Perpetuate the sanctity of the harvest.

It’s been a long morning, and it isn’t even close to over yet. The light dusting of snow has made the world brighter, yet you know that it is far to early to get out of the truck and venture forth into this frigid November day in pursuit of your intended target. Venison! You look over at your partner in crime, this time it is your oldest boy. You know it was the right decision, being 13 and all, he has already reaped the delicious rewards of hard work and dedication, and he deserves it again. Taking a short swig of scalding coffee from the thermos you steal a glance at him. He’s a good-looking kid, smart, caring, every parents dream. You know that soon enough he will be away at college, and you will be all alone on these early morning voyages. But even that doesn’t pardon him from a little ribbing from Dad. “Get your eyes off that damn phone, and pay attention to what’s going on around you. I know it’s early but that doesn’t mean theres nothing to see, If I wanted to babysit I would have brought your little sister along!” He flashes back a smile, and turns the screen off on his phone. Conversation’s carry on like they always do, school, grades, sports and girls, spoken softly to pass the time. “You know”, you pause as you start one of those “Dad stories” you promised yourself you would never tell… “I wasn’t that much older than you the first time I met your mother…” “Dad wait, did you see that?” he questions you intently. You shake your head, signaling that you had not. You try to focus your attention without getting tunnel vision in the early morning gloom. You remind yourself to look for movement more than anything else… Out of the corner of your eye you finally see it. “That’s our boy right there” you whisper to your son as you nod out the left side of your snow covered windshield. In an instant he is trying desperately to open the passenger side door, power door lock have a hell of a way of  reminding people they have to stay patient. You take a look at your watch 9:25 A.M. “5 minutes kiddo then it’s game time.” As clockwork always does, the last moments crept by the slowest, then in a second everything changes, the lights come on, and neither of you can control your excitement. Both doors fly open in an instant, looking like mouse traps wired in reverse. The cold wind tears at your previously warm checks and the snow obscures your vision. You try to keep your footing on the icy ground, and make your way quickly and quietly toward your intended prey. As you silently slide into position, you ask your son if he is ready? “I been waiting for a whole year Dad, I’m definitely ready for this”. You smile, knowing exactly how he feels, and in one quick motion you open the door and you are greeted by warm air and the smell of curly fries. Arby’s has the Meats, and for a limited time… The Venison too!

Before you instantly hit that back button on your web browser, thinking that this a shameless plug for a fast food chain and wondering why you waste 15 minutes of your Sunday pilfering though my nutball half-baked theories about how rifles are more accurate than shooters, my love for 10 round ar-15 mags, and my infatuation with snow, hear me out. The Montana Wildlife Federation (WMF) has written a letter to the corporate offices of Arby’s expressing their displeasure with Arby’s decision to sell “Wild game” sandwiches. In case you didn’t see it last year, Arby’s broke ground in the overpriced not good for you food market by selling venison sandwiches in a few select (read 5 states, 17 restaurants) locations, that they believed were “prime” for such a sandwich. Problem was the demand was much larger than the supply, and they sold out quick! So being a caring company, (sorry I just gagged on sarcasm) Arby’s decided to re-release the sandwiches this year on October 21st in 3,300 locations nationwide, and if you are lucky enough to live in the states of  Montana, Wyoming or Colorado there is also an elk option. So why does Montana give two rips if Arby’s sells a wild game sandwich you might ask? Well first of all it’s not “wild game”, “wild game” cannot be sold in the United States, only “farm raised games animals” can. But they doesn’t have the ring of “wild game” does it? “This runs counter to Montana’s fair-chase hunting values by encouraging the commercialization of a public wildlife resource.” thats a direct quote from the letter, seems pretty solid to me. So where does this “venison” come from you may ask? Well it would be almost IMPOSSIBLE to procure enough deer meat from domestic markets, in so Arby’s has this “farm rased game meat” sent in from New Zealand. (outsource anyone?) Another fear of the department (which is why the community voted in the year 2000 to make new commercial farming of wild game animals illegal in their state) is “concerns about unethical captive shooting activities and the spread of disease”. (Which makes sense, wild birds don’t have salmonella, only domesticated birds do.) And as to “unethical shooting activities” I think we can all find a commen ground in undestanding that “some people” are so intoxicated with the idea of  their name in a record book, that they may be “persuaded” into pen raising an animal, filling it with whatever they can in order to promote giant horn growth, and harvesting it, only to later claim it as a potential State or World record. Some peoples kids right?

What do I think? Well if someone lives in an area where they may potentially never get to try deer meat (I don’t know where this place is, and if I ever hear of this place I will avoid it like the plague) or if a person lives in a family where hunting is considered  “savage” and “not needed in this modern civilization” (they probably live in that place where they can’t try deer meat) then I think it is nice that they will be able to try a “tamed” down version of the real thing. If someone has never tried game meat, and after trying these sandwiches they become an active part of wildlife conservation ( Remember the Pittman-Robertson act? The one that guarantees that a 11 percent of firearm and ammo sales goes directly back to that states wildlife management. Fishing and hunting liscences go directly back into the state too.) then thats also great. But it isn’t “wild game”, and it will never have the same appeal as an animal that lived free and was harvested in its own enviroment, with fair chase ethically. If you have never ate a rear inner tenderloin from a deer so fresh it hasen’t hit room temperature yet, you haven’t lived. Chicken is great, but it can’t hold a candle to the flavor of a freshly harvested grouse breast pan fried in a cast iron skillet over an open fire. Last night I made grilled stuffed burritos with cilantro rice, black beans, jalapeno, bacon, and pan seared widgeon and gadwall that I harvested, cleaned and cooked myself. (Don’t tell Chipotle grill, or it may be on the menu next week!) Wild game gains flavor with time, both in the aging process, and in the persuit of the animal. No commercialized politically correct version of “wild game” can ever compete with the real thing, and the memories of hunting with friends and family will far outweigh the memories of eating a damn sandwich. Sorry, its just the facts.

-Grant Willoughby 11/05/2017-

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