From Field to Plate in a Day: California Pig Hunting
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Article contributed by J. Doughty of From Field to Plate
The lazy do not roast any game, But the diligent feed on the riches of The hunt.
-Proverbs 12:27 NIV
The concept “From Field to Plate” goes way beyond pulling a trigger or releasing an arrow. It’s an understanding that we are called to be providers. God has given us the ability to harvest our own food from the land and from the seas. All it takes is a willingness to learn and someone to teach.
When I hear that the next generation of wild game harvesters are interested in learning how to hunt, gather, butcher, and cook, it brings me hope and joy. This past weekend, I had the privilege of taking out a young man, named Chase, for his first big game hunt which was a present from his parents for his 21st birthday. Our goal was to Take him out to teach him what “From Field To Plate” truly means.
After talking to Chase, I decided that I would show him that hunting for food is different than hunting for sport or trophies. I wanted him to know that the hunting one sees on TV is nothing like hunting in real life. Through this experience, he would learn to look beyond pulling the trigger and see that animal as a gift for him and his family. God made that animal, he made that animal especially for Chase, and set it animal apart from the others. I wanted to teach him that respecting the animal is just as important as respecting the act of taking its life.
For a while now, I have wanted to show people that a hunter could go “From Field to Plate” in a single day, that you could harvest, clean, butcher, package, cook, and eat your game within 24 hours. So what better time to put this idea into practice, than by teaching a new hunter? I ran this idea by Chase and his face lit up, his excitement rose, and he simply said, “Yes!”
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The day was finally upon us and the plans had been set. We loaded the truck and set out for a day of adventure. On our hour drive out to the ranch, I asked Chase, “Why do you want to hunt?” His response was exactly what I wanted to hear.
Chase: “I’ve always been someone who loves the outdoors, but until recently I never pursued the idea of hunting until I started seeing how hunting is not about blasting birds out of the sky or mindless killing. It’s about harvesting what God has put on this earth for us to harvest.”
We arrived at the ranch just as the sun peeked over the mountains, it’s time to put boots on the ground and start the hunt for tonight’s diner.
Lesson 1: Open Your Eyes
Open your eyes and look around you. Keep one eye on the ground and one on the bushes. We taught Chase to look for the signs of the animals, to look for tracks, bedding spots, and rooted up earth. I Explained that the wind is your friend, as well as your worst enemy, so be aware of it. As we walked deeper into the bush Chase started pointing out signs. I would hear, “Look, is that a bedding area? Hey, check out these tracks. This one looks huge.” He was getting it. He was looking beyond the barrel of his weapon and starting to understand what the animal was doing. He was no longer focused on finding the animal as much as he was following the animal. Suddenly Chase froze and pointed!… There, in the bushes were two pigs. Chase had followed the signs, used his instincts, and found his harvest.
Lesson 2: Quiet, Patience, and Breathe
Okay, quiet, which way is the wind blowing? What are the pigs doing? Do you have a safe shot? What’s beyond the shot?
We see two pigs in the bushes just 25 yards away. We hit the ground and I start to explain what to do, how to take a clean ethical shot. As we lay in the dirt I can see Chase’s hand shaking. I can hear him breathe and I can feel his jitters. I whisper, “Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. Wait till he steps out from behind the bush. Breathe. Put it right behind his shoulder. That’s where you will find the lungs and heart. Breathe. Wait. Wait till you have the shot. We have all day, take your time. Breathe.”
The pig comes out into the open, turns broad side, I whisper “Whenever you feel comfortable, whenever your feel ready, this is your shot.” I hear Chase count down.
1. 2.(Deep breath) 3. Boom!
Chase made a clean shot, right behind the shoulder. I look over at Chase and look at his face. I can see the mixed emotions. This is his first big game harvested and his first time putting meat in the freezer. There was no jumping up, there wasn’t any yelling and screaming like the TV shows. There was just a smile, a hand shake, and a hug. This is the time you quietly reflect and pay respect. Chase had done it; he had harvested his first freezer full of meat. We approached the pig and the smile upon Chase’s face was from ear to ear. The only words he said was, “Thank you.”
Lesson 3: Respect
We knelt down next to Chase’s harvest and I explained that God had given this animal for him and that this animal died so he could live. I told him that we thank God and thank the animal for its meat. We do not pursue trophies for a wall. We pursue the trophy for the plate. We seek adventure, meat, and a better understanding of one’s self. I asked Chase to say a blessing. Chase removed his hat and prayed.
“Heavenly Father, Thank you for providing us this meat. You gave us this pig. You made this pig for me. I thank you for keeping us safe. You always provide. Amen.”
Simple words spoken in respect to the creator and the created, we are blessed.
Lesson 4: Cleaning
Now that the pig has been harvested the next lesson was skinning, gutting and quartering. This is the side of hunting you will rarely ever see on TV. But it’s part of the hunt. I handed Chase a knife and start explaining where to cut and were not to cut. If anyone has ever field dressed an animal they know there is a certain smell that comes along with it. This smell cannot be explained and cannot be avoided. Chase found out quickly that this smell will be something he, nor his stomach, will ever forget.
Next, we discuss how to skin, by allowing the blade to do the work and using full strokes with the knife. I explained that when you are skinning the animal keep the blade flat, close to the skin, away from the meat.
Quartering: I taught him to follow the joints, the muscles groups, and again allowing the knife to do the work. We loaded the quartered game into the ice chests so we could finish teaching him the butchering basics back at home.
Lesson 5: Butchering:
Back at home we pull out the knives, sharpeners and saws. I grab a slab of meat and we teach Chase the cuts of meat comes that from the quarters. We teach him how to follow the muscle groups, how to cut with and not against. I grab the shoulder and cut a hunk of meat and explain that we will be making carnitas tacos from the pork butt. Chase looked confused, didn’t we just grab the shoulder. I explain that the shoulder of a pig is actually called the butt when it comes to certain recipes. Understanding how to butcher your game is just as important as finding and harvesting it.
I tell Chase, “If you kill an animal and just go dump it at a butcher, how is that paying your animal respect? If you are human enough to pull the trigger, your better be human enough to learn how to butcher that animal.”
Chase just smiles and says “What’s next?”
We add the pork butt to the pressure cooker, set for 2 hours, and got back to work.
We cut chops, ribs, hams, hocks, bacon and scraps for sausages. By this time, our friends and family had started to show up and the ice chest is already full. We clean up and prepare for the feast.
Lesson 6: Story Telling and Eating
Twelve hours ago we started our hunting adventure. We jumped in the truck and made our way out to the ranch. Twelve hours ago Chase had never pulled the trigger, never skinned, gutted, hauled, butchered or cooked a big game animal. Twelve hours later that all had changed. The next lesson is one that cannot be taught. It can only be learned by doing. That lesson is accomplishment.
As the friends and family arrived and started setting the table, Chase could not contain his excitement. He relived the day over and over with each new person that arrived. He explained how he harvested, how he cleaned, and how he butchered â€œHISâ€ pig. He laughed as he talked about the smells of gutting and got emotional as he talked about blessing his game.
The meat hit the table, Chase walked over and stood above his shredded meat. He just stood there looking at it. He looked up and said, “Eight hours ago this pig was alive, eight hours ago. Now he is our meal.” Chase said a prayer and everyone made a plate.
I looked at Chase and said, “By your hands, you fed these 15 people. By your hands you are taking home one hundred pounds of meat, by your hands.”
He looked at me and said, “Thanks.”
Today I had the privilege of teaching a young man what “From Field to Plate” is all about. Today we harvested, cleaned, butchered and ate his meal. Today the next generation of From Field to Plate Hunters learned what hunting is all about. It’s about what goes on the plate, not the wall.
What I learned?
One of the most important things I’ve learned so far is that patience is a crucial part of hunting. Waiting for the right animal and the appropriate time to take the shot so that it will most likely end up with a quick clean kill. It is okay to pass up the trophy sized animal and take the one that will provide you with the correct amount of meat that you need. Things like that are so important for hunters to learn because it keeps the balance between hunter and prey so that generations after us can continue to live off the land and enjoy the hunt.
My best memory will always be the sense of pride I got from knowing that I just provided my family and friends with food and I did it in an honorable way. That’s what hunting is all about in my humble opinion.
Stix & Stones: for donating clothing for the hunt
My beautiful wife: for allowing me to go on these amazing adventures
Clint Easley: with Peak Photography for documenting the hunt through the camera lens
Justin Townsend: With Harvesting Nature for being my second butcher
Juli & Tim Shafer: For allowing us to use their home after the hunt
Tim & Vicki Doughty: For helping clean, cook and set up the meal
Bonnie and Clayton Dejong: For raising such an amazing son
Chase Dejong: For wanting to learn
Big Horn Canyon Ranch: a beautiful hunting ranch