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Living Off the Land: The Foral Family's Generational Tradition of Sustenance Hunting

May 23, 2023 03:30PM ● By Mike Whye
60+ active living Owen Foral, Dustin Foral, Ed Foral,  Skylar Inserra, Taylor ForalOmaha Magazine June 2023

Photo by Bill Sitzmann.

Listen to this article here. Audio Provided by Radio Talking Book Service.

For most people with a rumbling stomach, a trip to the supermarket or placing an order at a restaurant typically marks the extent of their ordeal. Ed Foral, however, prefers rustling up his own meals—by carrying rifles and shotguns from Nebraska to Alaska, and casting fishing lines from the Missouri River to the Hawaiian coast.  

Ed,  who was born in Omaha in 1955, first developed a passion for hunting and fishing around age 6 with his  father, Lou Foral, and grandfather, Pete Havlik, both of South Omaha. They were accompanied by his brothers, one older than Ed by 19 years, and the other by 10.
“Grandpa was the one who got Dad started and then it was Dad who got us started.  Dad and Grandpa took us everywhere,” Ed reflected.  

The outings continued when the family moved to Bellevue.  Ed remembered hunting pheasants initially, which were more plentiful in the rural areas around Omaha until burgeoning developments and expanding farm fields reduced the birds’ natural habitat. With the pheasant population dwindling, Ed’s father took to hunting ducks and geese. Then, Ed decided to try his hand at hunting deer, discovering his ideal quarry.  

“I got into [deer hunting] when I was about 16,” he said. 

As he hunted deer, Ed knocked on the doors of rural houses, seeking permission to hunt on their expansive properties. He soon noticed that hunting on private land was growing more difficult—and expensive—with some property owners charging for the opportunity.

With this pay-to-hunt trend becoming ever commonplace, Ed saved the money he had earned through the construction company he’d started in Sarpy County, and bought some property of his own in 1996.  

“I decided to do something that would make me money, so I started investing in farm ground that had a good return but also had good hunting on it, either deer or duck or both,” he said.  Then he bought another farm and another—and then another. “I just kept doing the same thing and bought multiple farms with great hunting,” recalled Ed, who today owns 11 farms encompassing nearly 1,500 acres.      

Now enjoying retirement after 46 years working in construction, Ed lives with his wife, Diana, alongside a sandpit lake just south of Springfield, Nebraska, fishing rod close at hand. He still ventures out to hunt and fish beyond his property sometimes, including excursions to the hunt club he founded in northwest Missouri in the ’90s.  

“The club is mostly for hunting ducks and geese,” Ed noted. 

He has traveled to far-flung and remote locales in search of prime game—hunting moose in Alaska, moose and caribou in Canada, and elk in New Mexico.  

“I used to go to Colorado elk hunting every year and bow hunting deer, which I did back then. I hunted antelope in Wyoming, too. The Alaska moose hunt was pretty challenging as far as walking in the tundra because you have to deal with grizzly bears,” he explained, noting that no one in his party has shot a bear. “There are 1.75 bears per square mile, so we had to always be on alert. You didn’t go anywhere without a loaded gun.”  

Ed reminisced over one Alaska trip that began with a pilot shuttling his party to a remote patch of wilderness. As the hunt came to an end, a fierce winter storm struck, forcing the pilot to delay picking them up from the rendezvous point and leaving the intrepid companions stranded.  

“We had nothing to do. I mean like, we were so bored that we were reading the directions on the toothpaste,” Ed recalled.  

The last time he hunted far afield was in 2016, when he traveled to New Mexico to stalk elk with his, sons Taylor and Dusty, and son-in-law, Sam Inserra. They brought down three elk in total—one bull in particular, taken by Sam, was “a monster” and a once-in-a-lifetime achievement, Ed said. Taylor, 36, said that after that trip, the families enjoyed elk meat for a long stretch, preparing the kill in a variety of ways.  

