I was at an event recently where my admission of being a hunter stirred up quite a reaction from a couple of individuals. California seems to lead the pack when it comes to animal rights, vegan lifestyles and just plain absence from eating meat. This wasn’t the first time I was confronted with this issue, but this time I had some extra ammunition with me.

Recently, I started hearing more and more about programs such as Hunters Feed the Hungry and Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry (FHFH). After a little research I was blown away when I learned how much meat was actually donated.For example, Hunters feed the hungry donated almost 2.8 million pounds of game meat to shelters, food banks and church kitchens that fed people in need.

The West, including California only accounted for one percent of those donations, and maybe that’s why it doesn’t make headlines. Interestingly, the Midwest and the South provided 46 and 45 percent of the donations, respectively.  Needless to say, that’s a lot of meat! 

There’s a great story about how the FHFH was started. Sometime back in the late 90’s, a bowhunter named Rick Wilson was driving to meet some hunting buddies when he spotted a lady standing beside a beat up car along the side of the road with the trunk open. From the looks of her, he could tell she was not doing too well. She looked slightly distressed, so he decided to stop. She asked him if he could come and help her with something in the bushes.

Rick had a suspicion that someone might pop out and rob him so he was on guard. The lady led him to a road-killed buck. She wanted help getting it in her trunk. After explaining to her that she could get a citation for picking up road-kill, she said she didn’t care because her family was starving. As he watched her drive away, buck in trunk, he had an epiphany that spurred his desire to help the less fortunate. I know of hunters, including myself, that would have reacted the same way in that situation. In fact, some of the best people I know are hunters.

The individuals, which will remain anonymous, that were voicing their disgust of hunters and hunting in general somehow wiggled away from the conversation after learning of these programs (I was just getting to the good part that explained the positive impact of wildlife management and conservation.)

Somehow, people seem to be either very uninformed, uninterested or misinformed here in California. I see it a little differently in the community where I live because there seems to be a growing interest in self-sustainability through farming, hunting and alternative power options. In fact, the more you look, the more you will find items on store shelves that include the words “pasture raised,” “humanely processed” and “free range.”

Still, there seems to be an ongoing debate over greenhouse gas emissions caused by big meat processing plants etc. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about hunting and wildlife conservation which has been around for ever and is a genuine part of our culture.

The bottom line is that it works and always has. Hunting is a part of our culture and does more than teach us how to get our own meat. It instills in us a sense of gratitude and a moral obligation to protect our wild lands and natural resources along with the creatures that live in these places. Hunting is an important part of our heritage that we are lucky to have the privilege to pursue. Most hunters are genuinely concerned with the future of these resources. Don’t let anyone tell you they’re not. Now you have a story to share too.