#8 & #9. How Hunting Changed My Life.

The first time I'd ever touched a shotgun was one year ago.

My dad invited to me to his Rotary clay shoot. I borrowed a .20 gauge and hit up the 10 station course. It was kind of like mini-golfing, except instead of clubs, there were guns. Instead of balls, there were shells. There's beer at the conclusion of both courses.

Aside from the giant bruise on my arm the next day, it was a great experience. I figured I was ready to go "for real" hunting. Except when my dad invited me to go hunting with him & my [10] uncles in South Dakota last winter, I conveniently had other plans. Truth was not only was I scared to kill something (even the idea of touching a freshly downed bird gave me the willies), but I felt uneasy about doing it in the presence of my all-male family. I love them dearly, but I wasn't sure they'd provide the empathetic tutelage I needed.

Sorry guys, that's just the truth.  

Aside from being a chef & hunter, Georgia Pellegrini leads amazing, girls-only hunting and fishing adventures. Though our voyage to Arkansas, wasn't an Official Girl Hunter Trip, I knew she was the right person to introduce me to the sport.

We spent 95 percent of the "hunting" trip doing no hunting at all.

There were hot cups of coffee, held loosely in our hands as we crammed into the back of a Chevy truck an hour before dawn. There were sunrises over misty sunflower fields, watching for small black flecks in the distance. We cleaned birds, posed for pictures and swapped stories. We drove for miles down rural highways, passing field after field of soy beans. We ate at fast food joints and in homes and took naps. If you ask me, the hanging out and anticipation is what hunting is actually all about.

I whiffed for our entire first outing.

We were out there from 6am until 8am and not a single dove toward my 15 bird limit. Two hours and nothing. This was a lot harder than I thought. 

That afternoon, we set up along the perimeter of an open field. I figured I wouldn't get anything, then bam! It happened.

The first dove I shot was no bigger than my hand.

I expect this to be emotional. And it really, really was. 

Just because it was small and a "dumb bird" didn't make dispatching it any easier for me. I cried (as you can see in the video above), while I was doing it... then a few more times throughout the weekend and maybe even a little as I write this.

I am not ashamed of that.

Killing another being with your own hands is a big deal and it sticks with you. It was a difficult, but also an empowering, experience, not because I asserted my place at the top of the food chain.

I actually did something I didn't think I could do.

I don't think this is true for everyone, but for me, it was important to experience first-hand how my dinner happens. I ended up cooking that bird later (post coming soon!), and I don't think I've ever taken more care with a meal. In case you're wondering, dove nuggets are delicious.

Ladies, if you have even the slightest interest in hunting, I highly encourage you to do so. It's okay if you cry (that goes for guys, too) and it's okay if you're scared. You are still doing it right! I'm a little pissed at myself for waiting so long to go, and even a little more pissed that I somehow talked myself into thinking I couldn't or shouldn't partake in this tradition. Trust me, if I can do it, you can too.  

My first itty-bitty birdie.

My first itty-bitty birdie.