Sisters Hayley (left) and Jamie Hoffmire have been hunting and processing their own deer for years under the careful supervision of their father, Darin.
The hunting Hoffmire daughters
To Darin Hoffmire, there’s much more to deer hunting than bagging a doe or buck.
“The actual harvesting of the animal is such a small percentage of the whole experience in terms of the learning and the teaching process of being out in the woods,” Hoffmire said.
After years of hunting on his own or with friends, Hoffmire has passed the fun on to his two eldest daughters, Hayley (14) and Jamie (12).
“Some of the experiences they have had seeing the cycle of life and actually being a part of nature, because they are taking an animal, we don’t take that lightly,” the elder Hoffmire said. “It’s important for us for our kids to see where their food comes from. You don’t just go to the grocery store and grab a loaf of bread and package of meat.”
Hoffmire has also processed deer for years and has passed that training to his children.
“At this age, they would never handle knives or guns without some adult supervision,” he said. “But training is a big part of that, just the respect they have for a firearm and a knife. We’re pretty pro (Second) Amendment folks and that’s something we educate our children about from a pretty early age.”
MORTON — For the most part, sisters Hayley and Jamie Hoffmire are typical teenage/pre-teen girls.
They like to paint each other’s fingernails, listen to music and have sleepovers with their friends.
But then there’s the little fact the Morton duo also enjoys killing and processing their own deer.
“A lot of people think it’s odd, but it’s good to have something different,” said 14-year old Hayley Hoffmire, who shot her first doe at age 10. “It’s fun to be out in the woods. We love nature and to be out in God’s creation with our dad. It’s good to spend some time with him, too.”
Darin Hoffmire has been hunting for more than 20 years and has passed down that hobby to his oldest daughters — both of whom planned to take part in this weekend’s first firearm season.
“Not having sons, I was cautious not to push it on them because we have other interests we share and enjoy,” the elder Hoffmire said. “From the time they were very little, when I would bring a deer home, I’ve always butchered my own. They would be out in the garage very curious, waiting.”
Hoffmire gradually brought the girls into the hunt.
“When we were young he mostly took us dove hunting because he said whenever we went into the woods we were as loud as a herd of wild elephants trying to hunt deer,” Hayley said. “We tried that once and scared them all away. As we got older we learned to be quiet and like it more.”
Even 7-year old sister Casey gets into the act — to a degree.
“When we get up early to go, she’s always up and at ‘em and saying ‘Good luck guys,’” said Hayley, whose little sister has gone out duck hunting and may go out to watch a deer hunt soon.
As for mom?
“I would go out,” said Jane Hoffmire, who has yet to do so. “I don’t know if I’d ever shoot one, but I’d love to see them do it. My big thing is wrapping the processed burger and cooking it.”
The family hunts some in Tazewell County but mostly on a piece of land owned by a friend in Peoria County.
Hayley bagged her first doe during the youth firearm season three years ago. About dusk on a hunt together, father and daughter spotted a doe and two fawns walking away from them at an angle.
“Dad was more nervous than I was,” said Hayley. “He was shaking like a leaf. I was like ‘Dad, calm down.’”
Hayley’s 40-yard shot with a Remington 20-gauge youth shotgun hit the doe perfectly in the heart.
“She was a really big doe,” Hayley said. “Dad said she was the biggest doe he’d ever seen. We were both really excited.”
Jamie, 12, shot her first deer on Oct. 10 during this year’s youth season.
“(The doe) walked up with two fawns and she turned broadside and when she turned broadside she stood right behind a tree, so that was really frustrating,” Jamie said.
Using the same shotgun as her sister, Jamie took her shot from about 20-25 yards away.
“She had to exercise some patience and she finally gauged the shot,” said Darin.
With his girls getting into hunting, the eldest Hoffmire has switched from hunter to helper.
“I can say I’ve been blessed to kill some pretty decent bucks in my day,” Darin Hoffmire said, “but it really does pale in terms of the thrill to see (the girls get them) and
I’m pretty glad to turn over the pulling the trigger part to be a part of it with them.”
The two older girls have been involved in processing the deer since they were old enough to safely handle a knife. “It is a little gross, but I don’t really think about it,” Hayley said.
They have also helped in tanning a few hides.
Heavily involved in 4-H, the girls brought home first and second-place ribbons over the summer at the Tazewell County Fair and advanced to state-level competition in Springfield. Hayley earned a first for her pictorial on processing a deer and Jamie placed second for her step-by-step pictorial on tanning a hide.
Hunting, processing and tanning have become bonding experiences for the family.
“The old adage if you hunt with your children, you won’t have to hunt for your children rings true,” Darin Hoffmire said.