When you ask a man what he thinks a girls’ trip would look like, you might get back a list of something like this: manicures, wine and gossip. And I’m here to tell you he’s right. He just forgot the shotguns, camo and knives. While women sometimes tone down their “girliness” afield, I think that hunting can be girly too.
A group of 11 fierce and adventurous women (some with sparkly manicures) arrived at Midwest Whitetail Adventures, five of us having never shot a turkey before. Of the six women hunting, three went home with turkeys, including myself. Those that didn’t leave with a dead bird still left with new skills, new friends and a hefty Beretta, Federal, Primos, GSM and SHE gift package. The wine flowed, we gushed about our feelings and we did a photoshoot with our turkeys. And we had a great time doing it, too.
Tess Rousey, a skilled hunter and photographer who has captured both men and women hunting on camera made an observation after our first day afield: “In my experience women are more ethical and passionate hunters than men.” Most women learn to hunt from men, but I think there is a lot to gain from having a woman hunting mentor. Which is exactly what Hunt Like A Girl offers the 31 percent of women that visited the Shoot Like A Girl trailer and indicated that they didn’t hunt, but wanted to! Shoot Like A Girl created the Hunt Like A Girl experiences to introduce more women to hunting. An all-female team is a crucial part of their mission to create an empowering experience for new huntresses.
Clockwise from top left: Jill Zanders, Ashley Thess (author), Suzi Greenlee, Emanuela Menichetti, Karen Butler, Stefanie Zanders, Kelsey Puryear, Suzetta Wise, Christina Jones, Trang Dam.
Plenty of women sing the praises of all-women hunting and shooting groups, but not many can put their finger on exactly what makes them special. Shoot Like a Girl President and Hunt Like A Girl creator Karen Butler eloquently stated that the reason she enjoys hunting with women is because we are more generous, courteous and passionate in the blind. All three female mentors guiding us newbies were invested in our journey and viewed our success as their success. This meaningful support didn’t stop at our guides either.
New hunter and Beretta representative Emanuela Menichetti shared the blind with Zanders Sporting Goods’ own Stefanie Zanders. A tom (adult male turkey) wobbled in front of Emanuela’s side of the blind, but she wasn’t comfortable with the shot. She gave the bird up to Stefanie who had a better angle, though the bird wasn’t on her side. Emanuela generously gave up her bird to avoid making an unethical shot and so that Stefanie could make a harvest.
Suzi Greenlee, an avid hunter and Hunt Like a Girl guide said that she frequently hunts with a group of men: her husband and his friends. They treat her as one of the guys, and she was highly impressed with Emanuela’s restraint as, “men just don’t do that.” All of us wanted a bird, but no one was competitive or possessive over any toms. We all genuinely wanted each other to succeed.
This insular community of women was strengthened by Hunt Like a Girl contest winner Christina Jones. She reflected on how empowering it felt to be able to grow more independent in her hunting journey. Her regular deer hunting partner is a man whom she loves dearly, but now doesn’t depend on to go afield. Finding something for yourself in hunting is a validating experience that our female guides made possible.
Another guide, Suzetta Wise, was pleasantly surprised at how much fun she had hunting with other women, considering it’s usually something she does solo for time alone in nature. The camaraderie and connection to other women in the outdoors feels like coming home. Instead of feeling the need to prove our worth, we could be ourselves and become better hunters because of it.
Overall, everyone took away a different but similarly life-changing experience afield. For me, it was the electric, but also tranquil, new connection with nature. I especially felt the tingling excitement in the early-morning energy of trekking out to the blind before dawn. “You hear it in the animals before you see it in the light,” Karen said on the way out. The transition from light to dark while sitting with your hunting sisters in the quiet morning air is something otherworldly.
After around nine hours in blinds over the course of two days, I was finally rewarded with a male turkey strutting past our blind. I mounted my Beretta A400, which fit surprisingly well. After a lifetime of borrowed guns and reading articles like 4 Reasons That Shotgun Doesn’t Fit You, I was prepared to wrestle with a completely awkward length of pull, but not with the A400. You can learn from Beretta’s Director of Gunsmithing Kimberly Intagliata exactly why the A400 fit me, and the other women, like a glove out of the box, or you can take this dead bird as proof!
On my way back to the truck with 16 lbs. of turkey over my shoulder, I stopped and squealed, “Oh, Suzi! Will you take my picture next to the purple wildflowers?” Don, our male, local knowledge huffed good naturedly, “That’s the girliest thing I’ve ever heard on a hunt!” And I said, “Don’t worry I’ll send you the picture, so you can show all of your rough and tough guy hunters what a top-notch tag picture looks like!”
Back at the lodge, I cleaned my bird myself with the expert guidance of Tess and carried my meat onto the plane as my personal item. Graduating from never hunting a thing in my life to killing, cleaning and cooking my own bird was an experience I’ll never forget. All of the passion and effort that went into this event was plainly felt by everyone involved. And while we embraced our womanhood on this trip, we didn’t wish each other luck in the blind with hugs and kisses … instead we shouted, “Shoot him in the face!”