I’m going to level with you here: I do not feel like I fit in with the majority of the outdoors community. For starters, I am a die-hard liberal. As left as they get. On top of that, I didn’t shoot a gun for the first time until I was 17 years old. I didn’t hunt for the first time until I was in my twenties. I didn’t grow up shooting a deer every winter with my Dad or spending the summers fishing for bass. Mostly I grew up playing video games. And at some point in my twenties I just decided that I was going to learn this stuff. I decided that it was time for me to get into closer contact with the food that I eat and the natural world that we all rely on.
We, as a species, have become incredibly disconnected from our food. Most of us can identify only a handful of plants, and most of those we only know from the grocery store. The plants growing around us, the trees shading our favorite walks, most of these are a mystery to us.
I am a meat eater. It should be startling that until I began this project, I had never been personally responsible for the meat on my plate. There are deep ethical questions about feeding your body with flesh that you know nothing about. When it is so easy to acquire meat, we all eat too much of it, to the detriment of our bodies and the earth. We should all take some responsibility for our food. To eat is to kill, regardless of your diet, and we should all strive to do so ethically, for the benefit of ourselves and all the other creatures on this beautiful planet.
But our disconnect extends well beyond the realm of food. I did not begin this project only out of a desire to eat more ethically or to reduce my impact on the planet. The other, equally important, reason was my personal feeling of distance from the natural world. I grew up going outdoors as a kid, but it was always as a spectator. In my adolescence, I mostly gave up the natural world. It always held some joy for me, but I spent the majority of my time plugged into some virtual world or another, slaying dragons and gathering treasure. It wasn’t until after college that I returned to the woods. And what I found there was something deep, atavistic, and primal.
On my first hunt, as I did my best to get a shot at a squirrel that was doing a better job of hiding from me in the top of an old oak tree, I realized that I was no longer a spectator. I was engaged in a mortal struggle with that creature. My senses were awake in a way I had never before known. I was as alive as I had ever been. I do not think there is any other way to know that feeling than to go to the woods to gather your food.
This project began with all of that in mind. I would live my life differently. I would minimize my impact on the earth. I would rediscover that lost connection to the land by teaching myself to hunt, fish, forage, and garden. I would find my meals by hook, rifle, and spade.