’Tis the season to be thankful—and as outdoorswomen, we have a lot to be thankful for this year. From multiple opportunities to get into the field to successful legislature that has protected the rights of sportsmen and women across the country, 2017 has been pretty good to us. I’m a firm believer in ending the year right, and with Thanksgiving upon us and Christmas right around the corner, there are endless opportunities to contribute to our communities as knowledgeable hunters and gatherers.
GWG Life is sponsored by Girls with Guns Clothing
I am so blessed and grateful for all the people and opportunities in my life that have allowed me to experience the great outdoors and discover the way I love to put food on the table. I will never take any of those experiences for granted, and the best way to pass on that hunting tradition is to pay it forward. Unfortunately, even those of us with the best of intentions tend to get caught up in this crazy thing called life, and forget that we can help our communities every day of the year. Here are my 3 favorite ways to give back this holiday season…things which will make a lasting impression all year long.
Those of us who participate in the Field to Fork movement know that just one deer can take up a lot of room in our freezer and will provide a fresh, organic protein source for many meals throughout the year. If you live in a 2-tag state, or in a state that sells over-the-counter tags, consider using your second tag to harvest a doe and donating the meat to your local food bank.
According to Feeding America, food banks generally receive only enough protein to represent 1 percent of their total annual distribution, making meals that include a protein source a “treat” or as part of a “special effort…towards donating holiday meals.” The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, a proponent of a national game-meat donation program, states that “on average, 50 pounds of meat can be taken off of a deer. If ground and used in spaghetti or chili, one deer can feed 200 people at $0.25 per serving.”
In 2010, almost 3 million pounds of wild game meat was donated to game-meat donation programs across the country, helping to serve 11 million meals. If every sportsman and woman came together this holiday season to donate their harvest, we could put a huge dent in the hunger crisis in America. Make sure you check your local regulations regarding processing and donating wild game meat, as many food banks are only able to accept wild game that has been processed by a USDA-inspected facility.
As Christmas draws closer, you’ll undoubtedly see your friends and family posting on social media, asking (sometimes pleading) people to please not buy their child another toy they’ll grow bored with by January. Instead, if you’d like to get them a gift, they suggest giving something that will enrich the child. I don’t know about you, but I think teaching children to value the great outdoors, survive in the wild, and harvest their own food is quite the enriching gift.
Consider offering to take a child out on a day hike (include the word “picnic” and you just might seal the deal—I know 10-year-old me was all about the picnic portion of any outdoor activity!) or offer to guide her on a youth/apprentice hunt. If it’s a hunt, take her to the range and make sure she is prepared; help her get her gear together the week before; and remember to have fun. She may not understand the importance of the gift you’re giving, but I promise you this: Once she’s grown up, she will be forever grateful that you took the time to share your passions and teach her lifelong skills.
If you’re unable to take a child on a hike or a hunt yourself, consider sponsoring one to attend an outdoor sports camp. Kids Outdoor Sports Camp is one of my favorite camps; it has something for everyone, teaching archery, shotgun and rifle skills, as well as fishing and water sports. All campers have the opportunity to pass a hunter safety class and receive their certificate while they attend the camp.
Remember, becoming a mentor or a sponsor isn’t just to help kids. If a friend has expressed an interest in learning more about hunting, fishing or shooting and you have the resources and the time to teach her, I highly recommend asking her to tag along on your next adventure. Not only are you helping someone get out in the field and learn a new skill, but you just may gain a new hunting or fishing buddy. That’s as good a gift as any.
We all have that one family member (or in my case, quite a few) who is incredibly hard to shop for. Rather than getting them another nutcracker or pair of socks (a Wolverton family favorite), consider donating to your favorite conservation organization in their name. Not only will you be supporting a great cause, but most of the time you will receive a card or a gift with your donation, and we all know someone who could use a camo hat. Here are my go-to organizations to donate to during the holidays:
In the spirt of the season, I’d also like to give a big thank-you to Barbara Baird and Michelle Cerino for the opportunity to write for Women’s Outdoor News this year. I hope you’ve enjoyed my “GWG Life” column, and I look forward to regaling you with more stories from the field and the range in 2018. Remember the joy of the holiday season comes from spending time with those you love and passing on long-lived traditions. Cheers!
This Retro WON first appeared November 22, 2017.