Georgia has more than just peach trees. I call its woods and fields home. As I drive in the early morning dusk, watching the sun come up while I drink a hot cup of coffee with my dog next to me in the passenger seat, I simply admire the greenery and beauty that the state of Georgia has to offer. I can’t help but understand why country musicians feel the need to sing about the beauty of dirt roads. It’s these old roads that lead to the most memorable moments.
Today, these dirt roads are taking my dog and I to a covey of quail—so I hope. Pulling up to the field with a blanket of fog so nicely placed on top, Remi already seems to know. Whimpering and pawing at the door, she can’t wait to get to work. We both know what these tall, brush-laden fields will soon bring us.
As I drop my truck’s tailgate, Remi takes off, nose to the ground, tail wagging. I throw on my vest loaded with shotshells, take one last sip of coffee and grab my shotgun. Staring back at me from the edge of the field, ears perked, Remi waits to hear the command she wants: “Hunt on!”
She knows exactly what she needs to do. As we head into the brush, Remi takes off, leaping into and out of the brush more like a deer than a dog. The sheer excitement bestowed upon her face is contagious. As I take my first step into the field, gun at the ready, I pause for a moment to take it all in. The first steps onto any field are always the best. It’s where the metamorphosis takes place—all the worries of the world fall from my thoughts. I’m just a hunter now.
I can see my breath cut through the cold morning air, I feel at peace but sense something is amiss. The energy of a German Shorthaired Pointer is unmistakable, the field is quiet, and Remi is on point! Never in a million years did I think I would be so elated to see my dog on point. With that point comes a bird that will soon grace my table and nourish my family.
It’s that point that brings me the purest form of protein I can get, that connects me to my food and gives me respect for the life taken so that I can live on. “Flush!” I shout, and with a quick poke Remi sends a bird flying out of the brush towards the sky.
With my shotgun quickly nestled into my shoulder, I pull the trigger. Remi is in a trance. Anxious with energy, she holds. “Dead!” I shout, and Remi goes after my downed bird, and soon she trots toward me with the feathered grin of happiness on her face as she gently cradles my bird in her mouth.
A Stronger Connection
In the moment she hands me the bird I’m instantly brought back to my time in culinary school—one of the hardest, most exhausting yet rewarding periods of my life. I spent hours upon hours standing in front of a hot stove, practicing how to perfectly dice onions and shallots into a brunoise.
Yet one of the greatest lessons I learned was just outside of school. I met a local heritage chicken farmer at an event one evening, and the next day I found myself on his farm walking amongst the most beautiful chickens I have ever seen. “We’re culling birds on Thursday if you want to join,” he said.
At first I was shocked. Why would I want to kill my own bird? Growing up in California, I got my chicken nicely packed from the grocery store. I had no idea where that bird actually came from. Did it have a good life? I didn’t know. Did it have the chance to breath in clean air and strut about each morning? I didn’t know, and at the time I’m not sure if I cared. All I cared about was the meal I was going to make out of this meat that came from the package I purchased. I was beyond disconnected from where my food came from. My food had a face, yet I didn’t care—out of sight, out of mind.
Then I stood there that Thursday with a knife in hand and a beautiful chicken in my arm. I wanted to bolt and run back to my apartment and raise the chicken in my bathtub. Instead, I followed directions and took the life of a chicken I had only days before seen basking in the sunlight. As I plucked the feathers from its body, I remember thanking God for the food I was given.
Later, I cooked my harvest with tender loving care and sat on my apartment floor in awe of how amazing that bird tasted. I was a changed person after that day. I gained respect—respect for the animals that gave their life for me, respect for the land that helped create such a beautiful animal and respect for the farmer whose passion was continuing the tradition of raising organic heritage chickens.
From then on I became passionate about my food and knowing where my food came from. But at that point I had never hunted for my own food. It wasn’t until I moved to the South and I bought a compound bow for what I thought would just be a hobby. Little did I know that the bow would be a shiny lure—I was hooked.
I dove headfirst into learning as much about bowhunting as I possibly could. That thirst for knowledge led me to hunting. Prior to this, I was an avid anti-hunter; I villainized the hunters who shot innocent animals. But the more I learned about archery, the closer I came to hunting. With an open mind, I exposed myself to this new world. Soon I was learning about conservation and the important roll hunters play. Then the chef in me quickly saw that hunting held the true meaning of “organic” and “free range” protein.
These animals did not live in a cage—they roamed free. They weren’t fed a diet of GMO corn. They lived life the way nature intended. This, to me, was why I started hunting for my own food—to provide the purest form of protein possible to my family.
Most chefs are always thinking about flavors, textures, pairings and ingredients. We are constantly learning and getting inspired by recipes. What I quickly found was there was a lack of creative recipes for wild game. I certainly found a lot about grilling a backstrap, but what about the rest of the meat? So, I decided to change that, and I created Wilderness to Table, which is solely dedicated to hunting and showcasing the beauty of wild game meat through delicious recipes.
I left a wonderful job as a chef instructor to dedicate myself to this project. It’s this passion for pure food that leads me to sit for hours in a treestand just waiting for a whitetail to come within range. It’s this passion that I practice turkey calls when I’m in the car. Passion is what drove me to get a bird dog to help me in the field. Passion takes us many places. It has taken me to a field where I get to watch as my dog brings me the most beautiful and delicious birds that I have taken myself.
As I take the bird from Remi’s mouth, a powerful connection is made as I feel the warmth of the life that I just harvested, an appreciation for the bounty that nature has bestowed upon me, a sense of satisfaction and pride that comes from hunting my own food. I am connected to my harvest, and thus connected to my food.
Remi has put in a good day’s work. Shy of our limit, Remi has done her part and brought me quite a few birds and left a healthy population to hunt again. We call it a day and head back to clean our birds. I pride myself on being hands on in all aspects of my hunt, from “gun to table” I say. I take part in it all.
With over a dozen clean birds on ice, we pack up the truck to head back home. While driving home, Remi hangs her head out the window, taking in the Southern air with a proud look on her face. Later that evening I carefully and lovingly prepare a meal from the day’s harvest. This is the true essence of Wilderness to Table.
Hunting & Cooking with Bri
To follow Chef Bri’s hunting adventures and learn some new recipes, please visit WildernessToTable.com.
This article is from the summer 2017 issue of Ballistic Magazine. To subscribe, please visit OutdoorGroupStore.com.