The Debutante Hunters

Just as we find surprises in life, we sometimes happen upon them in art. And when it is the case that we are delighted by the surprise, all the better. I believe this post will surprise some.

On Friday, I had the unique opportunity to see a screening of a new documentary called We’re Not Broke. This remarkable work is a chilling exposé that reveals the lack of income tax paid by multi-billion dollar U.S. based corporations and the growing discontent from citizens who are paying their fair share. But seeing this film was planned and feeling angry about the content was not a surprise.

What I didn’t anticipate is that the film would be preceeded by a 12 minute documentary titled The Debutante Hunters. Nor did I imagine that I would find this creative endeavor engaging, educational and enjoyable.

Let’s face it, I’ve never fired a gun. When I got married, I asked that hunting be off-limits for my husband. I rarely eat meat because I can’t kill it myself and I’ve tried to use that as consumption criteria. So stumbling upon a documentary detailing the hunting skills of five South Carolina women was certainly a bit ironic.

In The Debutante Hunters , a group of South Carolina women living in the Lowcountry share an interest that not only acts as a bond between them but also with their rural heritage. Through the eloquent film making of director, Maria White, we learn why these women hunt and how they revere nature in the process. We see glamorous photos of each, clad in pearls next to shots of them in fatigues holding rifles with a pair of hounds. While this could have smacked of sorority syrup, White instead took me on a journey where I learned about the experience of being in the forest when it wakes and the pride manifested in the ability to provide food for one’s family. One South Carolina woman shares how it is simply an extension of her gardening.

True, many in the audience flinched at the site of a deer being hauled in the back of a truck and the dialogue about finding a still fluttering dove but there was nothing cavalier in the portrayal of these women. Graciously, one woman turns her back on a doe that is too small and another gives thanks to the wild boar that has given up it’s life. One hunter even sheds a tear over her love for the hunt.

The short film’s director produced The Debutante Hunters with a grant from the South Carolina Film Commission and the generosity of family and friends via Kickstarter. She is not only a film maker but also a professional ceramic artist. I recommend that you check out her work.

As I was writing this piece, the Sundance Institute announced the 2012 awards with the Shorts, Audience Award going to the Debutante Hunters. Congratulations ladies! I could never do what you do but I respect your story.

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73 Comments

  1. Thanks for the tip — I hadn’t heard of this film. I too drastically limit my meat consumption for similar reasons. And, I know in my heart that I could not kill an animal to eat it, so hunting’s not in my future. However, I have the greatest respect for hunters who respect the animals and the process itself. Meat is, without a doubt, the most difficult food issue I grapple with, and I’m not done yet!
    Eleanor

    Reply
    • It is a difficult issue Eleanor as you will note if you read the comments. I will not be joining the hunt any time soon but was impressed with the manner that these women went about it.

      Reply
  2. Wow – I hadn’t heard of that one. I have to see that. I love that juxtaposition – people so often assume that if you are feminine and/or pretty you wouldn’t be capable too. I love to see the surprise when they see you do something so unexpected….

    The other thing that is so odd – it’s more often other women who express the greatest surprise.

    Sorority syrup, lol

    Reply
  3. We’re Not Broke sounds great – I’m looking forward to that.

    Debutante Hunters not so much. This reminded me of the Scottsdale gun club in the news around the holidays that was posing children with assault rifles for Christmas cards. I understand that some people still honestly experience what they describe as an ancient need to kill, and thus feel that taking lives is necessary. These people may be intelligent, accomplished, and financially secure, bucking the hunter stereotype. Nevertheless, this film attempts to both glamorize and justify killing – for which there is no need. As a species we have evolved past that point. The taste for meat that many people develop helps them to justify and accept the negatives that come with that taste. We do the same thing when consuming delicious but fattening high-calorie foods or products we enjoy with potentially addictive ingredients. Films like this provide an anthropological record of our evolutionary history, an aspect of our previous nature that the human animal is moving away from.

    Reply
    • Dear Rob,
      It should speak to your good influence that I actually thought about how you might react to this post. I don’t think I saw the children posing with assault rifles and that troubles me greatly. You’re correct that the film justifies killing. I know that everyone is not on that same page but I also find this much more palatable than seeing these women go through the line at Piggly Wiggly with their carts full of meat from a COFA. I do like thinking of the film as an anthropological record.

      Reply
  4. Very interesting. My family hunts, though I don’t personally. I can respect someone who kills for food, as these ladies seem to be doing. However, I am not comfortable with trophy hunting. If you plan on eating an animal and want to keep the horns/pelt/claws then at least you aren’t wasting anything, but killing only for trophies is wasteful, disrespectful, and cruel.

