Tuesday, July 18, 2017
By Lisa Lakey
“Historically, we were all hunter gatherers,” said the self-proclaimed “girl hunter.”
The chef, author, world-traveler, adventurer and former Wall Street investment banker, Georgia Pellegrini, carries a title not many would associate with a girl who grew up in the top notch private schools of New York City. Pellegrini is also an avid hunter.
“I grew up in upstate New York fishing and foraging, but I didn’t grow up hunting,” she said. “That really happened as an extension of being a chef. I decided to learn to hunt when I wanted to have a closer relationship with my food.”
Years ago, Pellegrini could be found rubbing elbows with New York’s elite, or spending one too many late nights at the office. Realizing she lived a life that was busy, yet unfulfilling, she switched gears and enrolled at the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan’s SoHo district.
From there, Pellegrini’s mindset shifted after being responsible for killing the meat that wound up on the menu at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, a true farm-to-table experience in New York.
“I learned to hunt because I wanted to pay the full price of my meal,” she said. “For me, I have connected food to hunting. There’s this greater consciousness about where our food is coming from and a greater interest in eating meat that’s honest and healthy and didn’t suffer.”
Her interest in hunting led her to Arkansas’ Delta region. Referring to the experience of turkey hunting as “magical,” she said the hunt is seared into her memory. It also sealed her fate as a lifelong hunter.
“There’s nothing like your first hunt,” Pellegrini said. “There’s something about being in nature where your senses come more alive. You see differently. You smell differently. You hear differently. You taste differently. Your cells all tingle and you’re present in a way that you’re not in everyday life just walking down a city street. I think that first time for me, all of that was heightened in such a magical way.”
Pellegrini isn’t the only woman to experience the magic of the hunt. Women are the fastest-growing demographic in both hunting and gun ownership. In 2001, 10 percent of hunters were women. That number nearly doubled to 19 percent by 2013, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
Eva Shockey is another woman breaking through the glass ceiling of a traditionally male pastime. An avid bow hunter, Shockey co-hosts a hunting show on the The Outdoor Channel and has written her own book about hunting. She has 1.7 million followers on social media.
Both retailers and sporting foundations alike have taken notice of the trend and are targeting women for specialty-made hunting gear and memberships. More than just adding a spot of pink to camouflage attire, serious manufacturers are creating higher quality products designed specifically for women, including better bows.
With female hunting license sales doubling in most states over the past decade, state game and fish divisions are hosting regular clinics and mentoring programs for female hunters of varying age and skill levels.
The upward trend of women entering the outdoor sporting field has lasted more than a decade. At this point, it’s safe to say that women hunters are more than just a fad – these camo-clad ladies are here to stay. And the rise of female celebrity hunters is bringing the sport to a new generation.
“Women experience the outdoors differently,” Pellegrini said. “What I’ve seen is they’re much more perfectionists and detail oriented and careful and thoughtful and they honor whatever animal they harvest. It’s a very holistic almost spiritual experience for them. It’s emotional. It’s intense. It’s invigorating.”
While writing her second book, Girl Hunter: Revolutionizing the Way We Eat, One Hunt at a Time, Pellegrini began to received emails from women who had the same urge to connect with nature, but many just didn’t have a connection to get started. Giving back the mentoring experience she had been given, Adventure Getaways was born – an opportunity for women of all backgrounds to immerse themselves in nature, hunting, fishing and food.
“I think part of why that happened was that I was doing something that was considered very ‘male,’ and I was maintaining my femininity in the process,” she said. “I think making women more comfortable in the hunting space is giving them permission to wear lip gloss and be feminine even if they are in the woods.”
Pellegrini is in her seventh year of hosting women’s getaways, and has taken women all over the country to woods, streams and campfires. Women as far as South Korea have come to tap into what she tells them are “natural instincts.” Instincts many of us have long forgotten. This year, she is hosting a group of women where it all started for her – right in the Arkansas Delta.
“I think people are having a growing awareness of where their food is coming from,” Pellegrini said. “I think women can really connect those dots and view it as ‘If I’m going to be a meat eater, I should at least experience what it is to be a hunter.’ And when you get women involved, you get children involved so that allows the sport to grow.”
And as any hunter can tell you, passing on the tradition to future generations is necessary for the survival of hunting. Because it’s not just about the sport, it’s preserving a way of life that’s deep down inside all of us.
“It’s a concept I refer to often as manual literacy,” Pellegrini said. “The idea is that we all have this natural human instinct, and modern ways can keep us away from natural instincts. Using your hands, knowing how to make things, create things, do more with less. It’s a very empowering thing. I think all that comes back to being connected to the land around you, better connected to the ingredients.
"We have children now that know how to use an iPhone, but don’t know how to peel a carrot. We need to change that about our society. I think that’s what makes us better human beings all around.”