By Mallori Murphey, DU's social media specialist
It’s no secret that women are the fastest-growing demographic in the hunting community. While the outdoors industry is making strides in creating new products for women and including female “influencers” in their marketing efforts, Shoot Like a Girl (SLG) is going a step further to actively bring more women into the hunting community. In fact, SLG’s sole mission is to empower women to participate in the shooting sports with confidence. Now Beretta USA is partnering with SLG to bring that mission to life via a spinoff program called Hunt Like a Girl.
“Hunt Like a Girl is Beretta’s brainchild,” said Karen Butler, founder and president of SLG. “They wanted to create a women’s-only, totally immersive experience for new hunters. My favorite aspect of these hunts is watching women from diverse backgrounds fall in love with the sport and to see their passion come to life.”
A Different Kind of Camp
Lying awake at 3 a.m. in an unfamiliar bed, I checked the weather and sunrise time on my phone in between yawns and wondered if I should wear that base-layer top to help ward off the morning’s chill. You can always take it off, I thought as I got out of bed and began to get dressed. But remembering that I was in south Texas, I thought better of it. It doesn’t get too cold there, even in winter.
My bunkmate was already awake. On many of my hunting trips, I end up taking over the lodge owner’s master bedroom or evicting guides from their rooms, throwing the entire operation out of whack, simply because I’m the only female in camp. As I sat cross-legged on the floor, getting to know my roommate and soon-to-be hunting partner, I began to understand that this hunt would certainly be different.
However awkward the room arrangements might be, they are a minor inconvenience compared to some of the comments that inevitably come through social media feeds when a woman posts about a hunting trip:
“Fake, girls like this don’t exist.”
“That’s not attractive.”
“Don’t forget your pearl earrings before you hunt.”
I am sure some people would be surprised to find out that women manage the content on many hunting-related social media platforms, including Ducks Unlimited’s. As Taylor Swift wrote in her song, “The Lakes,” on her 2021 Grammy-award-winning album Folklore, “I’m not cut out for all these cynical clones/these hunters with cell phones.”
I slid my phone and that world into the front pocket of my vest and tucked a few loose hairs under my cap. Then I headed down the hall to the kitchen to grab a snack to throw in my blind bag. Entering the main room of Rocky Creek Retrievers Lodge, I saw something I’d never seen before—15 women outfitted in new hunting gear from head to toe. They were giggling like schoolgirls while trying on and adjusting their just-unboxed waders and anxiously asking questions while eating breakfast, trying to figure out what to expect from the hunt while making sure they didn’t forget anything.
At that moment I realized that Karen had been correct when she told the group that I was one of the “seasoned” duck hunters invited on this trip, and probably the most knowledgeable about waterfowl. That was something I’d never experienced before either. But if the shoe fits, right?
After that scene in the lodge, which had resembled a chaotic Christmas morning, it was time to take on the morning flight. During the ride to our hunting spot, I talked about the waterfowl species that we might see in this part of the country, passing my phone around so the other hunters could see the pictures in Ducks Unlimited’s Waterfowl ID app.
“We will more than likely see a good mix of species,” I said. “Gadwalls, shovelers, pintails, possibly some diving ducks, and of course blue- and green-winged teal. We’re in the heart of the Texas rice belt. It’s really a wonderland for waterfowl.”
“Will I kill a greenhead?” one woman asked, peering out the window of the pickup. Before I could deliver the disappointing news that taking a greenhead in south Texas would be a longshot, our guide Pete Willet began to discuss the weather conditions, the type of habitat that we would be hunting in, and the blind setup.
You could feel the excitement building as Pete parked the truck by a Texas Prairie Wetlands Project sign featuring the DU logo alongside those of various conservation partners. We hopped out of the truck, transferred our gear into side-by-side ATVs, and headed down an overgrown levee that bordered a number of flooded fields managed for moist-soil vegetation.
Each of us would be shooting either a Beretta Ultima A300 or A400. The previous day, Beretta’s shotgun team captain and National Sporting Clays Association hall of famer Diane Sorantino had taught us how to assemble and shoot these premium shotguns. We were all decked out in new Cabela’s or She Outdoors waders and assorted other clothing and gear provided by Beretta and SLG.
