Hipster hunting: Is the local food movement boosting deer hunter ranks?

Why did you start hunting?

It's a question I asked of nearly a dozen hunters for a story I produced on the firearms deer hunting season, which wrapped up Sunday for much of the state. For most, it was their dad, or maybe an uncle, who took them hunting for the first time. And it's that camaraderie of spending time in the woods with family and friends that keeps them hunting every year, whether or not they even see a deer.

Shirley Kmett of Hibbing harvested her first deer with a bow this year. She grew up in a hunting family, but didn't hunt until about a decade ago. "It feels great to have meat on the table that I harvested myself," she said.

But then I also heard explanations like this, from DNR Assistant Wildlife Manager Martha Minchak: While spending time with friends is part of it, for her it's also about "getting your own food," knowing the "history of it, and where it came from, how it was harvested and prepared."

Kind of the Michael Pollan approach to hunting, she explained, in reference to the sustainable food evangelist and author of The Omnivore's Dilemma.

That sensibility is also what got DNR plant ecologist Ethan Perry into hunting. "I'm into gardening, local foods, and hunting fit into that," he explained. He said he remembers actually being "turned off by hunting as a kid." But he slowly came around, went out for the first time three years ago, and has harvested a deer every year since.

So are "hipsters who hunt" a growing trend? Maybe. On the East Coast there are hunting classes for locavores. A new study shows increased interest in hunting for "green" food and to save money.

In Minnesota, the tradition of hunting is still robust.  License sales have increased slightly over the past five years, to more than 520,000 last year. The vast majority of those hunters likely were brought into the sport by family and friends. But for some, it's also about the satisfaction of knowing that meat on your table is something they harvested from the woods, not something they picked up at the grocery store.

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