Armed & Enlightened: Deer hunting for foodies

landers-cJackson Landers, who teaches a deer hunting course for foodies, says he wants to create a "new breed" of hunter in Virginia.

Back in July, avid hunter Jackson Landers wondered on his blog if anyone would be interested in a semi-formal class on how to deer hunt from a locavore’s perspective. After all, what better way to eat local than to hunt for your own food? Of course, it’s hard to imagine local foodies more accustomed to shouldering a tote bag at the farmers market than a .30-ââ?¬Ë?06 through the woods in camouflage gear actually shooting and gutting a deer, but Landers says the response was immediate.

Landers, a broker with Landers Underwriting, was bombarded with emails showing interest in the class, from people as far away as San Francisco, which forced him to limit the class size. Today, he says he has about 10 people taking his class, which is in its fourth week.

“The curriculum that I'm teaching is largely a natural sciences approach rather than coming from a 'hunting traditions' perspective,” says Landers, who conducts his class on Sunday evenings out of his office on Water Street, and admits he’s just coming up with the curriculum as he goes along. "Ballistics, evolutionary history, ecology, and tracking are all on the menu.”

Landers says the class may also include an actual hunt with experienced hunters.

“The students are a fun mixture of foodies, locavores and one guy who just wants to be able to provide food for people in need,” says Landers. “ Most of them had never so much as fired a .22 until our field trip to the range last Saturday.”

Landers says his hope is to teach this class year after year in order to produce a “new breed” of deer hunter in Central Virginia.

“Logical, analytical and environmentally conscious,” he says. “ Not that I have anything against the current mainstream American hunting culture – I'm hoping to add to that culture rather than subtract from it.”

If you’re a good shot, though, hunting can also be a good way to reduce your grocery bill. As Landers points out, for the price of a box of ammunition, you can kill up to six deer a season (firearms deer season in Albemarle County runs from November 14 to January 2), which is about 35-40 pounds of meat per deer.

“Compare this to the price of meat at the grocery store and do your own math,” he writes on his blog. “By shooting, dressing and butchering your own meat you can guarantee that you are eating free-range, grass-fed, hormone free food that has never been near a source of E. coli. Just think of it as very slow food, doing with meat what you may already have done with vegetables in the backyard.”

Of course, at the end of the month, Landers says he’ll be holding a class on field dressing a deer, a task decidedly more gruesome than vegetable gardening, and one that could test the group’s commitment to the grim reality of the kill.


Live in the City and bet you could shoot 6 deer a day in my backyard. Come one come all, let's feed the world and save the city vegetable gardens for the vegetarians.

Outstanding!!!! Instead of complaining, we have here a real solution. This course is heading in the direction of a harvest?? Up here in Minnesota and Wisconsin there may be a lot of open farmland and state land to hunt but in and around the cities are huge opportunities for hunting. The organized "intensive harvest" hunts usually involve bowhunters and well defined hunt boundary and rules. The hunt I was involved in for many years was bordered by residential housing and a golf course only 5 miles from downtown minneapolis. A department of natural resources biologist and a warden gave the course. Content included things like hunter to deer range estimation, carcass registration as well as what to do if anti hunters approached you during a hunt. Taking a deer during the hunt almost always ensured you would be selected the following year.
I am not familiar with the size of deer in central virginia but if the trend is anything like up here, they may run larger closer to town due to the abundant food supply and no hunting pressure. Up here it is well known that trophy bucks in large quantities are to be had close to cities like minneapolis. If compound bowhunters are in short supply, perhaps changing the rules and allowing crossbows to be used, they are extremly accurate and powerful. Many communities like where my folks live in Key West have deer problems but don't want lead flying around to solve it.

It should be noted that the price of taking six deer is slightly higher then a box of ammunition. The cost of a hunting permit and a large game permit is around $36 and anyone who wants such a permit must take a firearm class as well.

I'm one of Jackson's students. A food and wine guy with no previous experience with firearms or hunting. If anyone has questions about the class from a student's perspective, I'd be happy to answer.

Dave McNair of The Hook emailed me the following questions. I thought I'd post the answers here.

Q: Why did you decide to take the class?
A: Because it's scary, uncomfortable and what humans did for thousand of years. I felt that NOT doing it would be cheating. Many of my classmates are there to answer the question, "Should I be eating meat if I can't kill it?" I'll cop to that too.

Q: How is it going so far?
Very well and a little overwhelming. All the terms and lingo are new to me. It feels like a foreign language. In class it's easy to ask what something means. At home a quick Google search answers most questions.

Q: Are you concerned at all about the reality of actually killing and dressing a you think its something you'll be able to accept?
A: It's important to do something that scares you every once in a while. Not silly shit like skydiving � something real, like having a child.

Killing and gutting a deer definitely scares me. My ancestors may have hunted to survive, but my 20th century suburban upbringing trained me to order Chinese take-out. It's safe to say I'm in way over my head with this. Hopefully, I'll get through it without crying and vomiting. If not, I'm ok for that too.


That all depends. In Virginia anyone who hunts only on land belonging to themselves or to their parents or grandparents or their spouse's parents or grandparents is license-exempt under the law. So you can hunt on your own land without buying a license.

There is not special class required for a big game permit in Virginia. But anyone who wants even a basic hunting license (other than a one-time apprentice license) is required to take a hunter's ed class focused on safety and laws and regs. That class is offered through DGIF for free.

I came across your class idea today. I am very interested in doing the same sort of class here in Pennsylvania. I am 33 and have hunted since I was 12. I was raised in suburbs of Philadelphia but moved to Northcentral PA where hunting is just a way of life.
I think there is opportunity here to have lodging incorporated in the class....who knows...Id like to talk with you.
Would you be willing to share your methods and ideas.
You certainly have a great thing here!