    Reply
    • I completely agree with you and I don’t support trophy hunting. We saw a bit of that in the film but as you suggested, it was associated with animals that they killed for food.

      Reply
  5. Bonnie

     /  January 29, 2012

    Great piece Tammy. I agree. It was a very enjoyable expose into these wonderful women.

    Reply
  6. Sorry, Tammy. I tend to agree with Know Thank You.

    We don’t NEED to eat meat to survive . . . glorifying the killing of animals by using rifle-toting women as the backdrop for the hunt is a step back to the caveman days.

    W~I~L~M~A!!!

    If they can afford pearls . . . they don’t need to hunt swine to survive.

    We’re Not Broke sounds more to my “taste.” ;)

    Reply
  7. I’d love to see that movie, thanks for sharing! My husband went hunting in November and killed a large buck. We’ll be eating meat for at least a year! I grew up in a hunting family with a semi-vegetarian mom so my thoughts have always fluctuated about eating meat and hunting. But, I do like to eat meat. And I’ve seen industrial farming and feed lots out in Oklahoma. And I refuse to eat that kind of meat, so it was with mixed feelings that I greeted my husband when he came out of the woods with the deer. I watched him clean it, we looked at all the grass in his belly, my husband held his heart. It was sad but also, well, I’m not sure what. If I’m going to eat meat, it certainly feels good to eat meat that comes from an animal that has romped around in the woods its whole life, freely grazing, eating organic moss and grass, and living wild.

    Reply
    • I agree with you. The industrial feedlots have huge environmental consequences. I don’t understand how it works but I’ve been told that hunting actually works to strengthen the herd. It is so much more affordable for you to have meat this way.

      Reply
  8. I’ve never heard of this film and now I want to see it – and will share this piece with a midwestern friend of mine who does the same as these ladies. I always marvel at how she can hunt and then process the meat, freeze it and serve it to her family all year. These ladies are amazing, though I have never (and I don’t think I could) do it myself.

    Reply
  9. I’m so with you and Eleanor on this one. Until I eat ZERO meat I cannot judge anyone who hunts. A big conundrum for me. I shot a gun once – as children my father had us all shoot an air rifle he had – but my mother reacted so strongly that THAT never happened again (Dad grew up on a farm and I think it was just part of teaching a kid to grow up to teach them to shoot a gun). DEFINITELY want to see We’re Not Broke. Thanks, as ever, for your always thought-provoking posts, Tammy.

    Reply
  10. Tammy, this was so different and interesting and brought out a lot of thoughtful comments. I don’t hunt. My hubby used to. I do eat meat. Someone answered that we don’t have to hunt, that we’ve out grown that. Something came to mind about people who live in Alaska. Many people there do need to hunt in order to feed themselves and their families. (I have a friend there)
    Thank you, Tammy, for stirring the pot!

    Reply
    • It is certainly a more economical way to feed meat to one’s family and the movie highlights that. I am not opposed to it as long as it is respectful and for food but I couldn’t do it.

      Reply
  11. I am not sure whether I could willfully go on a hunt – but I can fully appreciate people who do :)

    Reply
  12. Eric

     /  January 29, 2012

    Thanks for this post, Tammy. I miss Alaska though I’ll never hunt again.

    Reply
    • The only reason that I’ve tasted some game is from the days when you used to hunt. I know you won’t do it again and I think you are a perfect example of moving from where you begin. These ladies are going to eat meat and I’d rather they hunt than buy meat from a COFA. You on the other hand have moved from hunter to eliminating meat. You’re an inspiration to all Eric.

      Reply
  13. Well written Tammy, hunting in Africa and especially South Africa is both a hugely controversial topic and a very expensive one, that most South African’s can’t afford even if they wanted to. Although I have never shot a gun before… I have been on a hunt just once (in my youth). And my feelings and reactions were extremely contradictory. *Smile* I much prefer photography shoots to the other kind. *Grin*… the movie sounds intriguing… and I believe boldly courageous to show women with depth and such diversity. *Grin* Thanks and have a splendid day! ;)

    Reply
    • Yes, a photography shoot would be more my style also. Thanks Mands.

