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Thursday, September 8,2011

Taking life into your own hands

A Boulder couple decides to ditch grocery store meat and kill their own

By Theo Romeo
Last November, outside of Craig, Colo., Brazilian-born Leo Zacharias removed a loaded .45-caliber pistol from his belt and handed it to his girlfriend, Colorado native Stephanie Loveless. If the strange man she was being left behind with tried anything, Zacharias told Loveless, she must defend herself.

When Zacharias tells the story nowadays, his girlfriend laughs it off. For someone who wasn’t in that situation, it seems over-cautious to hand a girl a loaded weapon in the event she has to defend herself from a day-glow clad hunter from Colorado Springs.

But a few hours before the handoff, Zacharias had just shot his first elk — a cow, or female. And not so long after the wounded elk dashed into the brush, another hunting party had shot her again. She was dead, and Zacharias and Loveless, two Boulder residents who had never done anything like this before, found themselves arguing with three strangers, all holding guns, over who the elk’s rightful owner was.

Loveless and Zacharias may not be part of a large movement, per se, but they certainly could be. Their hunting trip was a result of a growing distrust of industrial agriculture, grocery-store meat, and the source of much of the food they ate.

“Over time, learning where meat comes from, I got to the point where I was like, ‘I don’t want to eat the meat from stores anymore,’” says Loveless. “You can be in control of all of your food, if you put the right kind of thought into it.”

They have space to plant a small garden, but not room to raise livestock, chickens or goats.

Loveless has had an interest in food sustainability for years, she says. In college, she started picking apples off the trees in the neighborhood and canning them.

After a trip to Montana to see her father, where she shot a gun for the first time, Loveless decided she would take the idea of providing her own food a step further. She ate meat, and she realized she needed to know what it was like to kill an animal.

“My mom would say, ‘I can’t believe you are going to kill animals,’” Loveless says. “‘The thing is,’ I would say to her, ‘You’re killing animals, too, just not with your own hands.’ It comes from some CAFO [Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation.”

But the decision to hunt her own food didn’t simplify things. You can’t just buy a gun and wander into the wilderness and shoot a plate of sausage.

“We didn’t know what the hell we were doing,” says Loveless. “We watched YouTube videos and went to hunter safety. We actually spent a lot of time at Bass Pro Shop — more than I was comfortable with.”

Loveless and Zacharias bought guns, equipment, took a safety course, and got licensed. All told, they spent upwards of $6,000 just preparing to go out and hunt. And, best-case scenario, that only gets you a carcass.

You need to know what to do with the body.

Loveless learned how to cure meats — think salami — at Il Mondo Vecchio, a meat processing company in Denver with an emphasis on sustainable and regional food sources. She read books, like Primal Cuts, by Melissa Guggiana, about how to butcher animals, where to find choice cuts of meat, and what to do with them.

The tense hunting trip last November resulted in about one-third of a full-grown female elk for Zacharias and Loveless. They came to an agreement with the other hunting party that had shot the animal to share the meat and had hauled the carcass, piece by piece, out together.

“We ended up being friends with the other hunters,” says Zacharias. “They were cool.”

Loveless and Zacharias butchered and processed the meat themselves. They still have a freezer full.

And she now knows what it’s like to kill an animal.

“Three days after we first ate our elk steak, we’re sitting there, and we’re really enjoying it, and then we started to cry,” says Loveless. “We said, ‘Three days earlier, [the elk] was running around,’ and that did it. We were in tears.”

Theo Romeo is executive editor for Cleanenergyauthority.com.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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It's true... Everyone who eats meat (eggs and dairy) have UNNECESSARY blood on their hands...  It's one thing to kill and eat as a matter of surival - But clearly if someone is in the position of watching internet videos on how to hunt - We're not dealing with the "urgency" to eat flesh...

Now, $6,000 --- That's a lot of beans.  Wonderful protein food they are... The dry storage alone makes them ideal for the conservationist and "survivalists". Healthier as well.  Goodness knows kinder too.

Hope the tears for the elk persuaded them to opt for more compassionate choices next time around. ~peace~ 



Grose. Why not go vegeterian and save themselves the tears over the elk? Was the crying thing supposed to make them feel better about themselves?



A few points:

Colorado has more elk that the ecosystem can sustain just look at RMNP.  That number of elk leads to the destruction of wetland areas and less habitat for animals like beavers.  The amount of animals harvested by hunters each year has a negligible effect on the population, as it is specifically managed by the Colorado Division of Wildlife to be that way. More animals die a slow painful death from starvation and exposure during the wintertime because there are too many of them to find enough food.  How's that for compassion.

The $6000 dollars spent was a great investment in the protection of wildlife habitat.  There is a tax levied on all hunting and fishing equipment that goes straight to the Colorado Division of Wildlife for the conservation of wildlife.  How much money have you donated to provide quality wildlife habitat?  Hunters are the only reason we have the herds we do today.

If you think for a second that being a vegetarian makes you somehow more of a compassionate, ethical eater, you have not spent much time growing food.  I am a farmer and have killed countless mice and voles who would otherwise destroy the crop.  Farmers frequently have to shoot deer who would eat their produce, the compassionate thing to do is to honor that animal by consuming it and not letting a bit go to waste.

Here is to sustainable wild harvesting!


If this couple was truly compassionate they would become vegetarian. Their money could have been better spent though an environmental organization.



Hi Josh... If elk and deer are so much of a problem due to "overpopulation" - Might I suggest that we not breed them?  Let's close down the 1300 elk/deer breeding "farms" in the U.S.  That's a great start! This way there will be less deer killed because of crop eating... Also, we might consider not killing wolves and coyotes as they are natural predators and would keep populations in check as well... 

Humans "hunting" the food that belongs to wildlife is not the solution...



"You can be in control of all of your food, if you put the right kind of thought into it", says the thoughtless Ms. Loveless after shooting an elk, arguing over whose prize it was with another group of hunters who had also put a bullet into the same animal, and hacking away her portion and hauling it out of the woods piece by piece, no doubt leaving behind quite the killing field. "We didn't know what the hell we were doing", she admits, after the fact.

I don't know. Looking at the pictures of Ms. Loveless hugging her 'piece', something about the intent of this couple doesn't ring true to me. I hope the bloody lesson was worth their self-promoting investment.