I was lucky enough to grow up eating big game as my main protein source. Between elk, antelope and deer, every fall I normalized animals hanging in the garage, transforming our family kitchen into a butcher shop, and making creative labels for the freezer-paper wraps. I remember being thrilled the first time I was allowed to use the big, sharp kitchen knife when I graduated from my designated meat-wrapping job to cutting the butterfly steaks.It was not until I left for college to study and ski competitively out east, did I realize how special that was. Between cafeteria meat and not fully grasping how to buy good meat, I quickly became a vegetarian. Yet, as I skied and studied agriculture, I became disenchanted with the idea of cutting meat completely out of my diet and was unsure of how I wanted to reintroduce it.
After my final year of competing at my peak fitness, I jumped right into two years living in rural Paraguay. In Paraguay, a meal is not considered a meal if it doesn't have some form of animal protein in it. Every Sunday we would respectfully and mindfully select a cow to kill and butcher. Along with other girls and women in the community, I would clean out entrails in the river for the classic entrail soup and blood sausage. During the week, I would hang out with the senoras to help kill, de-feather and butcher the chickens. In a turned around way, this connection to the process felt familiar and my desire to eat meat returned.
Upon my return to the US, I knew I wanted to reinstate this essential relation with the animal protein I was going to eat. Therefore, I jumped into a hunters’ safety class with 15 twelve-year-old boys and received my license. Even being raised in a hunting family, I consider myself a novice hunter. It was not until recently that my confidence was high enough to trust myself to learn and grasp the full process of killing, dressing and butchering an animal myself. Over the past couple years, I have learned so much about the Montana landscape and wildlife, regulations and property laws, and the complex culture of our state.
Hunting enables me to have access to a protein source. I value understanding where food comes from and being connected to the reciprocity of that process. Hunting is an opportunity to hike around in new corners of Montana and enjoy the beauty and harsh environment of the region. It may be a convoluted process with State regulations, gun rights and a certain privilege, but it has become an important part of how I value the food I eat and the landscape in which I am lucky enough to live. I look forward to continuing my hunting adventures and I hope this can inspire other women to heighten their food autonomy.
About the author
Lizzie Gill was born and raised in the Gallatin Valley. She competitively nordic ski raced for the University of New Hampshire while receiving her double Bachelor of Science in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems and International Affairs. Following her college career, she served two years as an Agriculture Extension Peace Corps volunteer in Paraguay. She has a variety of experience working within different realms of the Montana food system from diversified veggie farming, cover crop and soils research, to her current position as the Local Foods Specialist at the National Center for Appropriate Technology. Lizzie has performed extensive research on squash diversity in Costa Rica and Peru, is fluent in Spanish and Guarani, and loves spending time cooking and playing outside with pals!