Shoot to thrill 

Georgia Pellegrini takes aim at antiquated stereotypes with her Girl Hunter Weekend. But does she hit the target?

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Darren, one of the ranch employees, finally arrives with the poles and a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. Half the group piles into Darren's ATV, while the other half join me in Georgia's. We take off with a chorus of cheers as Georgia revs the engine. Someone yells, "Let's go get some fish!"

The backroads are rough with a few looming widowmakers and, at one turn, a tree across the road. Georgia fearlessly punches the gas and takes us through the brush and back on the road again. When we're not dodging debris, the women spend the 15-minute drive talking about how it's impossible to not believe in a higher power when you see scenery like this. We also talk about the freeing feeling of peeing in the woods.

At the river, Darren pulls out a box of waders and three bear skins, which he lays on the ground. "Grab a rod," he says. Someone quips, "That's what he said." A few of the women pose with the bear skins wrapped around them. Darren mentions that there has been several sightings of bears in the area and a few women look visibly nervous.

Down at the river, we find plenty of deep pools and promising eddies for fishing. Each woman gets her own spot along the bank, and with a little instruction from Darren and Georgia, they cast, mend their lines and search for signs of a bite.

Georgia and I finally get a chance to talk and she admits that she's "obviously really distracted" because of the amount of guests and journalists. "There are so many middle men," she says, "and it obviously creates a shit storm, as you unfortunately had to learn."

click to enlarge Girl Hunter Weekend includes luxuries such as a personalized fitting for a new Stetson cowboy hat. - CATHRINE L. WALTERS
  • Cathrine L. Walters
  • Girl Hunter Weekend includes luxuries such as a personalized fitting for a new Stetson cowboy hat.

I point out that for someone with her profile, she's been surprisingly soft-spoken so far during the weekend.

"I am inherently an introvert, so it's interesting that my work has catapulted me into the public eye," she says.

She speaks about the stresses of her newfound celebrity, but also why Girl Hunter Weekend is so important to her.

"I wanted to really show women that this is an acceptable thing," she says. "They don't have to act like a guy, look like a guy, dress like a guy. They can still be feminine and participate in these sorts of adventures. Self-sufficiency is the ultimate girl power."

This particular adventure isn't panning out. After our brief conversation, Georgia and Darren note that the fish aren't biting and decide we should head back in the ATVs. Again I ride with Georgia and again she drives fast, taking corners with increased speed. The vehicle leans and some of the women yell out. I'm certain we're all going to die at the hands of Georgia Pellegrini.

When we get to the ranch there is a celebration in progress. The bird hunters have returned with one victor, Holly, the San Diego lawyer with no hunting experience. Holly's kill gives Georgia a chance to finally show off her skills for the group.

Outside the lodge, Georgia demonstrates how to clean the bird. For the first time all weekend, she looks comfortable and in her element. She helps Holly paint pheasant blood on her face like a warrior and everyone takes pictures. She pulls out each organ, explaining that pheasants eat pebbles to digest their food.

"What do you do with the intestines?" one woman asks.

"I leave them for the coyotes," Georgia says, "so they have something to eat, too."

In the lodge's kitchen, Georgia sets out several pheasant breasts on cutting boards to teach the women how to make Devil Pheasants on Horseback—pheasant breast stuffed with goat cheese, thyme and dates, wrapped in thin bacon. You can pound the breast with anything, she tells them. The room then fills with the the musical clang of the women softening the meat with rolling pins, metal pots and the bottoms of Perrier bottles.

•••

In the evening, before dinner is served, the women gather again in the lodge for champagne and s'mores. The Brooklyn woman yells over the murmur, "Georgia has something to say!" and the room goes quiet as Georgia appears in front of the fireplace smiling her impenetrable smile.

"I wanted to thank everyone for an amazing weekend," she says. "It's been amazing to meet everyone."

She pours champagne and toasts. In front of her is a table full of plastic gift bags with s'mores ingredients, each wrapped neatly in more plastic. A couple women unwrap the bags and make the s'mores around the outdoor fire. Another bag contains a present from Georgia: earrings made of bullet casings.

After the gift giving, Georgia and I get a chance to talk again. We sit side-by-side in an ATV under the light of the moon and I'm curious about her feelings on the weekend.

click to enlarge Georgia and two other guests pose for photos. “It’s been amazing to see how many women want to have this experience, rolling up their sleeves and finding ways to empower themselves in small ways,” says Georgia. - CATHRINE L. WALTERS
  • Cathrine L. Walters
  • Georgia and two other guests pose for photos. “It’s been amazing to see how many women want to have this experience, rolling up their sleeves and finding ways to empower themselves in small ways,” says Georgia.

"It's been amazing to see how many women want to have this experience, rolling up their sleeves and finding ways to empower themselves in small ways," she says. "This event attracts that type of woman who is a bit more fearless and a little more eager to experience life."

Georgia says that in order to make the experience accessible to a broad range of women she didn't want the weekend to be too intense. Activities were planned for novices. "They weren't going to be willing to go out into the woods and pitch a tent and not shower for five days," she says.

I ask if she likes to go out into the woods and pitch a tent.

"I've done it but I don't do it regularly," she says. "I like to shower. I can rough it but I'm a woman, too, and I'm feminine. And I want to be comfortable.

"I've been in a duck blind with insane winds and the tide coming in," she adds. "And all of a sudden we're stranded and then snow comes in. You're soaking wet and you feel like you're going into hypothermic shock. That is not what I like to do regularly. I want a warm bubble bath to be welcoming me with open arms. And women are just different from men. They experience the outdoors totally differently and that's something we need to embrace."

I'm not sure I agree, but I don't fight her on it. I know plenty of women who experience the outdoors exactly the same as men do. I also know plenty who, while equally skilled and hardy in the face of a harsh Montana hunt, choose different types of wild adventures.

In fact, the group I spent most of my Girl Hunter Weekend with made their own plans by our last day. The morning after hitting the bars for a night of drinking Fireball whiskey, a few guests have decided to extend their stay. Noel, Cara and newly minted hunter Holly plan to take an extra day to go bird hunting. They say all the media attention has gotten in the way of their weekend, and they need more time to hunt.

This story was updated Thursday Oct. 10.

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