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For most of us, our fondest memories revolve around the experiences shared and adventures undertaken while surrounded by family, friends and the people that love us most.
Growing up in a family that hunts together often means you grow up in a family that processes game meat together. Every time an animal is harvested, hours of family time is spent processing the hard-earned kill: turning it into burger, making sausage, jerky, steaks and roasts, even vacuum sealing it for long-term storage in the freezer. That experience and time with your family becomes more rewarding, less stressful and very delicious with the help of Cabela's Commercial-Grade lineup of vacuum sealers, meat grinders and sausage stuffers.
From the lessons taught in the field, to the knowledge gained from working side by side through the cleaning, quartering and breaking down of your animal, we have the tools to help make all of your at-home processing endeavors as enjoyable as the memories you'll build along the way.
In my family, hunting is a way of life. As soon as I was old enough to stay quiet and not be in the way, Dad started taking me along on his yearly deer hunts. The thrill of the hunt was unlike anything I'd ever experienced. At that age, I was generally disappointed that we weren't hunting for huge horns, but now I understand. Not only was it recreation and a chance to spend time with friends, my father took pride in providing us with meals from animals he had harvested. Deer season remains my favorite time of year and I can't thank my father enough for passing his passion towards hunting and appreciation for wildlife on to me.
I still remember the excitement that came with approaching the downed 2x2 whitetail on my first hunt with Dad. Although it may have given me nightmares as a 10-year-old, the lesson that came next continues to serve me well — field dressing the deer. I helped out a little, but was mostly instructed to watch and learn.
I was around 15 years old when I shot my first deer. Although Dad and our friend Boone were both there giving guidance, the knife work was left up to me. I can't say I particularly enjoyed it or was good at it, but it was something I had to be able to do on my own.
I'll never forget Boone rummaging through the gut pile for organs, insisting that we cook them at deer camp. "You have to eat the heart and liver from your first kill. It's tradition." My inexperienced taste buds cringed at the thought. But, I couldn't break tradition. As unpleasant as that evening's meal might have been, it was overridden by excitement of my first successful hunt. For me, that's what hunting is all about — the memories, respect for the outdoors, building traditions, comradery between friends and family and strengthening the bond between father and son.
"If you kill it, you eat it." That's what Dad always told my brothers and me. And so it was, that the squirrels we shot from trees, steers we raised from birth and panfish that floated back to the ponds surface after the hook had been pulled free, all came to rest in the center of Mom's dining-room table, circled by bowed heads and folded hands. The lesson to be learned was always the same — respect. Respect any weapon you hold, the land you hunt, the meat you harvest, the mothers and calves you care for, the direction you're given and every responsibility that comes with lowering a cheek and giving the trigger a squeeze.
Early on we learned the importance of sitting quietly in the woods on frosty mornings, our backs pressed stiffly against rough trunks, our breathing slow and quiet as we waited and watched Dad react to the sudden grunting exhales made by nearby bucks. As we grew, the knife would be passed from my father to us, then back again as the organs were removed and dad pointed, named, then asked us questions about the purpose, function and importance of each.
"I've discovered pleasure in the work and value in the knowledge that allows me to take care of myself and the people I love most."Melissa Shutter, Cabela's Outfitter
Later still, we would venture into the woods before sunrise wielding guns, knives, supplies and confidence of our own. We'd sit alone in stands we'd placed ourselves or against trunks of trees that bordered Brian's Plot, a silky green acre covered in thick alfalfa, dotted with fruitful apple trees, named for my father's brother and the bucks he'd pulled from that very patch of green.
Once a kill had been dressed and moved to the clean concrete apron at the custom shop Dad operates, each member of our family would assume a role in skinning, hanging, cleaning, quartering, halving, cooling and breaking down a carcass. My father removing hides and heads, the youngest children tossing legs into barrells, salting, folding and storing capes to be mounted or tanned, picking hair from the smooth meat as mom demonstrated the right way to cut, trim, bone out, tie, grind, bag and wrap. Later, these tasks became our responsibility and we learned to carry them out with seamless and natural intent.
Dad's direction, the slide of steel against a dull blade, mom's laughter, the hum of a grinder hard at work, the constant ribbing between my brothers and myself, clean bones clanking against the sides of an old metal barrel — these are the sounds that accompany my memories of fall, family and the acres on the hill I'll always call home. It's because of these opportunities to watch, hunt, catch, listen and clean that I've discovered pleasure in the work and value in the knowledge that allows me to take care of myself and the people I love most.