Ever Backpacked a Mile in a Vegan’s Hunting Boots?

Lifestyle Wild Meat

If you want to read a hunting story that’s rarely been told and likely never written, here’s one for you. The story starts on a hunting forum where two impostors from the San Francisco area creep around passively. They’re trying to figure out how the meat eaters get their meat. They’re vegans and they’re hungry.

These two are different. They learned how to clean a jackrabbit by watching a video on a smartphone. One of them, Robyn, grew up in suburban Massachusetts and is currently working on her doctorate. It’s easy to assume she’s a liberal, likely over-educated and made pale by the florescent lights of high-rise office buildings.

They’re posers, bound to fail in the wild.

Right?

Well, nah.

‘Cause they didn’t.

Because they didn’t know anyone who hunted, Robyn and Nick of Modern Hunter learned to clean a jackrabbit by watching a video online before trying to hunt bigger game. Photo: National Geographic

Because they didn’t know anyone who hunted, Robyn and Nick of Modern Hunter learned to clean a jackrabbit by watching a video online before trying to hunt bigger game. Photo: National Geographic

Here’s Their Story:

Q. So you, along with your partner Nick, started a blog called “Modern Hunters.” We’ll get into what it’s about, but who are you?

A. Well, I grew up in suburban Massachusetts and I knew no one who hunted. When I became interested in hunting I was living in the San Francisco area. I now live in San Diego and by the time anyone reads this I will have moved cross-country to Boston.

Q. So about the meat. You didn’t used to eat meat except now you do?

A. I was vegetarian for a number of years with some variations. Sometimes I was vegan, which was more restrictive. But I really wanted to diversify my diet. I wanted to eat meat, but there wasn’t a way to get it that I felt good about.

Q. So the motivation to eat meat, but acquire it in a way you felt good about, led to hunting?

A. There were a few ways to do it. I could raise livestock, but I lived in the city. I knew I could harvest a wild animal, but how would I do that? Hunting appealed to me more than raising chickens because I was already an avid backpacker. So I loved the idea of going to the places I already loved to go and camp and gaze at the stars. I wanted to harvest an animal that was living a normal life. I already liked biology and ecology. Hunting could tie all of these things together.

Robyn of Modern Hunter said hunting appealed to her as a backpacker because she could hike to areas she already liked and harvest an animal that was living a happy life. Photo: Modern Hunter

Robyn of Modern Hunter said hunting appealed to her as a backpacker because she could hike to areas she already liked and harvest an animal that was living a happy life. Photo: Modern Hunter

Q. But having read your blog, the idea of hunting was easier than the reality of actually doing it?

A. Right. My partner Nick and I scoured the Internet. We searched videos and online stories. Nick had hunted once with an uncle. Then we found television shows with hunts. The hunter would shoot an animal and then there would be yelling and whoo-hoos, and it just didn’t feel like the style of hunting we might want to do. We were coming to hunting after years of veganism and vegetarianism, and the hunting shows missed the connection to the food.

The main thing we ended up doing was reading forums. We read a lot of forums, but mostly those engaged experienced hunters chatting among themselves. And, at least for me, the thought was, “If I post something on this forum that is so basic, will I look so stupid that people will laugh at my questions?”

So there was a lot of passive reading.

Q. I’m thinking at this point, if I’m you, I give up and just buy some chickens for the yard.

A. Well, we discovered Hank Shaw and then Steven Rinella. That was helpful. We appreciated the way they spoke poetically and thoughtfully about all the other aspects of hunting besides killing the animal, like watching the animals and what goes into preparing the animals for a meal.

So we both took the hunter safety course offered by the state’s wildlife agency. That was a weekend-long course and it was just the bare minimum. After the course we understood the importance of safety and hunting regulations. But there is so much more you need. And that’s where Modern Hunters comes in. It’s for people like me who need practical information that teaches the basics: finding a spot to hunt, gun verses bow and arrow – how do you decide, how do you take an animal and turn that animal into a meal? Those are the topics we address on the blog, and we hope it makes hunting more accessible to people like us who really have no resources within their families or peer groups.