      Reply
      • I’ve thought about this a lot Tammy, and I grew up in the bush in Botswana, Zimbabwe, Malawi and a few other Southern African countries, so hunting was actually part of the local culture… very well managed to ensure nothing was wasted… and obviously poaching is a very big problem. My dad didn’t hunt, however he encouraged us to make up our own minds, and the one thing he was adamant about was that if we did hunt we better like the meat of whatever we (if we) killed. Well, I’ve tried Ostrich steaks – a friends dinner party. And I didn’t like it …not intensely, but if I had to kill and de-feather an Ostrich, I’d rather have steak or lamb. I’ve been on a hunt when a Kudu was shot, and followed the whole process… (every step) and in this instance it was very respectful of life, and the animal that was killed… and nothing was wasted. Again, I’ve tried game, even Kudu biltong and I think I would much rather not. However, I also have to say my Dad wasn’t against purchasing whatever ‘goods’ were made – handbags, purse etc. in support of the local village. I have friends who are very opposed to hunting, and I understand their perspective, and I don’t wish to upset and offend anyone, however, I think if it’s a way of life, with respect for life and nothing is wasted then hunting is an integral part of some cultures. Thanks for inspiring lots of thought provoking reflection. *Smile*

        Reply
        • Wow you’ve had some experiences! At that level, it would be very hard for me to criticize the hunt. I googled kudu and they are so beautiful.

          Reply
  14. I wonder if the film will make me feel any better about my niece who lives by Yukon receiving a pink rifle as a wedding gift from her hubs. Or her older sister having a FB profile photo as she squats to look through the sites of her rifle. Both of them use the meat, but they certainly do not have to rely on it for their sustenance.

    I will look at the film – if it opened you to view some different facets of this omnivorous world, I would like to give myself the same experience.

    Vive le carrot! :D

    Reply
    • I do think it might make you feel differently about them but at the same time, I’m supporting the vive le carrot movement!

      Reply
  15. Great share!

    Reply
  16. I’m not a hunter myself, but I’ve always wondered why people who hunt are so often portrayed as ignorant, destructive and almost-exclusively male. At the very least something like this can go a long way toward making people rethink some of their opinions.

    Reply
  17. iDella

     /  January 30, 2012

    There are so many interesting angles and perspectives to take on this subject. Thank you for sharing this one elegantly and eloquently without prejudice.

    Reply
  18. I am rather fond of the idea of living off the land…homegrown veggies, free range chickens and deer and boar hunting. If you grow it or shoot it you should eat it!

    Reply
  19. Thanks, Tammy for a well informed & lovely post!
    A great read!

    Reply
  20. Sally Mom

     /  January 30, 2012

    Really an excellent article and well thought out and presented. Reading the responses brings back a lot of memories of my earlier years in mourning the kill. Now I do understand and know from experts, that hunting thins the herds instead of having animals starve or suffer disease. It is hard for me to think now of dining on but I also have a respect for the approach. I do like wild meat but have developed a healthy taste for vegetarian and things that swim.
    Idella put my thoughts out there on this article. Thanks Tammy. I look forward to both films!

    Reply
    • I have heard that hunting thins the herd in a positive way and it was mentioned in the film. I understand the starvation point but don’t know much about it.

      Reply
  21. What a beautiful piece, Tammy! Interesting and inspiring.

    Reply
  22. I look forward to watching it when it airs over here, Tammy!

    Reply
  23. Very interesting! Thanks for the post AND for the soup ideas!!!!

    Linda

    http://coloradofarmlife.wordpress.com

    http://deltacountyhistoricalsociety.wordpress.com

    Reply
  24. Great post!
    Well done.

    Reply
  25. Hi Tammy–I’d like to see both, so I appreciate the head’s up. Like you, I cannot imagine myself hunting, let alone fire a gun. But I respect those who hunt with mindfulness, and eat what they kill. I can’t do it.

    Reply
  26. Great post!

    My wife and Stopped eating meat 2 years ago unless we harvest/hunt it ourselves. I pride myself on the fact that first food my 2 month old daughter eats will be veggies I grew and meat I harvested and processed and not from some happy meal.

    If hunting bothers people, fine, but you have to agree that it is way more respectful to the animal then force feeding it till it is obese and then slaughtered so it can be consumed by people who don’t appreciate the fact that the Mcdonalds burger they are shoving in their mouth was once a living being.

    Let’s go after factory farms, not hunters who respect the animal and are providing for their family and caring for the land.

    Anyway, thank you for being open minded, I will have to check out that film!

    -Paul
    P.S.
    Check out my blog to see my post about animals I have harvested.

    http://stlhousehusband.wordpress.com/

    Reply
  27. When I moved to take the job with the company I’m with now, I was entering a hunting-culture that I had never been exposed to. Many of the old time employees and managers were brought up with a tradition of hunting, in fact the Monday after Thanksgiving was empty at work because of the opening of deer hunting season. I think that was a bigger holiday than Thanksgiving! Anyway, it turned out many of the women-folk (spouses and daughters) were also involved in hunting. As I learned more about it, I realized this was as much about family, tradition, and being out in nature as it was about the kill. I still wouldn’t ever want to hunt myself, but have a respect for those who do. Including the ladies.

