Eco-conscious kid hunting paradise — and farm to table

Written by By Cara Pequenino, CNN

From romaine lettuce to sweet potato fries, fresh produce is being grown in small batches across the globe — a trend that has cut down on food miles, reduced food waste and, in the case of leafy greens, enhanced an appreciation for the natural world.

For burgeoning markets, that may mean a healthy way to start the day. For the animals themselves, it can mean food for the pack.

Take Cope’s Lodge in Amboy, Wisconsin. Freshly mowed, it could be just about any out-of-the-way location on the roster of deer hunting lodges. But here, thanks to “backyard-style” hunting, the animals come back to its door, rest, eat and return to their natural habitat.

Taking things even further, the lodge has become one of a few farms in the area to open to the public, through its spectacular and environmentally sound Cope’s Meadow Viewage Farm.

These wooded, 75-acre acres lie on the east side of the lake, east of Carleton College and the campus is on the east side of the lake, so it’s possible to hike trails in the forest or visit the farm and talk with residents who grow much of what they eat.

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I became the latest visitor, pulling up next to the farm to meet owners Jason and Hannah Schultz. Hannah said being a deer hunter was in her blood. Both of her parents are deer hunters and now the couple opens a farm to be their young son’s first life experience of deer hunting.

Cope’s Meadow Viewage Farm (AGAZA 2016)

This is a really fun thing for my son, who’s almost two, to experience and he wants to learn about every part of this deer when they get back. He wants to put snow on it, he wants to kill it, he wants to get inside it — but he’s usually the one that wakes up first.

“We take our right to hunt and know what to do with it as hunters. We take this right very seriously. So I think even with our children, the principles of the hospitality industry they’re learning from us at Cope’s Lodge.

“Even if it’s not hunting, we’d like to offer opportunities to share something they’re passionate about … it’s not something for us to be very selfish about.”

“(We want) a farm experience for our children, whether it’s deer hunting or it’s an educational experience about them being present at the table, spending a little time with animals that are important to them,” she said.

Adding to this, “people just love to experience a farm. They love to experience the animals and animals in their own environment. We have 12 families already living in our lodge. (If) they can’t come here for Thanksgiving, they come here for the winter … (and) in the summer the families come and we have people all over the country,” she said.

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I shot some photos with the couple of their members and guests, out for a day of deer hunting. I hope it’s easy to see how it could become a weekend activity for a school or family.

Now, with around a dozen other deer out there, the deer will naturally come back. The fish will begin to move in as the lake warms up and the fish are attracted to the fresh water. But with that water pool, there’s a lot of food and in winter the lake will be frozen, so they won’t have their place and their home. So their home is coming back to them, full circle.

It’s something they love and when they grow older, it’s what they want to do: they’ll die here at Cope’s Lodge and that’s OK.

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