Today's Hunter Gatherer - Maryland Outdoor Life

There is a modern Hunter Gatherer movement in the United States. Whether for health, fitness or sport, people are heading back to the woods, fields and rivers for exercise and food. A modern Gatherer may also maintain their own garden and visit the local grocer and farmers’ market to pick fresh vegetables and make healthy food choices.

Image from book: Vick’s Flower and Vegetable Garden. 1878. Vegetables (colored plate). Key: 1. Wax or Butter Beans, 2. Peas, 3. Pie Plant, 4. Sweet Corn, 5. Hathaway Tomato, 6. Purple-top Turnip, 7. Cos Lettuce, 8. Water Melon, 9. Cauliflower, 10. Hubbard Squash, 11. Summer Crook-neck Squash, 12. Filderkraut Cabbage, 13. Egg Plant, 14. Long Green Cucumber, 15., 16. Musk Melons, 17. Celery, 18. Belgian Green-top Carrot, 19. Long Blood Beet, 20. Turnip Beet, 21. California Radish, 22. Olive-shaped Radish, 23., 24. Onions, 25. Bell Pepper, 26. Short-horn Carrot

When we research the term Hunter Gatherer, what we find are descriptions of people from over 10,000 years ago, or maybe modern remote tribes that live deep in lush jungles or hidden behind mountain ranges. But 10K years is just a blip of time in our long history. No matter what the prevalent civilization has been, going back deep into the ancient past, Hunter Gatherer has always been and is today the natural state of humans. We are omnivorous primates. This is how we have evolved over millions of years and how we still evolve. We are designed to pursue, evaluate, calculate, prepare, gather and grow our food. Today, whether we realize it or not, humans live in groups to help acquire food and secure our protection. We join companies and compete in the marketplace. We join clubs. We select memberships and affiliations. We are tribal hunters and gatherers. This is who we are and what we do.

St_Eustathios_&_deer_with_a_crucifixion_(Georgian_fresco,_12th_cent) wikicommons
St. Eustathios on a hunt. A fresco on the eastern facade in the Laghami church in Lower Svaneti, Georgia, 12th century.

Hunting and Gathering for Health

Wild game meat or pasture-raised is the healthiest meat we can eat. Animals such as deer, turkey, rabbit, bison, elk and fowl consume a large variety of wild plants and grasses and are constantly active. Wild meat is lower in saturated fat and higher in protein, zinc, iron, Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B12. The only healthy alternative to wild game is free-range, organic livestock and wild fish. Hunting and fishing may be a sport in many ways, but it is truly a practical and affordable way to provide a family with the best protein available. Equipment comes in a range of costs from low to high and land for hunting is accessible to the general public by the state. It is easy to get on the water for fishing with a kayak or canoe. Some farmers even recruit hunters to rid their land of troublesome deer. Tending to a family garden and gathering produce at farmers’ markets can round out this economical approach to attaining the best food.

If hunting and fishing is not always a reliable option or managing enough time for this activity is often an issue, then finding a good farmer that practices pasture-raising their livestock is a nice alternative.

Painting by John White, circa 1580

Note that wild fish can have similar health benefits but are only as healthy as the water they swim in. We need to do our research before we cast that rod or buy at the grocer. Farmed fish are notoriously unhealthy.

Boar Hunt from Ridpath’s history of the world, drawing by Emile Bayard

Survival of the Fittest

The rule of three for survival is we can last only 3 minutes without air, 3 hours without shelter in harsh conditions, 3 days without water and 3 weeks without food. We build our communities and society for long-term survival, which includes all manner of food production. Many people live in cities and towns where all their food is purchased in markets. Not all food is created equal, so we need to pick carefully. Aim for organic and non-GMO fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and grains if possible. Hunting for wild game is an important part of acquiring healthy food and ensures that we are consuming the best meat possible. If we don’t get lean meat in the woods and fields, we can find good quality meat in the marketplace if we do our homework, although it will be much more costly. What we put in our mouths is what we become: poor nutrition leads to poor health, poor decisions, stress, disease and ultimately the fast-track decent into an early grave.

Our bodies were designed for moving, so some kind of exercise daily is important, or at least 3x per week. Hunting involves a lot of effort, so this activity alone will help with fitness. Physical work, whether for pay or pleasure, is very rewarding and can add years to our lives. Fishing is not as active, but it takes effort to find the best spots for your prized catch!

Fishing and playing on the shore of Chesapeake Bay. Sandy Point, MD. USEPA photo by Eric Vance.

It takes dedication to be a successful hunter or fisher of high-quality meat and a gatherer of high-quality foods. These daily decisions impact every aspect of our lives. As quick adapters, successful hunters and talented gatherers, we can strive to be the fittest we can be, not only for ourselves, but for our family and friends.

Sika deer on the Eastern Shore

In Maryland

Maryland is the perfect place to start a Hunter Gatherer lifestyle. Even if you live in a city, there are parks, wildlife management areas and rural lands and waterways just minutes away. Stay fit and stay well by making some time for the outdoors. Visit the pages and posts on this site for places and tips.