I hope it’s not too late, meaning – maybe there’s a chance I can make just ONE suggestion for your New Year’s Resolutions... are you with me?
 
My suggestion is this: Make an attempt to sustain your body from something you personally harvest from the woods.
 

What if we could slowly re-train ourselves to sustain ourselves off the land? What could that mean for future generations? 
 
Hear me out.
  
It’s uncontested that time spent in the woods is fantastic for your mind. You probably saw the article going around recently that Scottish doctors are even prescribing hikes as mental health treatments. No one argues this.
 
And don’t take me as a preacher, but many people also appreciate a transcendent or spiritual aspect of time spent afoot. Whether you concur with John Muir’s view of nature as cathedral, lean towards the pagan or pantheistic, or draw the line at bourbon spirits – hopefully this point isn’t lost on you.
 
So societally we are 100% okay with relying on nature to sustain and embolden our minds and spirits – but why do we deny how it could directly benefit our bodies?
 
If you’ve caught the scent of what I’m getting at – don’t think that this is a plug for hunting. But, if that’s caught your interest then I can assure you, it’s the most rewarding and exhilarating outdoor activity I’ve ever experienced. And I’m not even that good at it.
 
Harvesting from nature can take many forms. And the right first step depends largely on your time, situation, commitment, interest, etc. But here are some ideas.
 
Gardening. This is a low hanging fruit (forgive the pun) in harvesting your own food. Even if you start with growing mint to put in your mojitos at home – it’s quite rewarding to watch your crop go from seed to stomach.
 
 
In my earlier years I once filled my entire apartment windows with shelving so that I could make an attempt to stuff 60+ seedlings into as much sunlight as possible.
Now that I’m living that Hudson Valley life my gardening game has stepped up a notch or two.
 
Gardening is a great teacher of patience, diligence and humility. Sometimes you can do all the right things and you end up with nothing. Be thankful it’s not your bread and butter.
 
Foraging. I’ll confess I know the least about this and honestly don’t have much to offer on the topic. My only successful experience comes from an unsuccessful goose hunt, where my friend with meandering tendencies got bored and found some hen-of-the-woods in the trees behind us. That was our larder for the day.
 
  
Lately I’ve really been enjoying Hank Shaw’s Hunt.Gather.Cook resources, especially his Facebook Group where you can connect in realtime with foraging harvest pros.
 
If you’re looking for a first step into foraging, I would look for a meet up in your area where you can connect with seasoned pros. Whatever you do just don’t start munching on mushrooms thinking you can power up like Super Mario...
 
Old Czech Proverb: You can eat any mushroom, but some only once.
 
Hunting. I’m biased, and saved the best for last. If you know any hunters it’s no surprise that I could talk all day about this – but I’ll keep it as short as I can for now. Quick note – I would add fishing to this category also.
 
Humanity originated as hunter/gatherer. Just like we can readily accept that the paleo diet is “good” for our bodies – you shouldn’t forsake the understanding that “how” we procure that food is just as important. Hunting is wondrously beneficial for human beings and nature - and our ancestors knew this.
 
A lot of people hate hunting inherently, and my goal here isn’t to offend anyone if that’s you. When I took my NY hunting license class I was surprised that the bulk of the class focused on ecology, conservation and how humans have a responsibility to manage natural resources – realistically because our development is their greatest detriment.
 
 
If you didn’t grow up hunting, and have no mentors it may seem impossible to start hunting, especially late in life. Don’t worry. It’s never too late to start hunting, and trust me – you’re going to eat a lot of crow before you start having any luck out there anyway. Step one is taking your state’s hunting certification class. It lasts for life, usually only takes one day, and you can get some great advice on what to do next from your instructors.
 
Getting back to the point. Knowing that what you harvest in the field can feed you for a meal, a week, a month or more – is an amazing feeling. In 2019, one of my goals is to end the year having converted roughly 90% of my family’s yearly meat consumption to wild game meat.
 
On social media, hunters use the hashtag #sickforit because hunting can easily become an addiction.
 
Recently I was talking with my father, who gave up hunting when I was young, and he asked me if I ever felt sad during my hunts. I told him that as crazy as it sounds, every time I harvest an animal I can imagine an entire tribe of my people cheering - because now they would not starve... and our tribe’s vitality would be preserved.
 
Hunting connects you to the original pastime of mankind. It’s what we chose as the subject matter of our first art on the cave walls. It could’ve been our families, or landscapes or anything else – but we chose to relive the hunts, because they are sacred.
 
In 2019, we encourage you to think about how your mind, spirit and body can connect to the outdoors in a way you never have before.
 
As the world around us accelerates, pushing us all further apart and deeper into our LCD screens – doing things the hard way may be just what the doctor ordered.
 
Cheers,
Kevin Sterling
Bush Smarts