A few weeks ago Jeremiah Doughty, the mastermind behind From Field to Plate, posted a photo on his instagram account. In the post he was talking about how social media has skewed the way some people look at hunting. There are so many hunters who want to be sponsored or on T.V. they tend to create this “false” reality of what hunting is truly about. They get too caught up on trophies and lose sight of the true purpose.
The post was extra meaningful so decided to message Jeremiah to let him know how much I respect his views on hunting. I also told him about the personal experience I had on the topic. After he heard my story he asked if I would be interested in answering a few questions for his blog. I was honored that he wanted to interview me and I agreed to do it. Below is the interview we did together. You can find the original interview on his blog.
I did a separate interview with Jeremiah on his views of social media and the role it plays in the hunting community. It will be posted soon so be on the lookout.
How long have you been hunting?
I first started hunting when I turned 12 years old. That was the legal hunting age in PA at the time. I got away from hunting for a few years during high school and college. I got back into it when I started dating my (now) fiancé, which was about five years ago. This past season was my first year hunting archery and most certainly will not be my last.
Who introduced you to hunting?
My family has a deep history with hunting. My dad and his siblings are all incredible hunters, which they inherited from my grandfather. I was introduced to hunting very young thanks to them. When I was a little girl I would often help my dad process his deer in our garage. My girlfriends thought I was weird but that didn’t bother me. I couldn’t wait until my 12th birthday so I could finally get my own hunting license.
How did you feel when you harvested your first animal?
Emotional—I cried right after. Taking a life is not an easy thing to do. I hunt for food and quickly reminded myself of the purpose. I then was overcome with a sense of accomplishment. I will never forget my first hunting experience.
How did you feel when you harvested your first big game animal with a bow?
I was in shock at first. It all happened so quickly; I barely had time to process it. I knew I’d hit him, but he took off running and I wasn’t able to see where he’d run off to. I was shaking with excitement as I texted my dad what had happened. Tom and my dad came to help me track it down. The moment we found him I was filled with joy. I started to jump up and down with happiness. You can see how proud I am by my expression in the picture.
The story continued a week later when I took another buck with my bow. This time it was a 9 point that I shot from 14 yards away. He only went a few yards then went down. I couldn’t believe what happened. I kept repeating, “no way, no way, no one is going to believe me”.
Two bucks in two states exactly one week apart in my first season! This is when I started to become angry that I removed the first buck from social media.
Why did you post your picture to Social Media and how did you feel when you did?
I was proud of myself for what I had accomplished. When I purchased my first bow at the end of the summer everyone seemed to doubt that I would hunt with it. I was told that I should practice and wait to start hunting next year. My goal was to prove that I was capable of hunting with a bow and I was serious about hunting.
Every day, rain or shine I was outside practicing. There were a few lost and broken arrows, but eventually my groups became consistent. I watched hours of archery hunting videos on YouTube and reached out to fellow female hunters on Instagram for pointers. All of this was to prepare for the season. When it was finally time to hunt my fiancé was gracious enough to take me out to teach me what to do. We went out every chance we got. Eventually I felt I was ready to go out on my own. All the time I put in finally paid off. I posted the picture to show I succeeded in reaching my goal.
How did you feel when you got negative feedback?
Let down. It was not up for very long because I could not get past the negativity. It made me really angry that I was being ridiculed for something I felt so passionate about.
Why did you take the picture down?
I took it down was because I felt I was being discredited as a hunter. The “booooo, girl hunters shooting small deer just for Instagram likes” comment I received was the one comment that led me to delete the photo. I didn’t want people to think that was my reason for hunting. More importantly I worried that I’d made other women in the hunting social media community look bad.
If you could change anything would you?
Given a chance to do it again I would have left the picture on Instagram. I regret feeling ashamed of the antler size. I wish I had taken pride of the fact that I shot my first deer with a bow. It was my first year of archery and I successfully filled my buck tag. That is an awesome accomplishment. Not to mention I was hunting alone and had no one there to guide me. Some hunters go years without having success so I am extremely grateful for my first kill, regardless of the size.
In your own words how do you feel social media affects the hunting community in the following ways?
The most positive thing I have discovered through social media is the support from fellow female hunters. In my experience most of the women help inspire and empower one another. That is a great thing for the hunting industry. So many companies are coming out with apparel lines and products specifically designed for women. The growing online presence of female hunters on Instagram, YouTube and Twitter only benefits that even more. It is also great to see girls embracing the best of both worlds. I wish there was a #socialvsstealth when I was growing up. I was shy about telling people I was a hunter in fear of getting made fun of.
