mentored me through my first hunt. I had never even owned a firearm before, so sighting-in the scope and target practice alone were educational experiences. When deer season opened the second week of October, I bought my first tag with a sense of both excitement and trepidation. I can’t even kill our chickens without getting teary; was I really going to be able to do this?
My mentor took me out to some open access private lands and taught me to look for trails and take a stand. We spent one Sunday just scouting and watching, hoping I might get a shot but not counting on it. When we went back the next week, I knew exactly where to set up. After a quiet morning with only some marginal opportunities, we moved around a bit and watched the late afternoon sun begin its slow descent toward the horizon. Only a few minutes after the evening witching hour began, a gorgeous young buck meandered over the crest of the ridge just above us, about 80 yards away. I quietly shouldered my rifle, sighted him, held my breath, and pulled the trigger. I don’t think he ever knew what hit him.
In the moments after my first kill, the mix of emotions and adrenaline coursing through my veins was one of the most powerful drugs I could imagine. I was elated to have made a clean shot right through his lungs for my first effort, and said a small prayer thanking the animal for his sacrifice. He was truly a beauty; a three-year old white-tail with a 4-point rack (that’s a 4×4 for you easterners) and a gorgeous, healthy coat and body. He’s hanging to cure now, and soon I’ll be learning to butcher and filling my freezer with venison.
Now that’s I’ve filled my first tag, I’m already talking about learning to hunt turkey and whether I should go after elk next year (which several friends tell me is even better meat than deer). My mentor hasn’t bought meat from a grocery store in over three decades, and I hope to be able to say the same someday in the future. I also hope to pass on my newfound love of hunting to my family someday; my nine-year old nephew is already asking if he can learn to hunt with me (since his parents don’t). I’m looking forward to that, too. Not just so that I can teach him to hunt, but so that I can teach him to love the outdoors and understand why conservation and sustainable land management practices are so important. I’ve always been a nature-lover, now I just have a fuller appreciation (and fuller belly) for how all of the elements of the ecosystem work in concert, including hunting.
Thanks for the great work that you do, both on the show and in your travels and writings. I can say with absolute confidence that Steve got me started on this path, and opened a world to me that I never would have imagined I would enjoy so much. I’m incredibly grateful for that, and I’ll never look back. I am proud to be a hunter.
You can keep up with Crystal’s hunting adventures here.