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Several of the other women in my group have shooting experience. There's Anthe, an easy-going Greek-American preschool teacher from Austin, Texas, who grew up around hunting. She talks of de-feathering pheasants with her uncle and, more recently, accompanying her husband to hunt doves. She saved up her Christmas bonus and received a gift certificate from her brother in order to afford this retreat. There's Cara, who lives and works southwest of Toronto. She trains hunting dogs and goes for upland birds every year. And there's Noel, a spunky NRA Republican who is from a small town, enjoys good whiskey and advocates for strong women and local food. She's 45 now, but she learned to hunt from her dad when she was 30 after finally asking if he'd teach her. She's been hooked ever since.
"For me, the killing part is the tiniest part," Noel says. "It's going to hunting camp and cooking out and hanging out and sitting around the campfire and telling stories. It's that whole camaraderie. Even if you don't want to shoot something you can enjoy the outdoors aspect of hunting."
This is the second Girl Hunter Weekend for Noel and Cara.
"I came last year and met a bunch of amazing ladies and Cara was one of them," Noel says. "And so when I heard they were coming back I was like, 'I'm going to come back.' Not so much because I need to come back and see Georgia, to be honest. I love Georgia, but I really love Montana. ... There's something that draws me out here."
I miss every shot, but some of the women break the clays easily. Holly, a San Diego lawyer, has perhaps the least experience of everyone. Earlier in the day, while riding horses, she turned a shade of pale when her ride seemed spooked. But behind the shotgun she has suddenly found a Zen-like confidence that makes her look right at home.
- Cathrine L. Walters
- Kaci, a roper from Texas, practices casting her line on the river.
Georgia is still with the other group, and has been for the duration of the day. But there's plenty to learn from the other women, and we start to trade hunting tricks that we've picked up.
"Do you know how to find your dominant eye?" Cara asks the other women. She shows them how to cover one eye and focus on a tall piece of grass and then uncover the eye. If you're still looking at the same spot, then your uncovered eye is the dominant one and the side you want to shoot from. "With shotguns you want to keep both eyes open," she says. "But it's good to know your dominant eye."
Cara then tells a story of watching a woman who was wearing glasses pull out a tube of lipstick and color the lens of her non-dominant eye so that she could shoot better.
"She used lipstick?" I ask.
"Yeah," she says matter-of-factly. "That's what women do. They're resourceful."
Georgia has been noticeably absent from my group and difficult to pin down for an interview, and I learn it's at least partly because she's distracted. Turns out, I'm not the only journalist at this Girl Hunter Weekend. The New York Times has sent a food writer, Jeff Gordinier, to profile Georgia for an upcoming feature. Gordinier populates the Times' "Diner's Journal" blog with stories such as "Ladies Who Power Lunch." The blog appears to be about—and for—upper-class New Yorkers.
I find it a little strange that a man has been sent to cover an all-ladies weekend, but think little of it. Gordinier, for his part, finds it unconscionable that a local reporter, woman or otherwise, dares infringe on his story.
"Well, this isn't good," he says when meeting me.
"What's not good?" I ask.
"I'm not trying to be gruff," he says condescendingly, "but I thought we had an exclusive."
"I thought we did," I say, half joking, trying to get him to lighten up. "You know, we're an alt-weekly in Montana. You're The New York Times. I don't think we're in competition here."
"We'll figure something out," he says before walking away.
"We'll figure something out" turns out to mean threatening Georgia's publicist with pulling his article if he doesn't at least get an exclusive on two of the weekend's events: pheasant hunting and falconry. The publicist apologizes profusely to me and says her hands are tied. I tell her this doesn't come off well.
"So you're telling me that you're going to let a man from New York come into a hunting weekend for women and push out a local woman reporter and a local woman photographer, both of whom are actual girl hunters?" I ask.
- Cathrine L. Walters
- Girl Hunter author Georgia Pellegrini, right, shows a guest how to clean her freshly shot pheasant.
It's no use. There's no way to change the situation. Georgia's allegiances don't lie with the locals, and there's little time for the underdog when you're successfully climbing the celebrity ladder. Her future clientele is on the East Coast or in the suburbs, not western Montana. There's no convincing Georgia or her publicist otherwise.
But women are resourceful and I use the situation to my advantage as best as possible. I want an exclusive, too. So on the second day, while my group goes pheasant hunting with The New York Times guy, I get to go fly fishing with Georgia.
First thing in the morning, Georgia leads me and the other group into a van to head up to the Hawn family home where we'll take ATVs to the river. The mood is upbeat and there's a familiarity among them. They're also rowdier.
"These pants are so tight you couldn't fart in them," says a woman from Brooklyn.
The ATVs are a good place to lounge in the sun as we wait for the fishing poles to arrive. Two women and Georgia pass the time taking selfies from their camera phones.They hang their arms over the ATV handlebars, pull their button-down shirts over their shoulders and look over the top of their sunglasses, posing and cocking their heads like Miley Cyrus on a wrecking ball.