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Meat. It is the desire of mankind and womankind to eat meat. Restaurant menus are based upon meat. No one orders a vegetable medley with a side of ribeye. Meals are about the meat. In Tennessee, “barbeque” is not a verb; it is a noun, and it means “meat” in various stages of charred goodness.

The other stuff is optional. Salad is just a practice food to give you something to do while waiting for the steak. Even vegans desire to eat meat (regardless of the lies that they will tell you). That is why upscale vegan shops sell texturized soy-fiber masses called Shamburgers, Not-Dogs and Facon.

Meat is expensive, and that is why every fall, as chill begins to fill the air, hunters take to the woods and fields in pursuit of free meat.

There are basically two types of hunters: those who grew up hunting as a family bonding ritual and those who are new to the hunting scene, developing an interest after learning about the possibility of free meat. The typical new hunter of adult age comes to the world of hunting with a practical purpose in mind—the feeling of responsibility to feeding one’s family.

These days, feeding a family is an expensive investment. One can go to the local supermarket, drop a hundred dollars and easily carry the grub home with one hand.

Bringing home free meat sounds to the new would-be hunter like an excellent way to save money. Naturally, he wants in on this free-meat deal and decides hunting would be the responsible thing for any family man to do, so he eagerly researches what he must do to get this free meat.

First Things First

The first step in obtaining one’s share of the local free meat supply usually involves a visit to the sporting goods emporium. Looking over racks of rifles filled with everything from surplus military relics (that obviously served double-duty as fence posts) to the exquisitely engraved, best-quality rifles reserved for those who sip imported brandy from 16th-century golden goblets.

The new hunter usually settles somewhere in between, purchasing a reliable bolt gun chambered for the latest cartridge that is touted to be the ultimate deer-killer. Along with the rifle, the new hunter is outfitted with an optical sight, scope mount, ammo, binoculars, rangefinder, grunt call, 10-inch Bowie knife, flashlight, climbing stand, designer camouflage clothing, boots suitable for ascending Mount Everest and enough doe scent to make him smell like the deer equivalent of a cheap date. He leaves the sporting goods store two hours later and a couple of thousand dollars poorer, ready to seek and harvest his fair share of free meat.

He awakens at 2 a.m. opening day. The air is unusually bitter cold (par for the course for opening morning). His buddy arrives a few minutes later, and they fill their bellies with an ample supply of store-bought meat in preparation for the long, but glorious, day.

As they load up the pickup truck with all the new hunter’s gear, his buddy inquires about the accuracy of the new rifle, at which time both realize that no one mentioned that the weapon had to be sighted-in. Using the one working headlight of the pickup truck, and resting the rifle upon the hood of said vehicle, they hastily get the rifle shooting to minute-of-tree stump.

They then head down the road to the local Stop-And-Rob to load up on coffee, sandwiches, as well as to buy the hunting license. A hunting license has to be fresh, so most new hunters do not obtain it until the morning of the hunt.

The new hunter and his compadre head out a few minutes later … after surrendering a considerable amount of cash to the state for the free-meat permit.

Arriving at their pre-determined hunting spot only a couple of hours later than desired, they hear the report of opening-morning gunshots all around their position sounding something akin to the gunfire on the beaches of Normandy in World War II.

After what seems like an eternity of sitting in the cold and watching his fingers turn from gray to blue, the new hunter hears the approach of what must be the world’s largest deer. He takes the shot, and his free meat is now lying on the ground.

The proud new hunter finally retrieves his prize, cuts it open to remove everything that doesn’t look like free meat and drags the enormous 80-pound doe to the truck.

A couple of days later, the anxious new hunter picks up about 30 pounds of packaged free meat from the local deer processor, pays the man $50 for his work and heads home, carrying a couple of thousand dollars’ worth of free meat in one hand. He is already thinking about next deer season and maybe getting in on something that he heard about: free fish.

But that is another story altogether.


Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the August 2017 print issue of Gun World Magazine.