Interview with a Hunter-Renderer
[Dear Readers, I just had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Saint Bif regarding his recent hunt. I knew that he would correct me on my usage of the term “renderer”, but it sounded better than “Interview with a Hunter-Meat Processor” so that’s what you get. For all of our benefit, Saint Bif took time out of his insanely busy schedule to indulge me, and I thank him for it. ~BB]
Bunn Bunn: Apart from spiritual considerations, what in your experience is the most important preparation for the hunt?
Saint Bif: Well first of all I want to say thank you for your interest in the subject and for the opportunity to be interviewed. And it takes a lot of courage for a rabbit to interview a hunter. One thing though, it’s not really correct to refer to this work as rendering. Rendering is the act of extracting fats and oils in order to make products like lard, soaps and glue. What we’re talking about here is slaughtering and butchering an animal as food for human consumption.
Preparation for the hunt involves a lot of things, and of course preparation is everything. First of all is making sure you are competent in the safe and proper use of a firearm. Obviously you don’t want to hurt a companion or yourself. You do want to dispatch the animal as quickly and as humanely as possible. It’s irresponsible to shoot unless you believe you have a very good shot. It’s a very bad thing if your action results in a maimed animal needlessly left to suffer.
Aside from the planning and myriad of minor preparations, winter hunting involves much consideration for how you will stay reasonably warm and dry. However, hours of remaining still in freezing temps means you are going to get cold and you will suffer, regardless. You have to just accept that. It’s more hard work than it is fun with guns. For this and many reasons, don’t ever do this with companions who are anything but competent and trustworthy.
BB: What’s more important when hunting, a steady trigger finger or a sturdy bladder?
SB: I have found that when nature calls it is best to just answer that call. As a rabbit, I’m sure you understand. Nothing is worth walking around in pee pants. So yeah, a steady trigger finger.
BB: Are there any tools that you particularly recommend for the hunt? For the subsequent meat processing?
SB: Most people just take the deer to the butcher and have it processed. If you want to do it yourself, a variety of knives of course and a hack saw. A reciprocating saw can be a help. The hide is tough and knives become dull within minutes. You spend almost as much time sharpening as cutting (but I’m sure pros have much better knives than me). As far as what I did with the saws, well, let’s just let that one be.
BB: In processing the meat, what if any health and safety measures did you and your colleagues take, besides the obvious final step of putting it in a freezer?
SB: It stands to reason that if you did enough butchering you’d eventually lose a finger. One of the reasons it took me so long is I was careful to not cut myself. All of this was done in near freezing temps, so there was no risk of meat spoilage.
BB: What happened to the pelts and bones?
SB: When you shoot a deer you have to immediately gut it and remove all organs and entrails. The animal is still warm. It’s the worst thing you’ll have to do. The entire cavity needs to be cleaned out. It’s not for the queasy. The animal can then be taken to a butcher or hung up and skinned. Once it is skinned it needs to hang at least over night, if not longer. Ideally for several days if temps are cool. This improves the quality of the meat as bacteria and enzymes go too work on it. This is beneficial and not the same as spoilage. It also makes it easier to handle and cut the meat.
When I was done butchering the animal I took the hide and carcass up into the woods and put in a pile. I’m sure that the coyotes and other scavengers worked it over that night. Hides can be tanned but I was not interested in that, or the antlers, or trophy mounts, etc.
BB: What were you thinking and/or feeling immediately after the deer went down?
SB: Well, even though I had been sitting and standing in the same spot, and waiting, for five hours, the moment of truth never-the-less came as a surprise. It was raining hard and bitter cold. Deer do not move in that kind of weather and I had already accepted the futility of the situation. That this deer was on the move at 11AM was a bit of a fluke, as there was no one else within a half mile of me, no one to inadvertently “push” him over to me. He was trotting along pretty quick though, perhaps in pursuit of some does, as the rut was on still. Bucks don’t usually do anything stupid unless they are pursuing females. This big fellow made a bad decision to leave his thick cover and take a short cut across open woods. His mistake got him removed from the gene pool.
By late morning I had just about given up. I took off my pack and slung my gun over my shoulder. I took my thermos out of my pack and I poured the last of my coffee into a cup. As I was raising the cup to my lips I saw him cruising along and at an angle to pass in front of me. I slowly put down the coffee, and took up my shotgun, flipping off the safety. I had him in my sights but he moved along behind a series of trees. I continued to track him. Soon he moved across the clearest opening in the trees, about 40 yards away, and he hesitated just slightly, and I squeezed the trigger. I hit him right behind the shoulder and it knocked him back onto his butt and he rolled over. I chambered another round in the gun. Then he stood up and on wobbling legs attempted to run. I shot him again, this time in the neck. He went down head first and hard, about 25 yards away from my position. He kicked his legs a couple times and that was it.
After a minute or two I calmed down. Like I said, I was more surprised than anything. I collected my composure and sat back down and had my coffee. I kept an eye on him for about 20 minutes or so while I organized my stuff. Then I took off my coat and sweater and I got my knife and went over to check him out. I was happy that he was a young but large deer. I gutted him out. It was disgusting but it did warm my hands. His stomach was full of corn. I examined the organs in his upper torso. I saw that my first shot went through his lungs but missed his heart. The second shot had broken his neck, probably killing him before he hit the ground the final time.
How did I feel? I felt relieved that I shot well and that it was over so quick. I had dreaded the thought of tracking a wounded animal, especially in unfamiliar country. I just didn’t want that to happen. So that’s how I felt, relieved. Then I started sizing up all the work I had just created for myself. But I was in good spirits.
BB: If you had to choose between never again reading the works of Russian authors and never again hunting deer or other animals, which would it be?
SB: I protest this question! Silly rabbit. Can’t I just give up French authors, or Caribbean steel drum music? Awwwh. I am no hunter really, I rarely do this. But I would like to do it again sometime. And you know Russian authors are my favorite. I couldn’t give that up either. Bastard!
BB: Who would you rather see disemboweled, Al Franken or Harry Reid?
SB: That’s a trick question rabbit. I was thinking you might ask it. The answer of course is neither, because you can’t disembowel an already gutless Democrat.
BB: Thank you.