Musings On Learning To Use The Whole Animal

In a world as vast and varied as the one we live in today, it comes as no surprise that not everybody is the same. Each person has different values, beliefs, attitudes and goals that provide the framework for how day-to-day life is navigated.

For me, these same values and beliefs are integral to how I hope to leave my mark (or lack thereof, I suppose) on the planet. As an outdoorswoman, there are a few things I have learned and that I believe in as a hunter, fisher, farmer and meat eater – ways to go about honouring the whole animal.

Using the whole animal. Photo by Raeanne O’Meara.
Credit: Raeanne O’Meara.

The easiest thing to do is switch your mindset of what you can eat on an animal. The glaringly obvious one is bone broth. I used to buy stock in those little cartons or cans from the store – had I known how easy it is to have an endless supply of broth at home just from what used to go in the trash, I would have started long before. If you had told 13-year-old me that I would enjoy eating heart, I probably would have rolled my eyes and told you that you were crazy. But several years ago, I pushed my preconceived notions of what was “food” and what simply went in the gut pile and brought home a moose heart to cook. That first attempt didn’t go smoothly – for some reason, the girl who had been gutting fish since she could use a knife and helped butcher animals over the years was gagging over the idea of trimming up a heart for dinner. Yet I pushed through, and suddenly heart became one of my favourite meals every fall.

Now, what about the hide? For years, the idea of tanning hides from moose and deer has been intriguing to me. The scale of such an undertaking, however, has numbed me into inaction. Last year I attempted my first rabbit hide – which ended up being a massive failure, but it gave me a boost of motivation to pursue this further. This year I will try again, hopefully be successful, and eventually move onto something bigger, turning my tanned pelts and hides into toques, mukluks and maybe even a jacket.

I think that this is what it’s all about. It is easy to go the store and buy your food, buy your clothing, and go home and go about other tasks. Some people don’t have any other option than that – and that is fine. But for others, such as myself, where life skills and hobbies are intertwined, striving to learn how to best utilize all the resources in front of you is an admiral task. Some things may be a slam dunk on the first try, others will leave you fine tuning your techniques for years; at the end of the day, I’m hoping to further my skills and honour every animal that is harvested, to the fullest extent.