Sitting alone around a camp fire while the fella’s took off, looking for rabbit. I stayed put, really didn’t have the inclination for that kind of activity. Let’s face it, I have and endless supply of white tailed beast in my backyard. On this night, I saw no need to look for rabbit, I was on a bird hunt. In any case, I had a mug of Pinot to concentrate on, and a cracking fire to keep me company.
Each autumn for the least three years, I’ve meet up with Nick at a rendezvous point out on his bird hunting turf which he’s been hunting for years. For some reason he invited me to hunt with him years ago and it’s become an annual pilgrimage ever since. Hunting quail is like hunting for morel mushrooms. It’s one of the rare activities where I’m prepared to put in more energy than what’s returned in output. I can spend a day hunting deer and fill my freezer that will feed the family for months, I can spend a day on quail and get one measly meal. It’s the same for trout fishing, it’s all relative I guess. Some tasks just pay off more than others.
In some way, this is my folly. Even though the driving purpose is food acquisition, I’ll admit that it’s a lot of effort with little return. But man cannot live on Rabbits alone, or zucchini, or jalapeño. The point is that I like variety, even if sometimes more effort is required. While the boys were out hunting the evening for rabbits, I sat close to the fire, my back cold from the wind, but my legs and hands comforted by the warmth of burning logs. When the others returned they had a hare, of which the dogs feed greedily on.
Nick lives coastal, and he’s a keen fisherman so dinner consisted of two fish courses, calamari followed by whiting. To remind us what we where there for, he cooked us spatchcocked quail. Everything he cooked was done over the hot coals, and everything tasted amazing. Fresh tasty food that he’d acquired himself. He knew the origin of his food, he knew what he was eating. It’s deliberate food consuming. Nick is part of a growing number of people that’ve started asking questions about the food they’re eating, and the lives they’re been told to live, tired of the commercials suggesting what they should aspire to work hard for. I guess this why we relate. We see many holes in the system.
Nick, Leigh and I hunted most of the following day, in fields of soft grass, over irrigation dams and in across long straight paddocks so full of quail, even the dogs got confused. The pointers pointed, they retrieved and they rand 20kms to our 1. We got some birds, a few good meals worth, but definitely not a freezer filling day. So why do I go back year after year? Well the conversation is good, the value system make sense to me, and it’s a chance to hunt some place other than my surrounding paddocks. And at the end of the hunting day we actually had some food for our families and a new set of memories. All the lands Nick hunts on are privately owned so we don’t have the anti-duck hunting protesters there, which makes the day a lot safer. But what always has me absolutely stumped, is that no one protest us hunting native quail. I can’t grasp the logic of how people are prepared to put themselves in harms way to save a duck, but not do the same for quail, or rabbit, or trout, or yabbie, or deer all of which are sentinel beings yes? What makes one animal more valued than another? It always has me thinking about the poultry factory in South Australia that process 3 million chickens each week. No one human is standing out the front, placard in hand asking why the animals are living in horrid conditions and why so many chickens are consumed in Australia. To me it has contradiction written all over it.
The fact remains that there are more human raised birds forced to live in crappy conditions and killed in their millions, than there are wild birds hunted. But the media loves to focus on the duck hunting issue, the public perception of hunters becomes skewed, subsequently laws get changed, politically motivated to win over the public. There is the law of humans, and then there is the very real law of nature. Years ago, out of complete frustration seeing the flaws in the conventional food system, I picked up a gun and decided that if I was to continue to eat meat I’d have to kill it myself. An extreme reaction, to an extreme problem. I’m not alone. There is building momentum of people taking similar action, and it’s not just hunting. Let’s take Nick for example, he grows loads of food in his backyard, can be found in forests picking mushrooms, and feeds his small family with loads of fish, of which he pulls out of the water himself. Just like me, he wants to know the origin of his food, where it’s come from, how it was produced, what’s been added to it and what impact it has on his health, and the health of the natural world. It has to start somewhere. And it has. More and more I come in contact with people asking the similar questions. For now, it’s grassroots, but it’s building momentum. One day it might even be mainstream to eat organic, maybe even less processed foods. I’m not suggesting we all pick up guns and shoot our dinner, of course that would be madness. But there is always the opportunity for us to ask our food of it’s origin. It has a lot to tell us, and the food we eat tells us a lot about ourselves, what we believe in, what we value. Tonight I’ll cook my family the quail we shot yesterday. What does that say about me? Am I a murderer? Am I ethical? or do I just choose to live closer to natures way?