You start with an elk, which you hunt through thick overgrown timber or soggy open clearcuts with your single shot rifle.


You aim for the animal’s vital zone, as close to the heart as possible. You assess the shot to see what the elk does—an instant-death hit is rare—and you may take a second shot.


The herd is long gone, and you hike a couple hundred yards to your elk’s body. First thing you do is roll it on its back, cut into the belly, and remove the guts. Drag it—all 700 pounds—up onto a landing to start the process of skinning it out.


Cut the legs off at the lower joints, and hook a gambrel under the strong exposed tendons. Throw a line over a tree or use a hoist attached to a truck, and haul your elk up in the air.


Now you begin cutting away the hide with a knife and pulling it down the body.


Down it goes as you cut and pull, cut and pull, cut and pull. All the way to the head, which you cut off. Maybe you take the hide off the head and turn it into a European mount, or maybe you just keep the antlers. Up to you.


At this point you begin quartering the animal. Cut the spine in half as best you can, top to bottom.


Then cut off the hindquarters and front shoulders, until you’re left with six large pieces: 2 hindquarters, 2 shoulders, 2 racks of ribs.


Take it all to a big walk-in cooler, and let it age for about a week. Then assemble as many helpers as you can to spend a long, tiring day cutting the meat off the bones and wrapping up steaks and meat that can be turned into burger.

Now the meat is in your freezer, ready to be turned into dinner.


There: you’ve got a perfectly organic, grass-fed, free-range, sustainable, low-fat meal. No chemicals, no holding pens, no factories, no antibiotics, no corn feed, no hormones, no slaughterhouses.

Ready to start hunting?


232 Responses to “Clean eating”

  1. Ashley on November 23rd, 2010 6:43 pm

    Am I the only vegetarian this didn’t bother? People have been hunting for….oh you know…FOREVER. Better this way than getting your meat from a factory, in some cases a meat factory in China even. High five Linda!

  2. Mico on November 23rd, 2010 6:48 pm

    The only issue I take with this post is your assertion that it’s sustainable. Just like everything else, it’s only sustainable if only a few people are doing it.

    Like all those “only eat locally” people who think that model is sustainable — I live in a city of 20 million people. Do you think we’d all survive if only eating food farmed/hunted within 100 miles of our homes?

  3. Nicole on November 23rd, 2010 7:35 pm

    These could be the best comments ever!

  4. Andrea on November 23rd, 2010 8:49 pm


    I have read this blog for years and years. I remember your post where you shadowed your brother in law in the funeral home. I remember your post about when you hit rock bottom. But I have to tell you I didn’t like this post at all. I am not interested in the vagaries of hunting. Have JB post this on one of his manly man pages.

  5. Elle on November 23rd, 2010 8:54 pm

    Good post! I’ll leave it at that since *most* people have expressed what I think. :)

  6. Veronica on November 23rd, 2010 9:07 pm

    Not reading comments, blah blah blah.

    I so so freaking jealous of your Elk. SO JEALOUS. I hear it’s amazing meat to eat and work with and I’m going to go away and sulk because I’m on the other side of the world and the closest I get is regular wallaby and kangaroo, plus the ducks I’m breeding myself (I like ethical meat, hunting/breeding it myself makes me happy).

  7. squandra on November 23rd, 2010 10:47 pm

    I have read all of these comments and thought I would escape the compulsion to join in. (No offense, y’all, I just didn’t have anything I wanted to add to the food conversation.)

    Then came “Have JB post this on one of his manly man pages”? Are you KIDDING me?

    Last I checked, women are just as involved as men in the practice of, um, EATING FOOD.

  8. lisa on November 23rd, 2010 11:38 pm

    Great post…. I sort of have to chuckle at all the comments about what is sustainable/if everyone starts hunting there won’t be enough elk to feed everyone/what will happen if we don’t! have! cheap! hamburger! from feedlots. Isn’t 2/3 of the population overweight, eating more calories than we need? Just sayin….

  9. goingloopy on November 23rd, 2010 11:45 pm

    I live in Oklahoma City. Recently, when my dad came to visit, we went to a local steakhouse (next to the stockyards), and then went to the stockyards because for whatever stupid reason, my dad wanted to see them. Being that it was Sunday night, I really didn’t expect to see a damn thing. However, there was some activity. We watched as smaller farmers offloaded cattle into holding pens. We did not see any actual cattle death. I found the sight of what was, in reality, probably a small, non-bloody portion of mass slaughter way more disturbing than the pictures in this post.

