Virginia’s Locavore Deer Hunters
By Matt Knox, Deer Project Leader, Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries
If you are a deer hunter in Virginia, there is a greater than 99% chance that you are a locavore deer hunter. I am guessing at this point that many, maybe a majority, of Virginia deer hunters are asking themselves “What is a locavore deer hunter?”
The Internet defines a locavore as a person whose diet consists only or principally of locally grown or produced food. This definition is too restrictive in my opinion. I would define a locavore as a person who makes a conscious decision to go out of their way to include locally grown or produced food in their or their family’s diet. At a minimum this would include those persons who shop at the local farmers market, who grow a vegetable garden, and deer hunters.
In addition to being local, venison is also generally considered to be healthier than beef because it is a chemical-free (contains no additives, preservatives, or antibiotics), leaner and lower in fat, and, therefore, lower in calories source of protein, minerals, and vitamins. Lastly, it is more environmentally friendly because it comes from native, natural, and free ranging wild animals.
One of the most essential benefits of deer hunting for food from a locavore perspective is its inherent sustainability. To put this in perspective, over the last decade deer hunters in Virginia have averaged killing approximately 230,000 deer each fall across the Commonwealth. This results in over 9 million pounds of healthy lean venison for Virginia’s deer hunters, their families, and friends annually. If one considers that, since the Department began keeping records, there have been a minimum of 7.6 million deer checked by deer hunters in Virginia. This means that the forest and fields in Virginia have resulted in a bountiful harvest of greater than 327 million pounds of venison over the past 70 years. In Virginia for over 10,000 years venison has been and will continue to be a bountiful harvest!
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Photo by Meghan Marchetti, Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries