In ten days, I’m going on an adventure and I can’t wait to share it with you! Beretta has invited me to Hunt Like A Girl with a fantastic team they’ve put together in partnership with Shoot Like A Girl. Even though I’ve been a gun owner and a shooter for fifteen years, I’ve only been hunting once or twice, and that was five years ago. There are so many reasons I’ve been interested in it but also afraid to go, so I’m really grateful that they are giving me this trip and allowing me to share this whole experience with you. I’m hoping it will help some of you take the leap into trying something like this, or remember how amazing you are for doing it if you’re already a hunter.
The idea of going out and literally getting my own food is really appealing on a number of levels, even with knowing it means that an animal will die at my hands. It’s the height of self-sufficiency in many ways, and of knowing exactly where my food is coming from. It speaks to the independent woman I want to be, not to mention my foodie side who is drooling at the idea of true free-range meat. Even if I don’t become a lifelong avid hunter, I’m looking forward to the intimate experience of harvesting an animal, then preparing and eating it. It’s also important to me, as someone who eats meat, to know and participate in exactly what happens from live animal to meal at least once. Besides, how can you get ready for the zombie apocalypse and the fall of civilization if you don’t know how to get your food from somewhere besides a grocery store? Even if hunting doesn’t become a regular and well-practiced skill for me, having in-person, hands-on exposure to the ins and outs of the whole process will be good background for if I have to do it in the future, no matter what the reason. I suspect it will even make me more comfortable with buying whole birds at the supermarket in the meantime.
From those early tries at hunting, I did take one duck home, and plucked it and butchered it and cooked it. It was, to be frank, kind of a disaster. While the hunt itself had been expertly guided and I had a wonderful time, the hunting preserve took care of the initial preparation for most of the birds. Excellent for convenience and keeping that day a little more manageable; less so when I decided on a whim that I should try to take the experience the whole way and brought home that still-feathered and warm duck. I and YouTube muddled along, alone in my kitchen, with hands covered in feathers and blood, for the rest. Not to mention, I wasn’t much of a cook so I didn’t really know what to do with the thing anyway. I suspect that that’s exactly why a lot of people who didn’t grow up hunting have trouble getting into it as adults. There’s so much to it: what gear is needed, how to get out into the field the right way, identifying what you’re supposed to be shooting fast enough to actually do something about it, actually getting a successful shot, recovering and processing the animal, and making it into a delicious meal without wasting the meat you worked so hard to get. Being overwhelmed is completely understandable. I sure was. I still am.
That’s why I’m glad Shoot Like A Girl exists, along with Calibered Events, who took me on that trip five years ago. They are one of several introduction to shooting or hunting groups that exist, and that kind of organization is excellent for helping someone with their first steps of an activity that feels like so many people learn about as kids but some of us…didn’t. For women dipping toes into male-dominated hobbies in particular, it can be a little scary to go be the newbie who is so very different from everyone else there: not a kid, not a man, and so very, very lost. Finding a mentor can be challenging, and we might feel super awkward for asking or annoyed by help that ends up feeling condescending even if it’s truly well-intentioned. Hiring a guide is an option, but they might only work with you during the hunt itself and not with the preparation and what to do with your game afterwards (some will, though, so ask!). Getting in with a beginner-oriented program helps break everything up into manageable chunks with expert guidance that is specifically geared towards someone who is coming in knowing nothing or nearly so. On this trip, SLG is organizing all of the gear, setting us up with mentors and guides, and bringing in a chef and others to teach us what to do with the animals. Really, I can’t wait!
Besides, the food and independence aspect aren’t the only thing. There’s so much to be said for getting outside and becoming more comfortable in the outdoors. Study after study, not to mention mountains of anecdotal evidence, point to how simply being with nature lowers stress markers, benefits physical health, and increases mood and mental health. Hunting, even “unsuccessfully” and even at o-dark-thirty when I’m told I’ll have to make my way to the duck blinds, is a way of enjoying outside. Maybe I won’t ahem take to it like a duck to water for future forays into the great outdoors, but for those couple of days? As long as I’m dressed for the weather – and Beretta and Shoot Like A Girl are providing me with some of the necessities – then at the very least I’ll get a few days to take in some quiet sunrises over a beautiful rice prairie and that’s good all by itself. The point, after all, isn’t entirely about hunting ducks. The point is to be out there. A camera or just my eyes would do too, but this is a reason to get me out of bed and out of doors in the pre-dawn hours.
I’m really looking forward to this trip, and I can’t wait to share it with you. Beginning on November 15th, you can expect to see some extra frequent posts here and on Instagram as I tell you everything about it. Until then, waterfowl hunting advice is welcome…and don’t forget to go back to Wednesday’s post to enter to win a free book!