  10. akeeyu on November 24th, 2010 12:21 am

    One of the blogs I read once had a clearly stated and perfectly reasonable defense of clubbing little fluffy white seals. I was actually more swayed by her argument than I am by this.

    I’m not a vegetarian. I eat and enjoy meat. I do not particularly object to hunting, but this whole post seems like some sort of weird reaction to the comments on the dairy farm post (which, like the comments on this post, were overwhelmingly positive and polite).

    Incidentally, with regards to the pictures, I find the “BUT THIS IS WHERE YOUR FOOD COMES FROM!” commenters unconvincing.

    I love my sister, but that doesn’t mean I want to get into the wayback machine and watch my parents fucking so I can see where she came from.

  11. Frannie on November 24th, 2010 3:53 am

    Thank you for posting. My husband started hunting with his father and brother last year. I went to a hunting safety class out of curiosity over the weekend. I am interested in this, and while others may not be. I am interested because as graphic as it may be, this shows the reader without bias what it is hunt, ethically. I can see how one would want to unsee it, but I am curious. I know a food anthropologist and it seems she’s just in it to judge others for what they eat, and that is just wrong. “Organic” is a marketing ploy and isn’t always organic, nor is the “locally grown” at the farmer’s market when it comes from a truck that drove 500 miles. Also my husband and I are starting aquaponics.

  12. Tia on November 24th, 2010 7:33 am

    Love this post! Just last week my husband cleaned the deer he had shot with my 3 year old. He was totally unfazed by the whole process.

  13. Michelle on November 24th, 2010 8:53 am

    I have no problem seeing pics of the real process of hunting. I’m down with those who say you should be educated if you’re going to have an opinion on something. It’s certainly not, though, reasonable to say “If you want to eat meat, you should only do so if you kill it yourself!” That’s really not fair to oh, millions of people who maybe don’t have the skills, local opportunity, tools and whatnot. It’s fine to talk about how something you’re doing is so awesome but I’m SO tired of the internet habit of adding a tinge of “and you’re a lame-ass if you don’t do X, too”. Peace, all.

  14. Hunting, Meat, Vegetarian, Inhumane, What to Do? | The Botched Optimist on November 24th, 2010 10:30 am

    […] all meat comes neatly wrapped in plastic on styrofoam trays. Never really thought about it.   A post by Sundry Mourning was pointed out to me recently on twitter that caused quite the controversy.  Clean eating is the […]

  15. thejunebug on November 24th, 2010 11:04 am

    Reminds me very much of my first job – gutting deer! I worked for the Game Commission, and we would let hunters use our land if they brought their kills to us so we could take biological samples. After my first week, I could hang and completely gut a buck in about 2 1/2 minutes.

    I always started at the anus – cut a neat hole, then go down and around the family jewels. One neat slice down the belly, cut through the diaphragm, and a lateral cut through the esophagus. If I did it right, and if it wasn’t gut-shot, I’d have the entire innards drop into my gut bucket in one neat plop.

    We always took one side of the jaw to check the teeth, checked the kidney fat levels, and opened up the stomach to check the contents.

    I have to admit, it wasn’t every 17 year old girl’s dream job, but you couldn’t argue the added benefit of fresh venison liver. Mmmm!

  16. thejunebug on November 24th, 2010 11:07 am

    Oh, and all the people telling Linda what she can and can’t post on her own blog?

    Go to hell. Then write your own blog about it so we can leave you shitty comments.

  17. akeeyu on November 24th, 2010 4:48 pm


    You must be seeing comments that are hidden to the rest of us.

    Most of the comments were overwhelmingly positive, but as to the dissenters, I’ve seen people saying that they didn’t like the pictures, people who were offended, people who were freaked out, people who were bothered, but I haven’t seen anybody telling Linda what she can and can’t post on her own blog.

    The button says “Submit Comment,” not “Submit Unqualified Approval and Wholehearted Agreement.” I assume that if Linda doesn’t care for the direction of the comments on any particular post, that she can and will moderate them to her satisfaction.

    After all, it is her blog.

  18. elz on November 24th, 2010 9:05 pm

    Oh God, I know this scene-well, not exactly. My husband keeps bragging about how “clean” he shot the last deer and how quickly he and his friend dressed it. Ugh. Just tell me when it’s been made into delicious food.

