Through a convoluted story that I may one day share, my Father asked me to take more responsibility for our hunt camp (that he had run for 5+ years and co-run for 20+ previous) about 5 or 6 years back. It’s been a humbling experience and a role I’m not fully comfortable writing about as it’s still something I have to grow into and one that will be earned in the respect of others through their experiences with me. It’s like writing about family – some things are a little too close to be truly open about.
One thing that I am comfortable sharing about was my fear of the camp disappearing.
Our cabin has existed for 42 years (with several members who have attended for 35 or more) and has been a part of my life for as long as I have memory. It’s a magical place to me filled with memories of family, friends and is, in many ways, my ongoing coming-of-age journey. It’s a place of deep connectedness which only truly exists when it is filled with the members of our camp and is very much about the people more than it will ever be about any piece of wood or glass which holds it all together.
It was only 4 or 5 years ago that I realized we were actively in danger of extinction. Hunting was commonly vilified (something I can be empathetic about), participation was on a serious decline and the only new hunters we new were in their 40′s or 50′s. I’ve never worried about age as a qualifier – but to keep a camp like ours going requires multiple generations who can split the load of a physically demanding activity as well as pass down traditions across generations. It was clear that our average age was increasing and the ability to lower the average wasn’t apparent.
This trend continues 3 years ago. When I published my first journal of the hunt, we lost half of our traffic to the blog. That group of visitors didn’t return (for the most part). Again, I can be empathetic. I’m pretty sure I would be against the pursuit had I not been exposed to it my entire life.
Things have started to change though. People have become more connected to their food, awareness of mass agriculture and livestock is becoming more common and the quest for ethically raised, small-farmed, organic meat and vegetables is on the rise. I am seeing young hunters pursue the activity who are brand new to it and interest appears on the rise. There are less licenses available (ensuring a managed population) and we’re seeing new people hunting every year. It’s a pleasant sight (other than the reduced licenses and opportunities).
I bought a copy of Hunt, Gather, Cook by Hank Shaw for my Father for his birthday this summer. The inscription explained that this book as the sign that things are continuing to change – and that I see the legacy that he has built with a definite future for the first time I can remember.
The book is a delightful read – for participants of the hunt and those foreign to it alike. Topics include those from the title as well as recipes, tips and philosophy. It’s a lovely read and a wonderful example of taking your personal food chain into your own hands and control.
Hank hasn’t purchased meat for his house since 2005 (he makes exceptions for charcuterie and claims the occasional pig jowl). His passions include the pursuit of lesser-sought ingredients and he is a fabulous writer who transparently shares his knowledge and excitement.
It is interesting to note that he also shares plenty of vegetarian recipes (a link to those on his site is here). I continue to find it fascinating how many of us who choose to hunt also have reduced the overall meat intakes in our diet as part of the process.
Hank is going to be appearing at the Evergreen Brick Works (in Toronto) this Saturday (Oct 15) from 1-4. He’s doing a cooking demonstration and book signing (cost is $10 or pay what you can) and there’s no need to pre-register. he’ll also be at the Drake Hotel on Monday Night for 86d.
As for me? I’d love to be there… but I’ll be in the woods, getting ready for the 6-day moose season that starts on Monday morning (Dana’s hoping to make it to at least one of the events).