From the 30 Aug 2010 Lockport Union Sun and Journal (Lockport, NY)

By Bob Confer

In days gone by we were a more self-sufficient people, able to feed our families even in the face of adverse economic conditions. Itís common to hear stories from those who lived during the Great Depression that cite their having never gone hungry. Even the poorest families were able to eat, not like kings mind you, but well enough. Extended families worked together to tend farms and raise animals, every household that had the space sported a garden and practiced canning, and men hunted at length, filling their loved onesí dinner plates with wild game like deer, rabbits, and waterfowl.

Our society has changed a great deal since. Our population has gone from being 90 percent self-sufficient to 10 percent, the result of a more industrialized and so-called "advanced" way of life and the abandonment of rural living for the confines of suburbia and the big city. Because of that, when an economic collapse of great magnitude like the current one does occur, we are hurt more than we were in past national crises. Many people do go hungry, or at least wanting, from a combination of escalating commodity prices and a lack of income opportunity (the current unemployment and underemployment rate is at 16 percent).

But, it doesnít have to be that way. Most Americans are limited in their ability to independently feed their families from an agricultural standpoint due to the limitations of altered society. But, every American still has the potential to put meat Ė and lots of it Ė on the table. Hunting remains a viable option, even in todayís world.

Itís obvious some folks believe in that. Nationally, sales of sporting licenses rose by 3.5 percent in 2009, the greatest growth in 20 years. That was, with a doubt, due to the recession which began in earnest a year earlier. Many money-conscious families re-discovered the financial value and health rewards of feeding themselves naturally.

Hunting saves households considerable amounts of money. Beef is not cheap. It never really was and itís becoming more expensive, just as pork, chicken and turkey are. All have and are seeing ongoing long-term price hikes mostly due to higher input costs (thanks to ethanolís utilization of corn). If you have 4 mouths to feed an inordinate amount of your weekly income or subsidies are going towards meats. Hunted meat, on the other hand, is cheap. Beyond the initial investment of a gun and gear, thereís the annual cost of a license at about $50 (unless you wisely invest in a lifetime license) and, in the case of a deer, $50 for processing if youíre not handy with butchersí tools. For that small investment you could take 3 maybe 4 deer a year which would more than provide for a familyís need for ground meat and steaks. Plus, you could harvest a few turkeys and an almost unlimited supply of geese.

If you havenít had wild game you donít know what youíre missing. I never buy beef. Venison provides all of my red meat needs. Usually 6 days a week I ingest deer in one form or another. Itís as versatile as beef and can be prepared in any way that you or your kids will eat it (tacos, meatballs, steaks, burgers, you name it).

Itís also a whole lot healthier than beef. Low in fat and high in protein and healthy Omega 3s, itís just what the doctor ordered. Even though I eat meat like itís going out of style, my cholesterol has ranged from 110 to 140 over the past decade, a testament to venisonís benefit. Youíre guaranteed that itís safe, too: You wonít be getting any recalls because the creature wasnít raised on an industrial farm or slaughtered and processed in a disease-ridden plant.

If youíve never hunted before and want to partake in the harvest, now is the time to do it. There are plenty of hunting courses being held across the state next month, just in time for the fall seasons. Visit to find a class near you.

If taking game isnít your cup of tea, but youíd still like the benefits, ask a friend to fill your freezer. Many recreational hunters never fill their doe permits and would gladly do so for you as it gives them more time in the woods.

Thereís not much more that you could ask for from hunting: It gives you the peace of mind that you can feed your family, do it affordably and do it healthily. Get out in the woods and enjoy!