Hunter Georgia Pellegrini talks about how you can take your first step into hunting and rekindle a lost connection with nature.
Where would one start if they wanted to take up hunting?
The residents of Arkansas are very fortunate to have access to raw nature that so many people in the rest of the country do not have. Many people reach out to me asking where to begin. Hunting can seem foreign and inaccessible to those who didn’t grow up with it, which in the end is not good for those who want to keep support for hunting alive. What I tell people is that they likely have a family member, cousin, neighbor or distant relative who hunts or hunted once upon a time who will take them under their wing. There are also local and regional outdoor and conservation groups that host events and workshops, including a group for women called BOW.
Hunting is not traditionally a woman’s sport, and for a lot of women, I think it doesn’t occur to them that it’s something they might be good at. What would you say to a woman to get her more interested in hunting?
In Roman mythology, the master of the hunt was the goddess Diana. She was praised for her strength, athletic grace, beauty, and hunting skills. I like to think that Diana’s influence has never entirely waned — that hunting was never just about men getting together in the woods. Hunting is for all of us, an extension of our being both humans and animals, our first work and craft, one of our original instincts.
Most of the women who attend my Adventure Getaways for the first time have never hunted. And they are all amazed at how naturally it comes to them and how natural it feels to play a part in the cycle of life. It is a very satisfying thing. It is Eleanor Roosevelt who told us, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” I believe it is the most joyful way to live.
Do the skills required for hunting echo into other skill sets? How does it benefit other areas of your life?
We are meant to participate in nature rather than keep it at arm’s length. Being connected with the rhythms of nature makes us better human beings on this earth, better stewards of the land around us, and better friends to one another. Humans have more potential in places, cultures and behaviors closer to our evolutionary beginnings. Modern life may conceal our need for diverse, wild, natural communities, but it does not alter that need. The active practice of what I call “manual literacy,” that is, using your hands, taps into an important natural human instinct.
We usually just stick to cooking beef, chicken and pork. What are some different meats you would recommend for “safe” cooks to experiment with, and what would you suggest to do with them?
Many people would tell you that venison is the “gateway game,” but I personally think that squirrel is the best meat in the woods. Wild animals are athletes; they are a dense protein without marbling and with a lot of muscle tissue. If we are what we eat, then squirrels feasting on pecans and nuts naturally get a buttery mouth feel that other game meat does not. Part of why wild game gets a bad reputation is that it is more difficult to cook because it is lean. It requires more nuance, which as a chef I have enjoyed, but as a home cook can be tricky. I offer a lot of recipes on my website and in my books, which are accessible for those wanting to branch out.
You promote a self-sufficient way of life. In this day in age, why is it important or necessary to be self-sufficient?
We must get our fingers off the keyboard and into the dirt. This is the antidote to our fast-paced, modern life — knit, make a loaf of bread, weed, scatter a fistful of rose petals onto a cake. Not everyone has an actual farm on which to kill a chicken in the backyard for dinner or an Arkansas hunting camp to harvest duck, but there are ways, both large and small, to “get back to the land,” even if the “land” is only a fire escape or a patio planter, a parking strip where you are picking wild dandelion greens for a salad.
As I have continued my own journey and to teach others, it has never been more clear to me that being self-sufficient allows ourselves to try all of these things that make us feel truly full — they are our roadmap for a more empowered and fulfilling life.