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The Venison Snatchers

The firearm deer season opened up this past Saturday here in Virginia. Anyone who has been out hiking has probably heard the repeat of a rifle echoing off the mountains. All over the state, hunters are squeezing triggers, and dragging the gutted bodies of tens of thousands of deer out of the woods. With all this killing going on, it seems like the right time to finally put an actual dollar value on a pound of venison.

We already know that venison is a tricky meat to hang a price tag on. We know it has a value that transcends simple economics.  We’ve also learned that by simply dividing the number of deer killed by the annual revenue of the hunting industry we arrive at a price per pound that is so inflated that it in no way reflects what the average hunter spends on their venison. So without further ado, here is my best guess:

$5 per pound.

I arrived at this number by assuming one average sized deer per regular firearms season. Then did a rough amortization of the long term investments hunters make; things like rifles and boots. Next I added in the annual expenses hunters incur; things like licenses, meat processing, and ammunition.

Jackson Landers is a Charlottesville area outdoors writer and hunting guide. He offers a unique opportunity for non-hunters to take their first hunting trip.  He supplies the gun, the firearms safety training, and even the ammunition. He does all this for the absurdly low price of only $250.00 per day.

He tells his students that if they take a deer, (his students have a phenomenal 80% success rate the first time they go out!) the meat they take home with them will cost them about $7 per pound. If you’re interested in going hunting for the first time you can contact Jackson via Facebook or email me and I can put you in touch with him. As you can imagine he is usually booked, but may still have an open day this season.

Can someone get venison for less? Absolutely.

If a hunter were to buy a basic license, already own or borrow a hunting rifle, drive their family car to a place where they can hunt for free, kill a deer, butcher and freeze it oneself. One could put venison on ones table for less than $1 per pound. This barebones estimate makes minimal allowances for gas and ammunition, and assumes the economy class hunter can swipe a knife from the kitchen drawer before his wife discovers it’s missing.

Truth is, very few hunters have ever bought a hunting license, driven their car onto public land and killed a deer. Most make multiple visits to outdoor stores during the season, they order gear from the catalogs that choke their mail box every fall. Most of us hunters seem to revel in the opportunity to accumulate at least some of the paraphernalia of hunting. Grunt calls, wheeze calls, fawn bleats, doe estrus, doe pee, buck pee, range finders, binoculars, trail cams, rattling horns, regular tree stands, climbing tree stands, ladder tree stands, pop up ground blinds…Well you get the idea.

Back in the day, I was one of those almost homeless hunter guys. My weapon was a vintage .303 British Enfield who’s barrel was kept fixed to the stock by duct tape. I wore a ragged wardrobe that already had one foot in the donation center bin. On those years I was able to get a deer, it really was cheap meat.

Now to be fair, there are some who spend even less than a $1 per pound.

In the mountains not too far from here, there are venison snatchers. These folks sneak up on deer they find sleeping alongside the road and put them in their freezers. These folks regularly claim to put meat on the table for less than .10 per pound! Of course the average person, is just not willing to skin an innocent deer they find “napping” alongside the road.

I’ve always felt bad for those deer. They wake up only to find their back straps have been pinched in the night by unscrupulous carnivores. I assume they must feel something like those gullible guy tourists who get lured into a south of the border candy mountain motel room by some foxy senoritas who gives them a mickey margarita. In the morning they wake up in a bathtub full of ice, a cell phone nearby, and a note telling them to dial the hospital because they’ve just involuntarily donated a kidney.

So how much does venison cost you? Do you get it for free from a generous friend? Or do you spend some serious cash on all the nifty things hunters can buy? I would love to hear your price per pound estimate. Until then, be safe out there, it’s hunting season.

Jeff Ell is pretty good at catching, killing, picking, and growing things to eat. He regularly finds bemusement in the outdoors and enjoys telling his stories to anyone who will listen. He is the author of Ruth Uncensored, blogs at pastorjeffell.com. and can be contacted via Facebook or smoke signal.

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