 Q. But somehow you got from there, you figured it out. Your first successful hunt was bagging a jackrabbit, right?

A. The Arizona Game and Fish Department produced a video on how to dress and clean a jackrabbit. So we literally had a smart phone and watched the video about how to dress the jackrabbit as we were doing it.

After spending every weekend hunting the backcountry one year, Robyn harvested a mule deer and cooked the back-strap. Photo: John Hafner

After spending every weekend hunting the backcountry one year, Robyn harvested a mule deer and cooked the back-strap. Photo: John Hafner

Q. So once you had gotten a taste of hunting and found success, what next?

A. Well jackrabbit was tasty, but I wanted to bring home more meat than just a handful of hares. So we started spending every weekend in the backcountry. After much trial and error, we finally figured out how to find the deer. And then, on the last weekend of our second deer season, I finally shot my first mule deer. I shot it 3 or 4 miles into a deep, desert canyon. It was hot. I was focused on getting the meat out, and I was worried about how hot it was in my backpack. It was exciting. But I was also nervous. Did I do it right? Did I get the meat out right? Will it be as good as I was hoping? The first thing I did was cook the back-strap. Hank Shaw even has a recipe for venison back-strap. There’s little preparation involved. I used only a little seasoning.

Granted, it had been years since we had eaten meat, but the flavors were so deep and nuanced compared to the taste of, say, beef. Nick said it was the best meat he’d ever eaten. The flavor was excellent. We were absolutely hooked. Since then, I’ve had beef — top-quality beef from local ranchers — and nothing compares.

Q. So now you’re a hunter living in a not-so-hunter friendly part of the country, among friends who don’t hunt and many who don’t eat meat. Do your friends think you’ve lost your mind?

A. (Laughs.) When we first started hunting and we realized this was something that really fit for us, I started telling my friends and family what I was doing. I certainly wondered what they would think about hunting and what they would think of me. I expected a difficult conversation about it.

But I have gotten positive feedback. Even from vegans. After I explain my philosophy about hunting, they say, “I couldn’t do that, but I respect that you’re doing it.” Those responses have made me happy and proud that I’m a hunter. But if someone heard, “Oh Robyn hunts,” and didn’t have a chance to have a conversation with me about it, what would they think of me? I do worry about that. Would the stereotypes of careless or reckless hunters be projected onto me?

Modern Hunter’s Nick, shown here in Arizona, said mule deer back-strap was the best meat he’d ever tasted. Photo: Modern Hunter

Modern Hunter’s Nick, shown here in Arizona, said mule deer back-strap was the best meat he’d ever tasted. Photo: Modern Hunt

Q. At the beginning of the interview, you mentioned the experienced hunters on the forums and then the hunting television shows and how those hunters projected hunting in a way that wasn’t relatable for you.

Have you met what many would consider the traditional hunter, and what has been your experience blending into the existing hunting culture?

A. Interesting question. I have had very limited exposure to other hunters until recently. The hunters I have met, those that tend to be successful in the backcountry, have been nothing like the “reckless hunter” stereotypes. They are conservationists, and I have been enormously impressed with their knowledge. They are great students of the animals and each species’ environment. They say stuff like, “these animals like this kind of plant, if you can find them, you have a chance.” I have felt welcomed by much of the hunting community, and that has been a wonderful experience. We may hail from different parts of the country, but we have a lot in common.

If you’d like to read more from Modern Hunters, check out the blog here. The site’s “Learn to Hunt” section is an excellent place to start.

Wanna Give Bowhunting a Try?

If you’re looking to source your own meat and would love to try bowhunting, here are a few ways to get started:

  1. Check out Archery 360’s “Intro to Archery.” You’ll get a quick introduction to different types of bows and how to shoot.
  1. Read the basics on where to hunt.
  1. Now that you’re armed with enough knowledge to ask serious questions, find a bowhunting shop in your community and talk to an expert, get instruction and meet like-minded people.

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