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People will go to insane lengths for gourmet foods. Like training pigs to sniff out white truffles, massaging cattle for Kobe beef and sifting through civet poop to get kopi luwak coffee beans.
I tried to keep that in mind this past weekend as I found myself paddling down a slough in the middle of a swamp on a foggy, moonless night. And again, just a few hours later, as I leaned against a hickory tree well before dawn with mosquitoes draining my blood.
What I tried not to think about was the fact that truffles, Kobe beef and the crap-puccino are all extremely rare and expensive, whereas catfish and turkey (which I was after) are both abundant and cheap. Or at least they are at the grocery store. When you factor in all the financial and human costs of getting them in the wild, even beluga caviar is a bargain by comparison.
I’ll use the turkey as an example. At Ramsey’s Piggly Wiggly in Blountstown, you can get a pound of smoked turkey breast, sliced and packaged, for about five bucks or so. If you figure a wild bird might have at most 10 pounds of breast meat, that’s $50. And you still have to clean and cook it.
Now, let’s calculate how much you spend to get that bird in the woods, starting with the gear. (Some of which didn’t exist 40 years ago; all of which is now essential.)
For me, this includes a camo vest, gloves, mask and hat; Thermacell and insect repellent; mouth calls, push call, friction call, crow call, owl call and shock gobbler; shotgun and shells; boots; knife; and hen decoy.
Total retail value of the above: about $800. (If I take the 1966 Winchester out of the equation: $775.)
This doesn’t even include travel, groceries, club dues, licenses, malaria treatments or marriage counseling. We also use a boat, but that’s free since we borrow it from my brother, Hentz, and never gas it up before returning it to him.
And keep in mind that we pay these costs just to have a chance at killing a turkey. Unless the meat truck breaks down, Ramsey’s is a pretty sure bet every time. And the conditions are considerably better.
Catching catfish on a trotline is slightly less expensive than turkey hunting, but still much more costly than trolling for them at the seafood counter.
So, on Saturday morning, as the fog was lifting from both the bug-filled woods and my blood-starved brain, I finally hit on a simple idea that will allow hunters and fishermen to continue our pursuit – and to do so in a way that will help us feel a little better about the cost. What we need to do is rename our quarry. Something classy. Possibly foreign.
Think about it. What if wild turkeys were called by the Spanish turquia salvaje? And what if fresh-caught channel cats became poisson-chat as they are in France? A hunting or fishing trip would be a cultural expedition. We might earn new respect as connoisseurs, pioneers and gourmands.
On the other hand, people might just call us dumbasses, which if I’m not mistaken is a common term for hunters and fishermen in several different languages.