Sally GracieBy Sally Gracie

Sheree Stoothoff set out on Sunday, the final day of the (modern firearms) deer season, before daybreak. She hiked to a spot where she rested to “watch the day begin.” It was beautiful and very still as the sun rose.

Half an hour later, Sheree saw her buck feeding in the field 200 yards below her. She fired one shot. It was a clean kill.

Her in-laws came to help her get her buck back home.

Sheree says she is “not quite there” at her ability to field dress, skin and butcher an animal, but she’s learning more “in baby steps” each year.

Sheree grew up in a family that hunted, so she learned about hunting, guns and gun safety as a child, but she herself didn’t hunt until she moved here. “I hunt to feed my family. I feel grateful that I can provide,” she says.

Sheree’s second buck of the three seasons she’s hunted weighed over 200 pounds. That’s a lot of venison for the freezer.

Both Sheree and another hunter friend (whom I’ll call “Sam”) appreciate the fact that the natural meat will feed their families. “I worked hard for it,” says Sam. “It’s a blessing” that will go a long way to feeding the family for a year. Sam finds that “once you’ve put so much work into [hunting] it, we’re less likely to waste it.”

Sam hiked some days, rode on horseback on others, and had her truck on the seventh day when she shot her buck. She’s hunted for several years, but harvested a buck each of the past three. She was glad that she hit and killed the animal with one “double lung” shot.

“It gave its life so I can have something to eat,” she says.

Sam field dressed her buck and will cut and wrap it after hanging it for a couple of days. The time will come when she will learn to tan the hides from the three bucks she has killed.

Sheree Stoothoff

Sheree Stoothoff

At Thomson’s Custom Meats in Twisp, I hung out for a bit with Seth Thomson, who was cutting steaks from one of the 200 deer that customers have brought to be butchered and wrapped. Thomson’s butchers each animal separately, charging $150 for the job. More than 100 carcasses still hang in the cooler, waiting for Seth’s attention. It’s nasty work, and an irony is that though Seth hunts, he doesn’t eat venison. Never has. Nor does Chris. But they have friends who do.

Seth says that this year’s harvest yielded larger-than-usual bucks: 40 per cent weighed more that 150 pounds, and one weighed 217.

There’s a tale about a 70-something-year-old woman who last year shot a real trophy buck. Sam says its rack was 8 by 9; Seth, 10 by 11. Sounds like an urban legend to me. A deer fact is that the number of points on the rack is a genetic feature of the animal, not a sign of its age.

While I will never hunt, I have great respect for Sheree and Sam. To both of these women, the hunt seems to arouse a reverence, a spiritual appreciation for the beauty of the outdoors and, ultimately, the animal that will feed them through the year.