    This looks like a very interesting film – especially that it runs absolutely counter to the trends of the day (animal rights, etc). Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    • That’s what opened my eyes and like you said, the kill was secondary. It was about communing with nature which is spiritual, isn’t it?

      Reply
  28. Hmmmm…. not an endorsement I’d expect to read here. Good on you Tammy for being open to other views. I abhor hunting but would be interested in seeing both these films. I love documentaries.

    Reply
    • I love them also. unfortunately, these were the only two that I saw at the festival but I did watch Forks over Knives last night and recommend that too.

      Reply
  29. Very interesting, thank you for posting about this! I find two points particularly interesting.

    The first one is the worship of nature and the animal. I have my ethical concerns about meat eating (although I didn’t speak about that until my last log post), and yet I think that humans somewhat evolved on eating meat. (What doesn’t mean that they couldn’t do without.) I like the idea of truly revering the animal you eat, like it was done by traditionally living native Americans.

    The second one is that these are women going on a hunt, not men. I find this very interesting and valuable from a feminist viewpoint.

    When I was smaller, I sometimes went fishing with my dad. I even visited a course to get a fishing licence (which you need over here to be allowed to fish). I’d pull the fish out of the water, but my dad always had to kill them because I couldn’t do it. Now I eat animals and feel very bad about it. I ate a lot of meat for health reasons and want to get away from it, now that I feel better. This topic concerns me a lot, and I’m far from being through with it. I must admit I like (certain kinds of) meat and fish very much, and I don’t have so much of a problem when it’s from ethically raised or wild animals. I don’t think I’ll ever become a vegan (and even if I could, I think I wouldn’t call myself like that not to put pressure on me and fostering obsession again – had enough of that!), but I’d like to get to a place where I eat mostly plant-based and animal foods only on occasion.

    Reply
  30. Wow! What an interesting short film. Hunting is illegal in Australia so you don’t see males or females going off for a hunt. I guess the film is quite surprising because it’s usually burly blokes that go hunting and these woman don’t look anything like that.

    Reply
  31. Sounds like a very interesting film. You describe it beautifully!

    Reply
  32. Tammy, a lot of women in our area hunt. It is a time-honored local tradition to hunt deer, partridges, even bear. I’m not personally interested, and we rarely eat meat, but many women that admire love their time in the woods hunting and providing food for their families. Thanks for another thought-provoking post.

    Reply
  33. I lost a Facebook contact after blogging about the importance of hunting for food last year. Back in the day, no one hunted for the trophy. Rather they used the meat, fat, bones and hides for food, soup stock, tools, candlemaking, and clothing. If you wanted the head as a trophy, you must not have wanted the food in the head. Responsible hunters help cull herds that overgrow and use as much of the animal as possible. I couldn’t fire a bb gun as a kid with any aim, but my grandfather hunted. If you’re hunting to feed, you are accessing good meat and nutrition.

    Reply
    • We have to respect the differing opinions even if they are not how we would act. There is a scene in the film where a woman shows her freezer and she is so proud of it and the fact that she’s able to feed her family at a low cost. I was really intrigued.

      Reply
      • People often assume I’m vegetarian or vegan because I’m in the field of wellness, not understanding that a properly raised and fed cow can provide essential nutrients that help rather than harm health. The same for hunted foods, which are leaner than improperly raised grain fed beef cattle and other animals that have seen corners cut to increase profit. We are at a point of intense polarization, though, so that reasonable people get drowned out.

        Reply
  34. Wow,interesting; I think I’d like to check out the documentary sometime. Thanks.

    Reply
  35. “All My X’s Live in Texas”..thank God, cause, I live too close to South Carolina, to have to hide from the “Apple Dumpling Gang”
    Bless You
    paul

    Reply
  36. I like what you’ve said here. Most of the discussion is about what hunting and meat-eating mean, or should mean, for people. I’ve nothing to add there (except that I’m proud to have done a PhD funded by the meat industry, and I like to eat meat especially if it bears the Freedom Food logo http://www.freedomfood.co.uk/ ) but I’d like to contribute to the idea of hunting to ‘thin the herd’.

    Here in Britain, and I think in North America and elsewhere, herbivores and carnivores don’t always balance one another’s populations. No doubt they did so in the past. But we humans have hunted several carnivore species to extinction. We’ve changed vegetation, too – eg replacing forests with grassland. The results include some herbivore species becoming too abundant for the land to carry. If humans ‘leave Nature to take its course’ that isn’t so pretty as it sounds – starving, disease-ridden animals, damaged crops – I think that shooting, suitably regulated, is a fine way to manage the ecosystems we’ve disrupted.

    Reply

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