A pheasant fell to the ground just yards away with a single shot from a double-barrel 20-guage shotgun. A short-haired German pointer named Emma stood guard over the fallen bird.
“It’s about a three-pounder,” said Georgia Pellegrini, picking up the bird. She handed it to our guide, Sal, a retired restaurateur, and he held it up to take a look.
“You hit that real good,” he said, pointing to a solid concentration of shot in the lower body.
Georgia gave a half smile, and bent down to pet Emma. Georgia Pellegrini is a soft-spoken woman who grew up in the Hudson River valley, and was educated at Wellesley. She worked as a trader on Wall Street before enrolling in the French Culinary Institute.
In other words, at first glance, she’s not the kind of person you’d find carrying a shotgun in the woods, hunting pheasant—or deer, elk, or wild boar (the latter of which she hunted with a knife).
In December, Da Capo will publish her second book, Girl Hunter: Revolutionizing the Way We Eat, One Hunt at a Time. It’s a collection of hunting essays with recipes after each chapter, a kind of field-to-table book. In recent months, a few books on the same theme have come across my desk, but this one was a particularly nice combination of engaging narrative and solid recipes.
I’ve hunted birds a few times before in Florida—mostly dove and quail—and when I asked Georgia if I could accompany her on a hunt. She graciously made the arrangements at the TMT Hunting Preserve in Staatsburg, New York (they take care of permits for those who, like me, do not have licenses to hunt in New York).
Through our walk through the woods, Georgia gave me subtle tips to improve my shot (“lean into the gun”), and explained her reasons for getting into hunting.
“It was when I was working in the kitchen at the Blue Hill in Stone Barns that I thought I would either become a vegan or hunt food for myself,” she said. “I wanted to know where my meat was coming from.” And this isn’t a feeling far removed from other locavores who strive to eat—and sometimes hunt—locally grown produce and meat.
After nearly four hours, we bagged 3 birds—two pheasant and a chukar partridge. Final tally: Georgia—1; Sal—1; Emma, the dog—1. Me? Well, let’s say after we cleaned the birds, I got to take them home to cook—which I will report on in the next issue of Cooking the Books.