I’m as guilty as anyone of trophy-buck tunnel vision. I dream about, write about, and obsess over big, mature bucks and how to kill them. But sometimes this over-zealous focus on big-bodied, heavy-antlered deer leads to overlooking the other trophy we obtain upon filling a buck tag. And that’s meat, and the many meals which that meat will provide.

There’s certainly no need to apologize for targeting the oldest, biggest, baddest bucks in the woods, but I believe something is lost in the hunting process if that’s all we’re focused on. The satisfaction of hunting for and procuring our own food is something unique to the hunter’s way of life, and it’s something that today millions of non-hunters are searching for. Organic lettuce, free-range beef, backyard chickens; Americans all across the country are trying to get closer to their food, better understand how it got to their plates, and better participate in this process. We as hunters, by default, get to experience this connection with our meals every year—but sometimes, we take it for granted.

Let this be that gentle nudge, that wake-up call, both to you and to me, that we should remember, respect and honor that most important trophy: the meals that are provided by our kill. Just as you’d place your big buck mount in a place of reverence on the wall, equally honor the meat you bring home by carefully processing and cooking it, sharing it with others, and utilizing it to its fullest potential.

Last night, my wife and I prepared a venison shoulder roast, slow cooked in red wine and apple cider, with mushrooms, carrots, celery, and apples. And as I took the first bite of that fall-off-the-bone flesh, I was met with a wave of memories just as rich as those I experience every time I look up at antlers on the wall. The many hours frozen in a tree, the missed opportunities and close calls, the final, beautiful moment when things magically came together. With every bite, chew and swallow these experiences washed over me again and again, filling me up both physically and spiritually, and finally becoming a part of me. If that’s not a trophy worth hunting for, I’m not sure what is.