Vern and Caleb Peters, a father and son team share knowledge, outdoor experiences, and naturally, food. “I was especially excited to get a deer last year,” says 13-year-old Caleb. “I promised my volleyball coach I would bring him some meat if I did!” While the Peters enjoy all the benefits of hunting, their friends and family get to enjoy ethically harvested, local meat too. In fact, Alberta’s hunting stats actually translate to every licensed hunter sharing the harvest with seven additional people in the province (according to ACA’s 2017 report “A Review of the Human Dimensions of Hunting”).
My Side of the Mountain is a novel about a boy who lived in the woods by himself, surviving by hunting and foraging. “This book piqued my interest,” remembers Vern. “The first chance I got, I signed up for a Hunter Safety Course.”
Vern comes from a non-hunting family. He took up archery at public shooting lanes but then he had to wait patiently—he was 18 years old before he could hunt on his own.
“My first bow hunt was a disaster, with a backcountry trip on a ten-speed bike. Two days later, after getting soaked in our self-constructed lean-to shelter, cycling 40 km on wet sand, and not seeing any deer sign, I decided to strike out on my own in farm country,” says Vern, who grew up in Manitoba.
“Bowhunting taught me to read animal sign, but it was two seasons and a rifle that got me my first deer.” Patience and persistence: the lessons that tend to be taught straightaway. Success with bowhunting came a few years later but Vern learned his rifle proved the best way to fill the freezer on an annual basis—and share the extra.
Vern didn’t have a single mentor when he embarked on his hunting journey, so mentoring Caleb has been meaningful. And the time spent outdoors together is an important part of that. Over time, Vern wants his son to learn the value of wildlife and wilderness, and he will share conservation stories and lessons every chance he gets.
Now Vern is gearing up for the second hunting season with Caleb. “He does know where his food comes from,” says Vern, especially in a world where we’re becoming increasingly disconnected from our food. “We often joke that our kids are made of deer, elk, goose, and moose, having grown up eating wild meat since they could chew food!”
Vern also wants Caleb to see that hunting depends on a supportive community—not only from mentors, but also on the goodwill of landowners granting permission, as well as societal acceptance of hunting as a way to manage wildlife and put good food on the table. “That’s why we often share our wild meat,” says Vern. “Hunting for me has become about relationships, and this will be vital to Caleb’s enjoyment of hunting in the future.”
While Caleb enjoys simply spending time outdoors with Dad, he is also proud to know that he provided the wild game his family is sharing with friends for dinner. And maybe, that’s simply enough to shed light on what we do as hunters, and why we do it.