  19. Holly on November 25th, 2010 1:17 am

    It reconfirms for me that I like my grocery store. Grew up on processed meat and will die eating it, just like all my other old-as-hell relatives. Can’t get into the hunting thing, nope, no way, no how. Don’t care about the “cool” environmentalism of it – it just completely freaks me out.

    Can’t explain it and it’s probably not rational – it just bugs. I’m a believer that sometimes, ignorance is bliss.

  20. Jen on November 25th, 2010 7:01 am

    I totally get why you posted this, why it needed to be as direct as this. The food fairy doesn’t come and visit the fridge at night. If we can’t stomach the path something took to get to our plate, then putting it in our bodies is the height of hypocrisy. Also, “Have JB…” cracked me up. So that’s my comment on the comments.

    Now my comment on the post: knowing how stresses you get about the public perception of your work and how painful it can be to be shredded in the comments, I found it very brave that you put this out there knowing the backlash to come. Good job!

  21. thejunebug on November 25th, 2010 7:47 am


    Methinks you are a little sensitive. I specifically said “all the people telling Linda what she can and can’t post on her own blog”. If that wasn’t you, then the comment wasn’t directed at you.

    And maybe you missed the comment from Andrea (just a few above mine) that said “Have JB post this on one of his manly man pages”, but I surely didn’t. There are a few more like that as well.

    If Linda’s having fresh Elk for Thanksgiving, I am very jealous.

  22. Amy on November 25th, 2010 11:26 am


  23. Gnometree on November 26th, 2010 5:23 am

    you missed the bit where you slice the belly open and let all the entrails and guts spill out.
    Then you can quarter it….

  24. Amanda on November 26th, 2010 12:14 pm

    Oh my god, vegitarians are a delicate little bunch, aren’t they? You can’t see meat being processed because you choose not to eat it? There should be a warning saying, “Precious snowflakes, you’re about to see an animal being processed for food, avert your eyes,”?

    COME THE FUCK ON, PEOPLE. There’s nothing disgusting about any of these pictures – they’re showing the process of turning an animal from something alive to something we (most of us, hi, the barbaric meat eaters over on this side of the room giving you the WTF? faces) eat.

    I was a vegitarian for several years, and it was NEVER because the SIGHT of meat was disgusting to me. It was because animals being pumped full of chemicals and hormones in tiny, inhumane quarters wasn’t something I could support.

    This? Is something I can get behind.

  25. Katie on November 26th, 2010 8:25 pm

    I could never hunt. But I eat meat.
    Your post is so well done. Linda, you have GUTS! Love it!

  26. Cindy on November 26th, 2010 8:50 pm

    I know you are probably tired of comments on this subject, but aren’t these pictures of several different elk hunts? I was just noticing that the elk in the first pic is different than the one JB is posed with and also different from the ones being butchered? Also there is different trucks. Why no pictures of JB helping with the butchering? My guess is he is the one taking the pictures. I am not judging or anything. All of my family pictures include dead animals. Seriously.

  27. Heather on November 26th, 2010 9:13 pm

    Count me in as one for team Carrot.

  28. Jules on November 27th, 2010 8:30 pm

    Amanda, vegetarians can spell;) seriously. I’m not as outraged by this as you were by Heather Armstrong taking a major corporation to task for shoddy workmanship. Hmmm, what does that say about me???;) answers on a postcard folks.

  29. Janna on November 28th, 2010 12:02 am

    Right on, thanks for posting this!

    If you find this too disgusting to eat then perhaps you have no business eating meat hmm?

  30. Erin on November 28th, 2010 12:35 pm

    Um. Wow. This post made complicated things happen in my brain! My brain understands and supports your right to hunt and even appreciates that you actually use what you kill for food. The emotional part of me though (cheesily: the heart), wanted to hug that elk and cry over it for a good long while. It’s hard to see where our food comes from. It’s easier to gloss over the fact that every single thing we eat was once alive (even those veggies you eat were once happily thriving in a garden of some sort so don’t jump all over me vegetarians and vegans)when it comes pre-killed and pre-packaged at the store.

    Thanks for posting this. Sometimes we need things to punch us in the face so that we’ll think.

  31. Tina G on November 28th, 2010 6:33 pm
  32. Linda on November 28th, 2010 7:01 pm

    I think we’ve covered the entire possible range of comments at this point, so I’m going to close up shop. Thanks, everyone.