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Elk hunts and the search for freezer space

Erica Louder for Progressive Cattleman Published on 12 October 2017
corn harvest

A few weeks ago my husband spotted a couple of bull elk in our cornfield, and since then, he has been plotting his ambush. Today is the appointed day of attack – they are chopping our corn.

At this moment, he is perched on his four-wheeler, shotgun in hand and slugs on the ready. This unit is short-range weapons only, which actually suits this purpose pretty well. He has slowly been following the chopper all afternoon.

At about 9 o’clock this morning, we had this conversation:

Craig: I’ve got to run into town this morning to buy some slugs. They are going to start chopping corn and I need to be ready.

Me: OK, but let’s make a deal. I will give you free range to hunt these elk all afternoon, without nagging, but you need to promise me that elk will not end up in my freezer. I will pay to get it cut and wrapped and then give it away.

Then ensued a lengthy conversation about how I am a princess, then how many times he has tricked me into eating game meat and how my dislike for game meat is all in my head. I did not argue any of those points, because they are likely true. It is not so much that I dislike game meat; it is that I wholly prefer beef. We are beef producers and we eat beef. I don’t care how long that elk ate our corn; he will never taste better than a finished steer.

Right now, I have an entire chest freezer filled with three-quarters of a beef, a turkey purchased at the 4-H sale and a hog that was traded for some veterinary work. Somewhere in the very bottom is deer sausage that is going on 2 years old. It will never be eaten. Being the family member primarily responsible for food preparation, I feel entitled to choose what meat I will prepare. I will not be forced into preparing elk steak when I have beef T-bones as an alternative.

While I chose not to prepare the game meat, I have not extricated myself from the guilt of wasting that meat. We are a family of two adults and two small children. We will never consume all that meat before it is too freezer burnt for even dog consumption. My suggestion of giving it away is not snobbish, it’s responsible … or that’s how I justify it to myself.

The second point about hunting we discussed was the mode of hunting. Now, I am not a hunter, but following the corn chopper until it scares an elk out doesn’t exactly sound like hunting. The word “hunting” conjures up memories of wet feet, trekking across mountain ravines and eating a hasty lunch of Vienna sausages – all the while never spotting a single deer.

You see, my dad and brothers were hunters and I accompanied them, just once. So come to think of it, this hunting right out of your back door in view of the cornfield paints a better picture. It just seems so much less “hunter-ish.”

We aren’t really hunters though. We are farmers. In the Stone Age, our ancestors began raising animals and planting crops as the preferred method of obtaining nourishment. Maybe this hunting elk out of the cornfield isn’t very hunter-gatherer; it’s hunter-farmer.  end mark

Erica Louder is a freelance writer based in Idaho.

PHOTO: Corn chopping is underway at the Louder farm and we are anxiously awaiting the elusive elk. Photo by Erica Louder.