For many of us, hunting is something we grew up with, something we can’t imagine life without. But when is the last time you stopped and asked yourself why, in fact, you do hunt? We are sportsmen and women of integrity, planning, precision and generosity, but the mainstream media tends to paint all hunters as toothless and bloodthirsty backwoods folks who don’t appreciate the beauty of nature. Enter Georgia Pellegrini who, with the release of her newest book “Girl Hunter: Revolutionizing the Way We Eat, One Hunt at a Time,” flattens that myth in one fell swoop.
“Girl Hunter” opens with Georgia’s departure from the corporate life as she embarks on a year-long quest into the wild world of hunting. After a brief stint working on Wall Street, Georgia decided to pursue her life-long love of cooking, a choice that eventually lead her to the journey she details in her book. She commences a road trip of sorts across the United States to find out if it’s possible in our fast-paced world to live solely off of what one's hands can produce, to eat only meat one has harvested. It also manifests itself as a personal challenge, pushing her to limits as a cook and as a human being that she has never dreamed of—like shooting five wild hogs in an afternoon, and field dressing an animal on the forest floor, then butchering it down and using every piece of it—nose to tail—for that night’s dinner in camp.
We meet the author—a slim, 5-foot-5 strawberry blonde, cloaked in oversized Army camouflage clothing and rubber boots—on an early morning Arkansas turkey hunt, clustered behind a tree with two veteran hunters almost twice her size. Not only is it her first hunt but also her first time shooting a gun—this time, a 20-gauge shotgun that was handed to her the day before and dubbed “a good turkey gun if you can get ‘em close.” Despite the advice of her guides to be patient and keep her head down on the gun, she misses her shot, all too suddenly realizing there is a lot more to the sport than she thought. But despite her embarrassment she knows this first trip has given her the taste for hunting, the itch that will bring her back to the field again. She has crossed over an invisible barrier, knowing she can never go back to her old ways of Styrofoam-wrapped meat under florescent grocery store lights.
From the Northeast to the Deep South on to the Gulf Region and the Midwest and even across the pond to England, Georgia chases a wide array of quarry—elk, deer, boar, javelina, turkey, hog, squirrel and a variety of game birds. The flavor of each region and each hunt is conveyed in Pellegrini’s vivid details—the loud crack of a warm, over-under shotgun, the smell of mesquite barbeque on a sticky, summer evening—and in the recipes she includes after each chapter, like “Smoked Venison Keilbasa” and “Partridge with Pancetta in Orange Brandy Sauce.” Georgia seamlessly blends the thrill of tearing through thick, green Arkansas forest on the back of an ATV in pursuit of wild hogs with the decadence of the Texas “hunting high life,”—afternoons spent swinging a 28-gauge Beretta at every bird she can spot, and evenings seated in grand dining room eating plates of pork roast and chocolate soufflé under a massive chandelier. From the nitty-gritty to the refined, she tackles hunting in every form, constantly hungry for more.
Toward the middle of the book and halfway through her journey, Georgia finds herself asking the very question of why she hunts and why she took on the challenge in the first place. Looking for hunting adventure wherever she can find it, Georgia accepts an invitation from a Montana cattle farmer who brings her to stay at his home under false pretenses of hunting prowess and budding entrepreneurial success. Red flags arise shortly after her arrival as “Stan,” as she calls him, doesn’t even have a proper knife to field dress an animal, and has not yet purchased an elk tag. During her stay, his efforts to take her elk hunting translate into trespassing (and almost poaching) on private property and in a marked “No Hunting” public preserve. With every move that Stan makes, a trail of lies furiously unravels behind him.
It is when faced with the underbelly of the hunting world that Georgia realizes that as much as she wants to be a hunter, there is a certain kind of hunter she will never be, one who uses and abuses nature as if it were merely there for the taking. Georgia grasps that she must embrace nature and respect it and the laws of the land just as vigilantly as she does her self. She also learns the sanctity of the hunting companion, and the silent vow of responsibility, trust and camaraderie that exists in that invaluable bond.
Whether you’re an avid hunter, or someone who has never tried it but often considered it, “Girl Hunter” eases readers into the world of hunting through the gentle, wide eyes of a novice. From Georgia’s experiences, a beginner can find her footing, and a sage hunting expert can reawaken the energy experienced on his very first hunt.
We all have our own reasons why we hunt, why we are hunters and what exactly that means to us, but the bottom line is that the sport brings us joy. For those who didn’t grow up with it, though, hunting can seem confusing and complicated, and it takes a stronger pull to get those people to take part. Early on in the book, as Georgia sets off on her quest to find out where her food comes from, she gives this explanation for doing so: “Modern life conceals our need for diverse, wild, natural communities, but it does not alter that need.” As hunters we have pinpointed that desire and continue to pursue it, feverishly chasing that feeling that comes with a successful day in the field—that feeling of being sated.
With scores of praise from cooking and outdoor enthusiasts like Ree Drummond of The Pioneer Woman blog and Steven Rinella of “The Wild Within” television show, “Girl Hunter” is now available in hardback for $24 from amazon.com and other book retailers, and for Kindle and Nook. Additionally, you can see a complete list of Georgia's articles and recipes on AmericanHunter.org here.
Be sure to check out the "Girl Hunter" book trailer: