Tag Soup – Hunting vs. Gathering

Using up last year’s dehydrated veggies to make tag soup.

I’ve been facing the prospect of an empty meat freezer this year, despite trying the hardest I’ve ever tried to bag a deer by myself on family property.

In addition to scouting out and placing my blind by myself, placing four game cameras by myself, maintaining contact with local hunters who have permission, contacting law enforcement about trespassers, and finding a permitted processor for this CWD area (just in case), I’ve also spent untold hours with my butt in the blind seat. 

I don’t want to add up how much money I’ve spent on an updated crossbow, a new blind, blind chair, game cameras, out-of-state hunting license etc. Not to mention lodging, gas, and food expenses. I’ve considered these as investments in future hunting opportunities and also “entertainment/vacation” expenses, and have few regrets about it. The process of it has been educational and even empowering, if that’s the right word.

I have enjoyed my time in the blind seat, wandering around the property, and watching wildlife remotely via game cam. Activities like this feed my soul – as long as I don’t allow other stressors – like “expectations” – to get in the way.

In contrast I had a banner garden/gatherer year – even better than last year despite battling not only Squash Bugs but also Mexican Bean Beetles. I’ve canned 34 pints of applesauce and dozens of pints of salsa, crushed tomatoes, pasta sauce, pears, and pickled green beans. Not to mention dehydrating jars and jars of zucchini, carrots, onions, peppers, kale, spinach, and dry beans. Then there’s the potatoes, onions, pumpkins and squash I have on the basement shelves. I even dehydrated several batches of fruit leather  for treats using my garden produce and foraged berries.

I still have one pound of venison burger left from my Texas cull hunt two years ago (my first deer ever), so I think I will defrost it and make a ceremonial last batch of jerky to go with my “tag soup” for the end of the hunting season.

Technically, archery season reopens after Christmas, but I’m not sure how motivated I will be in the January cold. Maybe after the holiday rush is over and the stress of moving our office/changing jobs I will have a new spurt of energy. We shall see. I suppose I shouldn’t be too eager to give up just yet. But even if I do – that’s okay. I keep reminding myself that this is supposed to be fun, not a third job.

I had a little talk with myself the other day. It seems that with this writing gig comes pressure that I put upon myself – pressure to perform and to always be successful in what I write about – especially about hunting. But why should that be?

The internet is already full of trophy hunters, women hunters, childhood hunters, and all other sorts – complete with photo documentation of their success. So if they’ve already got that “wild success” angle covered, why can’t I just write about my “process” instead? And so I do.

I’m thinking maybe I perform a “service” in writing about my “failures” – Ha! There are probably more of us out there than we think who need commiseration and encouragement. I’m wondering what percentage of hunting tags go unfilled every year? You really con’t go by state raw license numbers because some people (like me) buy licenses for other states or “just in case”. Or they only hunt small game or waterfowl, but not deer or turkey.

Even without the actual statistics, I’m thinking that I may be in the majority rather than the minority when it comes to not filling the freezer with meat every year. Show of hands – who else is eating tag soup this year?

I decided that if I want to skip a weekend and stay home to can those fifty pounds of tomatoes and the tree-full of apples instead of hunting, that’s okay. One could even argue that the activity I chose those days was “more” productive rather than “less” because I was in my kitchen preserving guaranteed food rather than chasing food on-the-hoof which may or may not show up for my effort, time, and gas.

I need to keep some perspective here – it’s okay to be more of a gatherer than a hunter some (or even most) days. It is entirely possible to be both, but I shouldn’t guilt trip myself if I’m feeling more of one than the other on any particular day. It’s just that the successful hunter gets more accolades than the successful gatherer/preserver. It’s “sexier” to pose with your hunt trophy than with your garden produce. But that’s okay too. We all have our roles. 

I haven’t given up on deer hunting, I’m just ready for a break now. It’s getting to be seed catalog season and garden planning season, so I’ve got that to focus on for awhile while I’m eating my tag soup for dinner.

But I can practically guarantee that come July or August I will be ready to start pre-season prep again. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about hunting it’s that hope springs eternal and there’s always next season to look forward to!

Dr LateBloomer
Dr LateBloomer is a female general pediatrician who bought her first firearm at the age of 46. She now enjoys many different shooting disciplines including self-defense, IDPA, Steel/Rimfire Challenge, Sporting clays, and even tried 3-Gun for several years. She has gotten started in hunting and has expanded into crossbow. She is a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment and works to enlighten her medical colleagues whenever possible.