History stands as a reminder that as much as Thanksgiving is about eating a traditional meal of turkey and dressing with all the fixings, the holiday in South Carolina historically has been a season for emphasis on the outdoors. Hunting and fishing trips are Thanksgiving staples for many families.

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South Carolinians have hunted local game and provided food for their families for hundreds of years. Fishing in both freshwater and saltwater grows more popular. The food that hunters and fishermen procure is right at home with emphasis on healthier eating, and pursuing it is not only a chance to get outside and exercise, it’s an activity that can be done with the whole family — most of the time without leaving your home county.

Consider the following from the South Carolina-based National Wild Turkey Federation:

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1. Wild game is all-natural. For example, wild turkeys feast on acorns, grasses, fruits and a variety of other plants instead of growth hormones or supplements that are fed to many farm-raised turkeys.

2. Hunting and eating local food promotes regional uniqueness. You can buy frozen foods anywhere, but locally harvested wild game such as a turkey, deer or fish will have a flavor all its own.

3. Heading outdoors to hunt and fish is great family time. Enjoying the outdoors as a family provides opportunities to mentor youths, carry on the outdoor tradition and create memories to last a lifetime.

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4. Wild game is healthier. Because wild game scavenges in the wild for its own food, it gets more exercise than animals raised for commercial sale and is lower in fat. For example, wild turkey meat has roughly 2 percent more protein, a half percent less fat and slightly less cholesterol than farm-raised turkey meat due to its lower fat content. The quantity of fat is not only generally lower in wild game, but the meat is also healthier since it contains less saturated or “bad” fat.

5. Hunting stimulates the local economy. Every dollar you spend while hunting and fishing in your area helps support not only hunt-specific jobs like meat processors and hunting guides, but also businesses such as gas stations, restaurants and grocery stores.

6. Hunting supports wildlife conservation efforts. License fees purchased by hunters and anglers fund conservation programs that help state agencies continue improving conditions for all wildlife and access to the outdoors.

7. Hunting locally saves money. You don’t have to travel far to enjoy a day outdoors and harvest your own wild game. Chances are likely there is a spot nearby where you can hunt, fish or enjoy a day outdoors, saving gas money and time and decreasing pollution.

8. Wild game is more flavorful. Eating just-caught fish or fresh venison after proper processing will let you enjoy its natural flavor at the peak of freshness — minus any artificial flavorings or preservatives.

9. Heading outdoors is good exercise. You can burn 285 calories per hour by heading afield to hunt, or 175 calories per hour by casting a line — and you can hunt or fish near home.

The hunting and fishing that surround Thanksgiving represent a tradition our state should foster and protect — with good reason.

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