Anti-hunters commenting on pictures is one of the most negative things I see on social media. My dad always says there are hunters, anti-hunters and non-hunters. Be the best hunter you can be and lead by example. Strive not to give the non-hunters a reason to become anti-hunters. It’s hard when you put yourself out there online for the world to see. You are bound to get some heat but how you handle it will show your character. When I get negative comments or messages from anti-hunters I just delete them. It is when I get the hate from fellow hunters that I am most disappointed. We are all fighting the same cause so we should do our best to support one another.
Why do you hunt and how has this changed you?
I hunt for food. Plain and simple. I will not eat meat that has not been harvested by a hunter. I feel that is the way nature intended it to be. I don’t believe in factory farming and avoid supporting it whenever possible. I even went vegetarian in college when I had no access to wild game. I won’t order it at a restaurant either. When people ask me about my diet I jokingly say that I am a “gametarian”, it’s a word I came across in a hunting cookbook that describes someone who only eats wild game.
That is my reason for hunting and it has forever changed the way I feel about food. It has also uncovered a talent for cooking and recipe developing that I never knew I had. I find knowing where my meat comes from, how it was processed, and what went into making the meal the most rewarding part of it all.
My goal on social media is to show hunting is a good thing. I want to be an example of why we do what we do. Not all hunters kill for the sake of killing or for acquiring a trophy. That is what upsets me most about getting negative comments on my small buck. I realize now that the size of the antlers does not define you as a hunter. I shared my story with you because I am proud. My first buck with a bow might have been small but it sure was delicious and that is what matters most.
So, how many times in life can you say you’ve had rabbit ravioli in sage brown butter sauce? How about a pumpkin, butternut squash pheasant soup? Not so many…and chances are, unless you have a savvy hunter/woodsman for a dad or boyfriend, you may not find yourself in the kitchen with those two main ingredients anytime soon. But don’t worry, you can substitute the rabbit and pheasant to your liking and still blow the minds of your dinner guests.
Let’s start with the butternut squash, pumpkin and pheasant soup. When I was twelve I went hunting with my dad and a few of his friends. You could guess I was not only the youngest one, but also the only girl (my nail polish matched my blue jacket). The whole day I watched everyone get a pheasant except me. I was bummed out, but my dad encouraged me to keep my hopes and shotgun high. Finally I had one in my crosshairs…boom! I killed a medium size pheasant, which I was extremely proud of until I learned the truth about that poor pheasant. I had only knocked the thing out of the tree and my dad had to do the dirty deed, putting it out of its misery. Regardless, it was quite the experience, one I will never forget.
As I recently read from chef Mario Balotelli, “You can’t just buy game. You’ve got to hunt it, or you’ve got to know someone who went and hunted it. That’s one of the reasons why the flavor is so unique: you may only have it four or five times in a life.” I love that quote because it is so true. Each time I try a new recipe with wild game it’s one I’ve never had before and it’s unique—in a way, it’s an ingredient in itself.
The rabbit ravioli is something that was fabricated by my dad. He found a recipe calling for venison and thought it would be good with some rabbit meat he had in the freezer. He was right! These may be the most decadent and flavorful ravioli I’ve ever tasted. They are meant to be an appetizer but can easily hold their own as a main course. The only problem is that rabbits are small and don’t produce a lot of meat.
This particular batch of ravioli is extra special since my beautiful golden retriever, in fact, did retrieve this rabbit. My dad went on a midday hunt and took Nilla, our dog, along with him. Not only did she retrieve the rabbit, but was so proud of herself. She wouldn’t leave its side the whole walk home.
When they got back, my dad asked if I was interested in learning how to skin and quarter a rabbit. My answer was “Hell yeah, Dad”, so I learned. Once we were done, I texted Tom to inform him of my newly acquired skill and his only response was “I love you.” There’s a tip for you ladies out there: the best way to a mans heart is to learn how to skin a rabbit (while wearing off-white pants…no big deal). The reason I told you this is because the level of engagement involved in this single recipe is just incredible. Every one from my mom to my dog was involved in the final execution of the meal—that’s what I love about cooking wild game. It tells a story, from the hunt to the kitchen and every bite is savored on a whole new level. Enjoy this recipe in your own kitchen and make your own memories (via) Anna Lea.
Click here for Rabbit Ravioli Recipe
Click here for Pheasant Soup Recipe