We reached our blind and got settled in, taking in the last few moments of silence before shooting time. At that moment, I found myself in another situation that I was unaccustomed to—I was feeling no pressure whatsoever. That is exactly what Karen and Beretta had in mind when they planned this hunt—to provide an opportunity for women to familiarize themselves with waterfowl hunting in a safe and encouraging environment.
“Get ready. I’ll call the shot,” Pete whispered as birds started working the decoys.
He gave a few soft quacks to an approaching flock and moments later bellowed, “Take ’em!” One bird fell during the following barrage. I remained seated, just observing as the shooting unfolded, and witnessed a hunter bagging her first duck—something I hadn’t seen in a long time. We celebrated as Karen’s black Lab, Skade, retrieved the bird, and I thought, This is what duck hunting is all about.
Over the next three days, I could see my hunting partners coming into their own. Their movements with their assigned shotguns became more fluid. They learned to identify the ducks circling overhead. And rising above it all was the pure enjoyment and appreciation of every aspect of the hunt, even lugging the decoys to and from the blind.
Enjoying the Bounty
After each morning’s hunt, my roommate, wild game chef Victoria “Tori” Loomis, a.k.a. the Gatherin Girl on Instagram, taught us how to clean and cook our harvest. While preparing dinner one night, Loomis demonstrated the differences between wild duck and farm-raised duck. She stressed the importance of making every effort to respect and elevate the game you harvest when preparing it for the table.
“My passion for cooking began when I saw the disconnect between what we eat and where it comes from,” Tori noted. “Harvesting and growing my own food is an empowering experience for me. My work and what SLG is doing in the industry go hand in hand. We want to inspire and empower women to embrace and utilize the natural world around us.”
Hunt Like a Girl is not limited to duck hunting. The program offers pheasant and turkey hunting opportunities throughout the year with support from corporate partners, including Bass Pro Shops/Cabela’s, TrueTimber, and Federal Premium. SLG and Beretta USA will be heading back to Texas for two more years thanks to those dedicated partners and the hospitality of Rocky Creek Retrievers.
I’ve been hunting my entire life, but it wasn’t until I went on this trip that I realized just how out of place some women feel in the hunting community. Waterfowl hunting in particular can be intimidating due to the technical aspects of shooting, calling, identifying birds, setting decoys, etc. If you don’t grow up immersed in the sport or have the right mentor, there are times when a duck blind can seem like a very unwelcoming place.
Don’t get me wrong. I love hunting with men, but it’s nice to take a break from the “bro culture” sometimes. People within the hunting industry at the SLG event took notes and watched what I was doing. They were particularly interested in my perspective because I represented Ducks Unlimited, which for 85 years has been at the forefront of waterfowl conservation and hunting. Women are crucial to the future of hunting and conservation across North America. I’m proud to be part of an organization that values women in leadership roles and has a mission to grow the number of female members and conservationists.
My experience at Hunt Like a Girl empowered me to embrace my role as a waterfowler and a mentor, and to champion female involvement in all aspects of the sport. Many of the women who attend events like this find a community of likeminded hunters, which they can relate to and rely on in the future.
And remember, ladies, if some men don’t want to offer you a seat at the table, that’s fine. There are other tables being set, and there’s a seat saved for you through programs like Hunt Like a Girl.
For more information about the Shoot Like a Girl and Hunt Like a Girl programs, visit shootlikeagirl.com.
Beretta A400 Xtreme Plus
Over the last three years, the A400 Xtreme Plus added waterfowler-friendly features like enlarged controls and a stepped rib to an already reliable platform. Now available in a wider choice of camo patterns: Mossy Oak Bottomland, Realtree MAX-5 or Timber, TrueTimber DRT, and even white Kryptek Wraith if you’re looking for a dedicated snow goose gun. In any color, the A400 Xtreme has a lot to offer. The Kick-Off recoil reducer is even more effective with the addition of a soft comb, and the gun’s fast-cycling gas action handles 3 1/2-inch magnums as well as the lightest target loads. berettausa.com