Providing food for the family dinner table is a rewarding part of hunting for many outdoorsmen and women.
Alaska Native people have lived close to nature and off the land since time immemorial. The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980, which established national wildlife refuges in Alaska, and the Federal Subsistence Management Program ensure that rural Alaskans can continue to do so.
The program supports subsistence living by rural Alaskans on federal public lands and waters while maintaining healthy populations of fish and wildlife. Alaska’s rural residents harvest about 18,000 tons of wild foods each year – an average of 295 pounds per person. Nowhere else in the United States is there such a heavy reliance upon wild foods.
Hunting is allowed at all 16 national wildlife refuges in Alaska.
Minnesotans Denise and Mike Warweg supplement their family table with deer and waterfowl harvested at nearby Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge. They hunt at the refuge with their sons and grandsons.
“It shows them all the way from the start what we are provided with by nature,” says Mike Warweg. “We harvest it. Then we clean it, explaining the anatomy. Then to have their mother make a delicious dinner out of it is rewarding. The kids see the benefit of what nature can provide for us.”
Denise Warweg agrees. “It’s a great lesson to teach our kids the food that we go out to get, we also eat,” she says. For her, Tamarac Refuge is “just so peaceful and calming. It kind of renews your soul to be out in nature and spend time there. Even if we don’t get a deer, it’s still worth the time we spend out in nature.”
Upstate New Yorkers Sarah Fleming and husband Mike Schummer regularly hunt waterfowl, deer, turkey, marsh birds, squirrel and upland game birds at or near Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge.
Fleming is a conservation program manager with Ducks Unlimited. Schummer is a professor of ecology.
“Our hunting trips are very much a part of who we are, and they help supplement our food supply,” Fleming says. “Hunting provides us with a healthy local option for meat. Hunting is not easy, and it’s not for everyone, but taking time to understand nature will make you a better hunter and give you a perspective of your place in the bigger picture … And we have been fortunate enough to stock our freezers with game only for the last nine years. We do not need to purchase meat from the grocery store.”