A few weeks ago, I accompanied my sister Ashley to our hometown of North Bay, Ontario, for a weekend of ribs, beer, and as it turned out, a little hunting. We stayed with our cousin and her husband and their two little girls. The weather was outstanding; warm and sunny, the trees in full autumn display. Of course, the thing to do was to head out on the 4 wheelers and shoot some partridge.
What we call partridge in the North is actually the Ruffed Grouse, a different bird altogether. Grey partridge, which were introduced from Europe, are common in the open fields of southern Ontario, while ruffed grouse are found in the dense bush and woodlands. They are tricky to spot; their feathers make efficient camouflage, and they are frequently perched in low tree bows. But my cousin’s husband, or “cousin-in-law” as he shall hereby be known, managed to snag the daily limit, five. And, nice guy that he is, sent me home with two. By the way, if anyone is curious, I cooked the “partridge” breasts for my partner for his birthday. I did them in the oven, wrapped in bacon, with a little rosemary.
Hunting is a topic that can draw a lot of heat, especially amongst those who have never experienced it, or grew up around it. Living in Toronto, hunting isn’t exactly part of your day-to-day life. Unless you count hunting for a Starbucks. The connection between man and food, in some cases, has disappeared. Most people do not think of what they are eating while they are eating it, or where it came from. When you, or your family, personally hunt an animal for food, your connection to the natural world is actually strengthened. I feel better about eating moose, felled at the hands of my uncles, than I do about eating some poor, anonymous slaughterhouse cow. While I certainly agree with, and actively support, protecting our wildlife, I can also see a positive side to hunting. At least, as a food source.
At any rate, our pals the ruffed grouse seem to have it figured out. Studies have shown that controlling predators and disease do not increase their numbers. Conversely, hunting by humans also barely makes a dent. The natural balance has worked for them.
My family has a long history of hunting, typically for moose. And as it’s now Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, almost all the men in my family are heading up to our camp near Temagami. In fact, I can barely remember a Thanksgiving that wasn’t almost completely devoid of males. It was so engrained in my childhood, that this picture almost seems normal:
This is two-year old me, sitting on a dead deer that is being propped up by my uncle and grampa. I don’t remember having this photo taken, but I do remember this maroon snowsuit. I love my family.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to my kitchen to hunt down a snack.