I grew up spending a lot of time in the outdoors of New Jersey and Pennsylvania with my dad and brother, fly fishing, hunting whitetails, turkeys, and small game. I loved it as a kid but lost interest in hunting and the outdoors in general in my teen years and ended up heavily involved with drugs, which nearly cost me my life. Once I got clean, I found the pull of the outdoors again, specifically fly fishing, and spent the first half of my 20s fly fishing all over the Catskills and Lake Ontario tributaries of New York, New England, and the American West with some good friends and family.
By my mid 20s, those same friends had all bought compound bows and started hunting whitetails at just about the same time I was becoming interested in living more sustainably, specifically by cutting out factory farmed meat, for ethical reasons, environmental impacts, and climate change.
I experimented with vegetarianism one summer but quickly realized there is still a significant environmental impact made by eating grains that can only grow in certain areas of the world, areas that I lived nowhere near. I realized that vegetarianism and veganism are not cruelty-free as they claim; both diets are still heavily land, water, fossil fuel, and labor dependent. I realized that most of these issues could be bypassed by harvesting several large mammals per year. I set a goal for myself to try to each more wild game and local or slow foods every year. I bought a compound bow that fall and started hunting again. I’ve probably made every mistake a hunter could make, but I’ve been able to eat more and more wild game each year.
I inherited a love for cooking and food from my mother, and once I started to experience regular success in the field, I realized I had a lot to learn about cooking wild game. I picked up a few Hank Shaw cookbooks and was on my way. I’m a firm believer that the best way to change people’s minds about hunting is through cooking, and I cook wild game for people whenever possible.
A few years into whitetail hunting, I started to feel the pull to backpack hunt out west, a dream I just recently realized after moving to Oregon in August of 2020. I just finished up my first archery elk season. I didn’t fill a tag, but I learned a ton and am looking forward to backpack hunting many new species throughout the American West.
The outdoors have saved and changed my life, and this is a gift I wish to give to other people through food, education, and mentorship, and all of this is reflected in my writing.
You can connect with Ben via his website, www.benjaminburgholzer.com or on Instagram @outdoorsmanwritereducator