Save A Tree, Eat A Deer

Al Cambronne, author of Deerland and co-author of Gut It. Cut It. Cook It., explains how North American hunters are helping to protect North American ecosystems.

I'm delighted to be joining the team of bloggers here at North American Hunter, and I'd like to begin by briefly introducing myself. In this, my very first post, I also want to explain why eating more venison is good for the environment. Seriously. And not just because it's lean, organic, free-range and humanely harvested.

My most recent book is Deerland: America's Hunt for Ecological Balance and the Essence of Wildness. In the book, I note that the United States now has more than 30 million deer—a hundred times more than just a century ago. Having all those deer is a wonderful thing, but it does have consequences. Locally overabundant deer can devastate entire ecosystems, and hunting remains our best available means for maintaining or restoring ecological balance.

Don't get me wrong. I love deer, and I'm not saying "let's kill them all." Deer in normal, natural numbers are a wonderful part of a balanced ecosystem. Remember that line in those cereal ads, "A delicious part of this balanced breakfast?" And as an adult-onset hunter who loves venison, I've never—ever—complained about seeing too many deer when I'm out hunting. But the ecological impacts of locally overabundant deer are very real, and they can echo and reverberate through an entire ecosystem.

" … the United States now has more than 30 million deer—a hundred times more than just a century ago."

OK. So you're not into wildflowers, and you're not a botanist, ecologist, forester or ornithologist. But as a hunter, you can tell immediately that the photo at the top of this post does not show a great place to find grouse or turkeys—and maybe not even healthy, well-nourished deer, because clearly the ones in this neighborhood have already eaten themselves out of house and home.

I wrote about deer impacts in a couple chapters of Deerland, and also in places such as The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. For doing so, and especially for explaining why deer birth control is not an easy answer, I received a little praise and a lot of hate mail. I tried to not let it get to me, but I just hate haters.

It's a good thing none of those anti-hunting haters figured out I was also the co-author, with my friend and hunting mentor Eric Fromm, of Gut It. Cut It. Cook It.: The Deer Hunter's Guide to Processing and Preparing Venison. I'm one of those adult-onset hunters you've been hearing more about lately. I did a little target shooting and plinking when I was a kid, but I never hunted anything more than sparrows and starlings. Eric got me started with grouse and deer, and with my first deer came lessons in gutting, cutting and cooking. Since I'd spent most of my career as a writer and instructional designer, I began seeing possibilities for a book.

One thing led to another, and here I am, and I look forward to regular conversation with you about wild foods for North American Hunter. Watch for more posts about tools, techniques and tips that can help improve your gutting, cutting and cooking experiences. Meanwhile, thank you, and please keep up the good work. Protect the environment. Eat more venison.

Join the discussion and give us your feedback on this matter here.

Al Cambronne is the author of Gut It. Cut It. Cook It.: The Deer Hunter's Guide to Processing and Preparing Venison. His most recent book is Deerland: America's Hunt for Ecological Balance and the Essence of Wildness. Twitter: @AlCambronne.


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