|Lisa and Gregg with the meat of a road system deer|
The other day I was a part of a discussion on subsistence. Kodiak's status as a 'rural' community where residents can claim legal subsistence rights was recently challenged, and of late it has been a hot topic around town. I listened as one older man declared that no one hunts for true subsistence purposes - he claimed that the trophy value and adventure trumped the value of the meat. Another older man vehemently argued that he had it all wrong and that many, many people rely on wild game as food. The first man countered that wild game is always more expensive than store-bought meat, and so, why would anyone bother to hunt unless they also valued the trophy and adventure?
Neither of the discussants changed their mind - both men sticking doggedly to their viewpoint - and to some extent both have a point. Some people do hunt for the meat, and there are also trophy hunters who spend a lot of money on horns. But the discussion did get me thinking. What is the true cost of meat?
Just based on dollars and cents wild game can be very cheap - far cheaper than store bought meat. A road system deer can be had for the cost of gas for the drive to the trailhead, ammunition and gear depreciation. My rifle has already shot over 30 deer so the cost per pound of deer meat is way less than a dollar a pound. Our seiner based elk hunt was far more expensive - diesel is expensive and we had to motor all the way to north Afognak. We also had to buy food and many people had to take time off of work. Still, not counting the time off of work, we got so much meat that the cost was still less than 3 dollars a pound. However, some years we do not get an elk, and we do not always get so much elk. So for elk I'd put the cost at more like 5 dollars a pound. When Gregg and I went even further afield to North Alaska and the Brooks Range to hunt dall sheep, airline tickets to Fairbanks, truck gas, hotels and food brought the cost up to about 10 dollars per pound.
And then there is the value of the meat itself. How much more valuable is wild game? I know that I would rather have my family eating wild game and not feedlot fed, hormone injected, beef or chicken. And if I do buy meat at the store I try and get the organic, free range stuff that is far more expensive than ordinary store meat. When I eat the meat that I hunt I know where it came from and since I also butcher my own meat I know that it is very well taken care of. There is a lot of value and satisfaction in that. I'm proud to provide for my own family.
I also admit that I hunt for trophy value and adventure. Hunting is fun and great exercise. And if I see 2 big bucks at the same time I generally shoot the one with bigger horns. Unless its during the rut - then I shoot neither but keep looking for the does. But yes I am proud of big racks. But does it really matter? Recreation also has value and since I am having fun while hunting that is a benefit that reduces the cost of the meat. Put another way, if I was not hunting I would have to pay someone to use their gym or amusement park etc.
As I see it, the cost of meat is relative and depends on what an individual or family values. Store bought meat is very convenient - put your money down and go home with a slab of plastic wrapped product all ready to cook. Wild game that one hunts oneself has additional value - recreational, qualitative, and self worth value. While our family's wild game actually costs less than the stuff at Safeway, even if it was double the monetary cost it would still be cheaper. Patrick