Sustainability Recipe: Hunt & Fish

November 15, 2017

Cornell Campus Sustainability Office | Fall 2018

What practical things can we do in our daily lives to protect our living environment, save money, and contribute to good jobs for people in our community?

We’ve done the research alongside our partner Get Your GreenBack Tompkins, and these 13 steps in the areas of local food, building energy, waste reduction and transportation are a great place to start. The Sustainability Life Recipes series will focus on ways to save money, go green, and learn about resources to support your journey. Have an idea? Send us a note at

There are so many good reasons to hunt and fish!

  • For the food - You can’t get more local, free-range, nutrient-packed, pesticide free than this (though some fish caught outside Tompkins County need to be eaten in moderation).

  • For the savings - Harvesting two deer can fill your freezer and provide your family with all your meat needs for a whole year.

  • For the camaraderie - being outside together is a great opportunity to strengthen relationships with parents, children, and friends new and old.

  • For the earth - Factory-farmed beef is responsible for the largest share of our food’s carbon footprint, and in many cases factory-farmed animals are not treated in a compassionate manner. In comparison , venison and fish are carbon neutral, and live in their natural environment.

  • For the experience - what a beautiful country we live in; many staunch supporters of clean forests and streams were taken hunting and fishing when young.

  • Wildlife management - devoid of natural predators, local deer populations have increased significantly over the last several decades, and are considered a major pest for farmers, gardeners, and healthy forests, as well as being a significant cause of serious car accidents, and an important vector for Lyme disease.

  • To fight hunger - you can donate venison through the Venison Donation Coalition, getting nutritious, delicious meat on the table of families who are struggling to make ends meet.


Anyone can learn to hunt and fish. The limiting factor is time, which is an essential resource for those who harvest local fish and game. Even the most experienced anglers and hunters sometimes return home empty-handed after an outing. Learning takes time. Patience is well rewarded, however. While these activities have traditionally been considered for men, women have increasingly been involved.


You can save hundreds of dollars if you substitute your locally harvested game and fish for meat and fish purchased at the store. Even more if you consider that you’re getting organic, free-range, local protein.

You can find basic fishing gear for $30 or less if you purchase it used at places like the Reuse Center or at yard sales or on Craigslist. Hunting gear requires more of an investment. While initially you may find a mentor who will let you borrow his or her equipment, eventually you should be prepared to spend a few hundred dollars to purchase functioning equipment (look for secondhand to keep costs down). There are lots of specialized accessories, but as a beginner you shouldn’t worry about them. And once you make the initial investment, you don’t have to spend that much to keep going.


  1. Is it unsafe to eat fish from Tompkins County area lakes and streams? No. While there are some bodies of water in the Finger Lakes Region whose fish are considered unsafe, especially for younger women and children due to high levels of mercury, PCBs and other toxins, none of these bodies are in Tompkins County. Nevertheless, the Department of Health recommends eating up to four meals a month for locally-harvested fish.

  2. How old do you have to be to hunt? In New York State you have to be 12 or older to hunt. Junior Hunters (12- to 15-year-olds) have to follow special regulations.

  3. Isn’t it better for the environment to be vegan or vegetarian? Eliminating meat from one’s diet altogether or going vegan can further reduce one’s carbon footprint related to food and is a good option to consider. Here is one relevant article for those considering going vegan or vegetarian. However, if you’re going to eat meat, eating local wild protein is a good--and perhaps the best--way to go.

Connect with local experts on hunting and fishing and ask additional questions on the online forum for hunting and fishing in Tompkins County.



For each you need a permit, a place, and the equipment. You may also need training and help processing. Hunting is highly regulated in order to protect people and nature, and first time hunters must take a free gun safety course. Please learn the regulations well by reading them and learning from others who know them well. The DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation) has the most up-to-date and comprehensive site on hunting, and has a Beginners' Guide to Freshwater Fishing for New York State.


See below for a list of useful resources. (Email us if you know of something that is missing.)


Hunting: DEC, typically $5-22 (add-ons extra)

Fishing: DEC, $5-25 for residents



Note: Hunting in the City of Ithaca is not allowed.




  • Bow-Jen Archery - Lansing - (607) 533-7590

  • Collin's Gun Shop - Newfield - (607) 564-7175

  • Four Season Outfitters - Newfield - (607) 319-4022

  • Klein’s Archery - Dryden - (607) 844-3474





  • Check out Wild Harvest Table, from CCE-Seneca, full of game and fish recipes, nutrition information, preparation techniques.