Nothing brings people together quite like food. That’s just one of the perks of being an angler and hunter. When my dad would take me on outdoor adventures as a child, one thing he taught me is never to kill anything that you don’t plan to eat — except species like coyotes and venomous snakes, of course. It was a simple philosophy: Kill what you eat, eat what you kill. If you happen to bag a trophy or record catch, that’s just a bonus.

By following his advice, not only have I been able to help provide for my family, but we’ve also been able to share our bounty with friends, neighbors and coworkers. In fact, I can count on one hand how many times I’ve purchased red meat from a grocery store in the last decade.

My husband and I have a deep respect for the animals we harvest, resulting in a profound connection to where our food comes from — both of which we feel strongly about passing down to our children.

From taco nights with venison to a fish fry with catfish from Santee, if you’ve been invited over to our house you’ve likely been served wild game. If I don’t disclose it to a guest before serving them wild game, it’s not intentional. I simply forget because it’s just the way we eat.

Call it the Southerner in me, but I love any excuse to throw a party. There’s just something so gratifying about knowing the time and effort that went into not only preparing the meal, but also sourcing it.

Most recently, we hosted a pig roast at our house for a close friend’s going-away party using a hog harvested from Wee Tee Wildlife Management Area in March. While there certainly isn’t a shortage of places to hunt hogs, Wee Tee WMA, located along the Santee River, is one of the best areas in the Lowcountry.

The great thing about a cooking a whole pig is that you can feed a large number of people with very little effort. We were able to invite our mutual friends, his immediate family and in-laws, and even our surrounding neighbors.

Though the party didn’t start until 4 o’clock on Saturday, the prep work began a few days prior. We pulled the pig out of our freezer on Thursday to begin thawing. Nearly 100 pounds of meat doesn’t thaw quickly. I spent Friday night preparing all the fixins’ — beans, potato salad, banana pudding — the traditional favorites. 

On Saturday, we woke up early to get started. When it comes to roasting a pig there’s one rule to remember — low and slow. A whole hog cooks slowly, one succulent drip at a time. It’s not something that can be rushed. Guests showed up at different times throughout the day yielding a few favorite side dishes of their own, cracked open cold ones and just enjoyed each other’s company.

We grazed on juicy pork well into the night, each guest topping it with his or her favorite sauce — sweet and tangy Carolina mustard barbecue sauce, peppery vinegar-based eastern Carolina barbecue sauce or a traditional Memphis-style barbecue sauce. We watched as our kids played in the yard until they practically put themselves to bed.

When I look back on my life, these are the moments that I want to remember forever. Sitting in the woods or on the water, connecting with nature in the most primal way, then sharing whatever bounty I’m fortunate enough to bring home with those I love.