During this past holiday season, many people prepared elaborate and thoughtfully prepared meals for gatherings of friends and family. For hunters and anglers a lot of those meals revolved around wild fish and game that was the result of many hours of hard work in the woods and on the water. Cooking meals of wild game for large groups of people is nothing new historically speaking and ancient hunters shared many of the same traditions we practice today.
For some Native American cultures, gathering enough food to feed large numbers of people was accomplished with a hunting technique commonly known as buffalo jumps. Herds of bison would be driven towards and over steep cliffs, hopefully resulting in a pretty big pile of game meat to be shared throughout the group. While this hunting technique would be frowned upon today, it was a very effective method of securing food.
It turns out that a celebratory barbecue similar to a modern backyard grilling party but on a grander scale, often accompanied these buffalo jump hunts. Recently, archaeologists unearthed a large, elaborately constructed cooking pit near a buffalo jump site in the Canadian Rockies appropriately named Head-Smashed-In, where bison were cooked and consumed after a successful hunt. Of course, there’s nothing quite like enjoying a meal of wild game cooked in the field directly after a successful hunt and we can only imagine that these buffalo jump barbecue pits were a familiar scene of happy hunters sharing fire-roasted meat with a group family and friends.
Brody Henderson is a hunter, fly fishing guide, writer, wilderness production assistant for the MeatEater television show and MeatEater‘s editorial contributor.