In cooperation with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW), Portland-based butcher Nicky USA recently invited 20 of the Northwestern state’s best chefs to a meet-and-greet skeet shooting event on their free-range farm outside Aurora. The goal was to convert these masters of the kitchen into master hunters. After all, these chefs know better than most how to properly prepare wild game, the primary product offered by Nicky to the region’s discerning foodies.

“If it wasn’t for hunters I wouldn’t be here,” Nicky USA’s owner Geoff Latham told the Statesman Journal. “If there wasn’t people going into the outdoors, there wouldn’t be as much interest in, you know elk, venison, and rabbit, stuff like that.”

Among his best customers are high-end restaurants, which procure mouth-watering portions of wild boar, venison, and even meat as exotic as Tibetan yak. Latham invited the chefs, many of whom have never fired a firearm, to experience hunting for themselves. Before taking the plunge on licenses, however, Latham decided to host a little skeet shoot. Along with using shotguns, the chefs tried their hands at bows and muzzleloaders as well.

“It’s always interesting as a chef to get out of the kitchen and go to a place where food potentially could start from,” said Greg Denton, executive chef at Portland’s Ox restaurant. “It really gives you a perspective you normally don’t have.”

Game meat has long been a staple of robust, lean, and nutritious meals. Whether cooking on the backyard grill or pan-seared under the watchful gaze of world-renowned chefs, game meat provides many advantages over farm-raised beef and chicken. Overall, the DFW officials and Latham said the skeet shoot was overwhelmingly successful.

“I think the take-home message is that it doesn’t get more free range than meat that you’ve hunted or fished for yourself,” said Michelle Dennehy, coordinator of wildlife communications for the DFW. “And we have everything that you need to get started.”

Dennehy hopes that the chefs will become hunters in their own right, or at least take their experiences back to the culinary world.

“When you hunt and fish, you’re actually supporting wildlife conservation because the money that you spend on licenses, tags, and hunting equipment actually goes straight back into monitoring wildlife and improving habitat, maintaining our wildlife areas,” she said. “So when you hunt and fish, you’re also plowing money back into wildlife conservation.”

Image from Steven Straiton on the flickr Creative Commons

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