“There was jerky, and we ground some up as hamburger and had steaks, too,” Taylor said.    
Ed’s daughter, Danielle Inserra, doesn’t partake in the family pastime, but her children have accompanied Taylor into the thicket on at least a few occasions.

“They’re starting to get into it,” their uncle Taylor said. “Her youngest is a junior and killed a pretty nice buck this year. I took her out for her first hunt two years ago and she got a nice buck then, too.” 

It’s amazing the lessons learned by being with your family and friends, Taylor said, adding, “I’m pretty thankful that I’m able to hunt and didn’t get caught up in the wrong crowd. I was never thinking, ‘Oh, where am I going to party at tomorrow?’ That kept me out of a lot of trouble.”    

Ed’s wife, Diana, isn’t terribly keen on hunting either, nor of the spoils of Ed’s marksmanship—once confessing she doesn’t enjoy the taste of deer all that much. Undeterred, Ed cooked burgers without telling Diana that he was using venison patties, and fed her one on the sly.  

“She said it was okay but asked, ‘Why do you keep asking if I like it?’  I said, ‘That’s because it’s deer,’” he laughed. “She didn’t know.”

While Dusty maintains a tight schedule around his children’s sports, Taylor continues to hunt and fish with his father in his free time. Together, on May 12, 2018, at a sand pit lake, they landed a flathead catfish that weighed 46 pounds, another whopper at 47 pounds, and a blue catfish that broke the scales at 78—the largest fish either man had reeled in. Staunch believers in catch-and-release, Ed and Taylor returned the leviathan fish back to its domain.    

“I do love fish but you know, but I’m not one to take advantage of them. I’ll catch some fish to put some good rations into my freezer and then let the rest of them go,” Taylor said. “The other day my girlfriend and I went crappie fishing. We caught 50 big ones and threw every single one of them back.”

However, in 2013 when Taylor caught the state’s record longnose gar—measuring 55.5 inches long and weighing 23 pounds, 11 ounces—he had it mounted as a trophy.   

Preferring to eat bluegill and flathead catfish, Taylor typically drops his lines into the Missouri River. His favorite stretch runs between Blair’s Cottonwood Cove Marina down to near Hamburg, Iowa.  

“Around Omaha in the lakes the fishing is mediocre, but the Missouri is the biggest body of water in Nebraska, and it’s probably got the best fish,” he observed. “Your opportunity is great, even though, just because it has a lot of fish doesn’t mean you’re going to catch what you want. In the lakes around Omaha, however, you go from one side to the other and you’re getting the same fish.”

Besides enjoying freshwater fish, Taylor said the Forals fill their plates with a variety of local delicacies.

“We’ve eaten everything from rabbit to deer to elk to bighorn sheep to snapping turtle,” he said. “We’ve eaten pretty well everything that’s edible in the state of Nebraska. That includes duck, geese, pheasant, and quail. Tops for my tastes are elk, and then deer is really close below that.”
The Forals’ best advice for processing mammals is to begin working on the meat immediately after a kill, the sooner the better.   

“The biggest thing is keeping it clean and cool,” explained Taylor, who mentioned that if a hunter fails to control for temperature, wild game spoils fast and will taste gamey. That means gutting, skinning, deboning, freezing, and preparing the meat without delay.

“The second you kill that deer, it starts to deteriorate and grow bacteria,” Taylor continued. “So, you want to get the guts out of there and wash the blood off of them. I try to get the hide off as soon as possible to release the heat from the animal and keep them cool. That is extremely key with wild game.”

While the thrill of the hunt is never far from his mind, Ed said he enjoys being outdoors regardless of the intent.

“It’s enjoyable sitting there just watching everything when we’re in a deer blind or a duck blind,” he said. “There are things that we see that others don’t get to see, especially city people.”   
“There’s always something to do in the outdoors,” Taylor affirmed.  

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This article originally appeared in the May 2023 issue of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.  

Photo by Bill Sitzmann.


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