Our Wild Harvest

How many pounds of meat do we get, on average, from a processed whitetail deer, an elk, or a moose? What about caribou, black bear, mule deer, or antelope? How many pounds come from a limit of mallards, a wild turkey, or a brace of quail? How many whitetail deer will be harvested to feed families in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan this year? How many people will this meat feed? How much of this food will be shared with people who do not hunt?

If you stop to think about the number of hunters and anglers, and the number of species of game and fish, the amount of food procured through recreational hunting and angling must be staggering. While pondering the magnitude of this wild harvest, consider also that this food is naturally grown and is usually locally harvested, year after year, with minimal impact to the land. Take it one step further; how much would it cost to replace this food through agriculture and aquaculture, in terms of acreage, crops, fuel, irrigation water, fertilizer, pesticides, harvesting, processing, packaging, and transportation? And this is just game species. What about sport-caught fish?

The reality is we do not know the answer to these questions, but a groundbreaking study called The Wild Harvest Initiative is underway by the research institute, Conservation Visions, based in Newfoundland, Canada. Its purpose is to quantify for the first time the total biomass of wild, healthy, organically grown wild protein harvested by sportsmen in the U.S. and Canada on an annual basis.

Humans have been living off the land since inhabiting this Earth, and hunting and angling are not our only wild harvest activities. We pick mushrooms, berries, tap maple trees for syrup, put up firewood for the winter, and cut our own Christmas trees for the holidays.

These activities matter. Hunting and fishing matter. Therefore, conservation of the natural world matters, which matters to the health and well-being of millions of people.

A hunting ethic? A conservation ethic? They’re one in the same, and they matter.