DelRae Bultina is not from this area, but she is invested in it all the same. The 53-year-old Burbank resident has been journeying to Gifford for over 20 years with her husband, Marvin, to hunt turkeys every spring and fall.
The couple park their travel trailer at a friend’s house about a mile south of the Gifford/Inchelium Ferry and scout the area for wild turkeys, diligently rising early every morning and going to bed late at night. As Marvin puts it, “E equals T. Effort equals a turkey. You have to be willing to put in the time. Just going out with a gun and sitting and waiting is just a part of it.”
DelRae credits Marvin for piquing her interest in bird hunting when the life-long friends became a couple in 1993. Last week she filled her autumn turkey tag, killing two jakes with one well-placed shot from her 20-gauge rifle.
“They just came into my line of vision perfectly lined up,” says DelRae, modestly. “It was a clean shot. I couldn’t have asked for better.”
Not bad for a lady that is le¬gally blind. She cleaned the turkeys herself as well, for those who were wondering.
“I want a shirt that says, ‘I’m blind, not stupid. What’s your excuse?” DelRae chuckles.
What she lacks in tact she compensates for in sincerity and tenacity. After being diagnosed with a potentially lethal brain tumor in 2006 and undergoing 10 surgeries and chemotherapy treatment, DelRae has managed to retain her zeal and fortitude. Perhaps she wouldn’t be described as “the glass is half full” type of personality, just a person who knows her blessings where she sees them (no pun intended).
Relearning to shoot
“I’m lucky to have a very patient, understanding husband who has stuck by me through it all,” says DelRae.
“You married to someone else?” teases Marvin, hiding his bashfulness at the praise. “I can still see well enough to throw something at you,” retorts DelRae.
The tumor, which was about the size of a golf ball, sat right in the center of her brain, along the optic nerve. Unfortunately, there was no way to avoid damaging the nerve during surgery, which left DelRae 93 percent blind when she came out of the hospital. Her eyesight gradually returned, but not fully. She has no peripheral vision and her left eye has no focal point.
“The doctors were not optimistic,” recalls Marvin. “To be honest, they said she would most likely end up completely blind, bald and dead.”
After spending over two months going in and out of the hospital, tasks that were once second nature to DelRae became a struggle. She was often nauseous, dizzy and overwhelmingly tired. She had to retrain herself how to wash dishes, cook, and, perhaps the most important to her, shoot left-handed because of her blindness.
“I knew I couldn’t duck or goose hunt again, because it’s too hard for me to shoot flying birds,” says DelRae. “But I didn’t want to give up turkey hunting. I was determined not to. I like being with Marvin and I like listening to the woods wake up in the morning. I want to hang on to that as long as possible.”
Considering last week’s kill, she’s doing a good job. Marvin states that she has filled every turkey tag she’s purchased for the last 15 years, a feat that not even he has accomplished.
“It’s all thanks to my won¬derful guide,” DelRae extols, motioning to Marvin. “He’s the one that got me into it, who shared his enthusiasm for a good hunt with me.”
That keenness guarantees that the Bultinas will be back to Stevens County in November to garner more wild turkeys, medical issues or not.
“I’ve been through enough crap to know that nothing is hopeless,” says DelRae, smiling.