Meat Hunts

Moose meat and head packed out by boat

The original reason for hunting, and one that still holds true for the absolute majority of hunters, is food. Many Americans only eat venison and stock their freezers every year with the animals they hunt, and so do people in most other countries. This is why has a special category for “meat hunts”. What are they, how they differ from “cull”, “management”, or “trophy” hunts, and why don’t more outfitters offer them to international clients?

Meat cooked over fire
Meat is the prime motivation for most hunters, historically and today.

Every Hunt is a Meat Hunt!

Before we come to “meat” hunts, though, we must make a small statement. Perhaps the biggest misconception about hunting is the idea that “trophy hunt” means that the hunter takes only the antlers or horns and throws the meat away. This is not true!

In North America, a hunter is required by law to carry the meat of the animal out of the wilderness, before they can touch inedible parts such as antlers, horns, or skin. In Europe, the stags and boars are butchered and sold to restaurants and gourmet shops. In Africa, in the majority of cases with trophy hunted animals the meat remains the property of the outfitter who uses it in the camp, sells it or donates it to the local community, depending on whether it’s a private landowner or a government concession holder. No meat is wasted: even the internal organs such as liver, kidney, and heart will be utilized.

This refers not only to antelopes, deer, and such, but also to such unlikely species as lions, and some American hunters relish mountain lion meat (read more on “Many Sides of Eating What You Kill“). As James Reed, Director for North America, puts it: “Trophy hunting doesn’t mean we don’t utilize the meat, it just means we are more selective of the meat we utilize.”

A head and meat of an elk loaded into an ATV
In the USA and Canada hunters must pack out the meat before they can touch the antlers

Meat Hunts Explained

If every hunt is a meat hunt, why do outfitters – and – have a special category for “Meat Hunts”? Because it is not about the hunter’s motivation, it’s about different services provided by the outfitter. In other words, what you get for your money.

In South Africa and Namibia, meat hunters are in 99.9% cases local hunters who came to game ranches to target young, old, broken horned, and often female animals. This helps to control the game numbers in the fenced territory and prevent over populations which cause overgrazing which leads to soil erosion, etc.).

In North America, “meat hunts” are usually doe hunts for deer, or cow elk hunts. People who aren’t too keen on a pair of antlers, but are more interested in healthy, free-range meat with better nutritional values than any domestic animal’s, will choose such a hunt for a few reasons: first, they are more affordable, and second, the venison of the females is usually more tender than that of males.

Game ranches in North America may also offer a variety of exotic animals, from Corsican sheep to Axis deer. Exotic species usually aren’t covered by regular hunting season, and so provide a year-round opportunity to fill the freezer. They also work well as first hunts, both for the younger generation, and for people who are beginning their hunting career in mid-life.

Trophies of European driven boar hunt
All these animals will be butchered, and every bit of meat used.

A “meat hunt” should not be confused with a “cull hunt” or a “management hunt”. The main purpose of a “cull hunt” is to reduce the numbers of the animals on a territory. “Management hunt” is similar in purpose, although usually done with a focus on animals of specific age, sex, or species, in order to correct the population structure of the herd rather than just to thin it. In both cases, the outfitter or landowner disposes of the meat of the harvested animals (by selling, donating, sharing, or other ways). By contrast, a “meat hunter” is shooting specifically for the meat value of the animal.

Are “Meat Hunts” only for Locals?

Short answer: Yes.

In most cases there are legal and economic barriers preventing overseas hunters from participating in true “meat hunts”. For example, even if an American hunter would be willing to pay for the shipment of the freezer with the meat of South African antelopes he or she harvested, this would be impossible. Meat cannot be imported into the USA (and many other countries) from Africa due to the strict veterinary regulations. It’s possible with Canada but that would most likely not be a meat hunt anyway.

Moreover, the cost structure of meat, cull/management, and trophy hunts is very different, especially if we’re talking about local vs. overseas hunters countries (read more about it in the blog post “International vs. Local”). In most countries, states and provinces, non-residents must not only pay more for their licenses, permits and tags, but are often required by law to hunt only with licensed outfitter, guide or PH. Residents, however, may take part in self-guided hunts. If commercially sold to an overseas client, with outfitter and professional hunter regulations in place, the land owner would likely increase the price of the hunt to cover these costs.

A hunter and a guide in the bush
In many countries non-resident hunters must be accompanied by a licensed PH or guide

As mentioned above, with “cull”, “management”, or “trophy” hunts, if the hunter can’t take the meat, the outfitter will make provisions for its utilization. If the meat is sold, it could bring an extra profit. If the meat is given to the personnel of the operation, as often happens in Africa, they may agree to smaller wages. Sharing with local communities usually reduces poaching (why work and risk, if you can have your bush meat delivered to your door?). Either way it influences the budget of the outfitter. But the “meat hunts” are arranged assuming the disposal of the meat is the responsibility of the client. If the client of a “meat hunt” suddenly decides to leave the meat behind, the outfitter has a problem – at the very least, because of the need to drop everything and figure out what to do with it!

These or similar factors are at work in most places. This is why selling a “meat hunt” to an overseas client is usually impossible.

Follow Your Heart

When booking your hunt, look for what is offered, not how it is called. Most of the stigma usually associated with “trophy”, “cull”, or any other kinds of hunts comes simply from lack of understanding. Keeping parts of the harvested animals as mementoes is a thing as ancient as humanity itself. The original hunter-gatherers didn’t have a wall to hang antlers on, but they did preserve objects such as canine teeth of red deer as trophies. There’s nothing wrong with keeping a skin or antlers of the animal you’ve shot as a memory of the hunt, and as a sign of respect. On the other hand, hunters who are looking only for the experience of the hunt, and do not want to pay extra for a pair of antlers or horns they don’t need, may well consider “management” or “cull” hunts. Think of it as a meat hunt back home, only the meat you harvest is donated to a good cause!


Leave a Reply