Another Perspective

Sharing the Harvest

Deer hunters helping out their needy neighbors.

By 9.27.13

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Out here in the boondocks people use their guns to feed their neighbors -- not to kill them.

I’ll admit having just spent the last several years living in the inner-city the idea of folks using their guns for good is a bit unintuitive. Generally speaking, in the inner-city people -- most often young men -- use their weapons to exact revenge for some trivial real or imagined slight.

Here we put our guns to better uses. Out here we have something known as Share the Harvest. Basically, deer hunters donate their venison to local food pantries. I spoke to one local organizer who told me his local food pantry is facing a meat crisis. His local pantry hadn’t had meat in three months. Meat, being expensive, cuts into the budget. But when hunters donate deer meat, the pantries can afford to stock up on other items: vegetables, fruit and milk.

Hunters drop off their kill at a participating meat processor who prepares the venison for the food pantries. The processors donate up to three-quarters of their cost and are reimbursed the rest by the Conservation Federation of Missouri, a group of well-meaning, but hopelessly naive Missourians trying in vain to save the state’s natural resources and protect our outdoor heritage. Sometimes doing God’s work means doing the impossible.

“It’s good lean meat,” the organizer told me. “It doesn’t have any of those antibiotics and steroids you find in beef.”

The idea that rural Missourians disdain their poor and needy neighbors whom they see as lazy, good for nothing welfare kings -- Missouri is the land of Limbaugh after all -- is disproved by the fact that in 2012, 6,244 Missouri hunters donated 317,882 pounds of venison to food pantries.

The fact is rural Missourians love to help out. They consider it a blessing. What gets many of them riled up is that Washington has to a large extent taken this blessing away from us. Americans want to help out their neighbors, but it is not seen as necessary anymore. Uncle Sam is looking out for them. Even the ones who don’t need it, whether on Skid Row or on Wall Street.

THIS WEEKEND OUR church is hosting a meat shoot. Our parishioners will show up with their wives and their kids and their shotguns and try their skill at blasting clay pigeons out of the sky for prizes. Proceeds go to help out the needy. Here in rural America one’s gun is just another tool, like a chainsaw or a branding iron. And, yes, we cling to them. Just like we cling to our religion.

I was talking to my friend Steve at a recent Slobberbone show in St. Louis. Steve told me that when he was in high school in rural Jefferson County, Missouri, he brought his shotgun to school every day. Hell, everybody did.

That was the early 1980s. For physical education class they shot skeet.

You can thank the urban and suburban areas that a country boy who brings a shotgun to school and leaves it in his gunrack in his pickup truck today will be Tasered into next week.

Am I saying that there are no gun crimes in rural America? Of course not. But statistics show that rural residents are four times less likely to be victims of violent crime, even though you can’t swing a cat without knocking over a gun in rural America.

Washington, however, likes to slap one-size-fits-all solutions on every perceived problem. If inner-cities are infested with gun violence then by all means let’s pass laws that apply equally to both south side Chicago and rural Franklin County, Missouri. If the kids in North St. Louis struggle with reading and writing then let’s design a curriculum that applies to both them and to the lawyers’ kids in Beverly Hills.

In my rural county hunters who donate venison are eligible to enter a drawing to win a shotgun. That seems crazy to those who live and work in urban America. What is really crazy are Washington’s one-size-fits-all policies.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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About the Author
Christopher Orlet writes from St. Louis.