If someone had told me in my early twenties that hunting would lead me to some of my biggest learnings, my most gratifying experiences and give me a profound perspective about the world, I would have laughed them off.
Growing up in the city, hunting was never a part of my life, or even on my radar. Hunting seemed to be something that was a part of a world on the opposite spectrum from my own. Looking back now, this was the first lesson hunting taught me and one that I remind myself about on a daily basis: don’t judge something you know nothing about.
After working my way through professional kitchens for 10+ years, I had established myself as a competent chef well versed in a multitude of cuisines and techniques. A movement soon began to emerge in the industry that focused on nose-to-tail cooking. My interest in whole animal butchery and maximizing every cut from an animal became something I was very passionate about. Not long afterward a friend suggested I try hunting as a means of getting my hands on high-quality meat. It seemed like simple math.
Pursuing a wild life outside of the city while living in the heart of it took some work but has proven to be one of the most rewarding endeavors in my life. What started out as a means of acquiring meat quickly became something much deeper. My most rugged, solo backpack hunts were revealing to me something that I didn’t even know that I needed. A physicality, a mental challenge, a space for introspection and a connection to the landscape. Hunting, for me, felt so instinctual, so natural, that I couldn’t close the door on what I had discovered. Living without it would feel like a contradiction to who I was learning that I was.
As I spent more time in the mountains I learned about the delicate balance that exists in wild places and began to truly appreciate the impact I was having in the world. Those learnings would color my hands red and leave me smelling of meat. There was no middle man, no buffer between my food and myself. Whether we choose to be hands-on with our food or not, this perspective is something I believe everyone should consider.
Since I started hunting, I have always been keen to share my experiences with friends and family, but they can be supremely difficult to convey. As hunters, we are lucky that one of the most direct results of our pursuit can be high-quality table-fare. Food is a common language amongst all people and no matter your background, it makes for a great place to start a conversation.
After a recent sailboat hunt for Blacktail deer off the coast of B.C., I cooked a multiple-course wild game dinner for a group of friends back home. As it does more often than not, plates full of venison inevitably lead to questions about hunting. They asked me what drives hunters to continue to pursue game in the bush when it's readily available at the local butcher. With the smell of venison heart yakitori still hanging in my kitchen, I dove into the meaning and why’s of what we do. I always tell them there is no substitute for the first-hand experience of being there and doing it yourself.
To stand alone in a vast and wild place is a humbling experience. To do so is to confront how small we all are in the world, to put into perspective that we are all just along for the ride on this rock hurtling through space. In today’s day and age, I think that is something we can all benefit from. Get out there, and if you can, bring someone with you who has never had that experience.