Developing a sustainable lifestyle and eating truly organic, “farm-to-table” food is a rising trend all across the country. Whether people are actively trying to protect the environment or be more aware of where their own food comes from, these new hunters all know that they must cultivate their skills of growing and harvesting their own food in a correct and ethical manner in order to survive. As a result, many non-hunters have turned to hunting as their source for organic meat.

The fundamentals of ethical hunting are the backbone of a sustainable lifestyle and the key to a truly organic meat source. They can be categorized as: preparation, respect, conservation and fair chase, or simply, The Hunter’s Code. For every hunter, old or new, the day will come when their loyalty to The Hunter’s Code is tested. If, and only if, the hunter passes this “test” can they then consider themselves a true and ethical hunter.

The Fundamentals of the Hunt

A prepared hunter knows which firearm to use for different types of game and always brings the necessary equipment needed to complete the harvest. They regularly practice their marksmanship to ensure a clean shot and always exercise safety when handling and maintaining their firearm or bow. A respectful hunter uses the whole animal, whenever possible, and is considerate and clean when field dressing an animal near public roads or private property. They let an opportunity pass if a fatal or safe shot cannot be made. A responsible hunter follows the laws and regulations of the area in which they are hunting, and always maintains a sense of mutual respect for other hunters and landowners.

Sustainability goes hand in hand with conservation. Hunters who abide by conservation best practices play an integral part in maintaining the health of a herd or species and ensuring their survival. Those who do not abide the laws and poach animals out of season, without a tag or on private property without permission, are violating both the law and the unspoken code of conduct that requires hunters to hold themselves to a high standard of morality when harvesting game for their freezer. Without the constant presence of onlookers and game wardens, “fair chase” often becomes a test of morality and ethics as hunters try to stay true to The Hunter’s Code.

The Ethical Option

To hunt, process and cook your own meat is no walk in the park, and not everyone will be able to stomach the process of killing or cleaning wild game, but by cutting out the middle man you can ensure that the food on your plate was obtained ethically and is truly 100 percent organic. Factory-farming is notoriously cruel. Considering the treatment of livestock, it’s no surprise that correct and ethical hunting is often considered the perfect source for organic, free-range meat.

Sustainability on a Larger Scale

From a sustainability standpoint, hunting is a much more cost-effective option as a household meat source. When compared side by side, the cost to feed a family of three for one year (in accordance with the FDA’s required amount of protein intake) with store-bought meat is more than twice as expensive as hunting and harvesting your own meat. Fishing and hunting require an initial purchase of firearms and gear, but with proper maintenance and the purchase of yearly tags, the cost is next to nothing compared to store-bought, factory-farmed meat.

Plenty of hunters will plan their hunts in advance to make them as cost effective as possible. Consider stocking up on gear during big holiday sales or try to choose a more inexpensive option of certain products, like rimfire ammunition over a more expensive bullet with more recoil. The key to sustainability is ensuring the longevity of a resource. This not only means pursuing the most cost effective route for your own means but also actively contributing to the continued existence of a species, learning lifelong skills that provide sustenance and having a heightened respect for yourself, the world you live in and the animals that thrive off of it.

Are you a “localvore” hunter who hunts because of concern about food supply? Tell us your story!