Jess Pryles visited Texas for the first time about a dozen years ago, and one of her best memories of that visit was her first taste of Texas barbecue.
“I absolutely fell in love with Texas culture and Texas food. I didn’t know it at the time, but the course of my life was about to change in ways I couldn’t have imagined.”
The fork in the road led her down a path that has transplanted her from her native Australia to Austin, where she has made a new home. It also opened her eyes — and stomach — to the joys of all manner of meat. Along the way she has become an award-winning live-fire cook, author, meat expert and, as she puts it, a professional Hardcore Carnivore.
She’s spent years educating herself on the topic, learning about basic butchery, varied cooking techniques, and she’s also visited ranches, slaughterhouses and butcher shops. One of the most meaningful experiences she’s had was her first hunting experience, which she shared with her huge online audience through a blog post.
“I’m a strong advocate of eating meat, and it was extremely important to me to be able to participate in the complete start-to-finish process of being a carnivore. The process of hunting, shooting, cleaning, processing and then finally consuming was one of the most liberating and self-sufficient experiences of my life.”
The experience also opened her eyes to life on a working ranch in Texas.
“I was invited to a family ranch near Castroville for my first hunt, and I learned so much about how a family ranch operates in Texas. It’s not only their home, it’s their livelihood. I’ve become friends with the family, and they invite me back every year for a deer hunt.”
She’s only been hunting for five years now, since she moved to Texas in 2015. For the first couple of years, there was always someone in the blind with her.
“I had absolutely no context for the experience and I needed to learn. I remember the first few times my guide would tell me that there was a deer and I would say ‘What? Where?’ I literally couldn’t see them until they materialized right in front of me. I didn’t even know how to look. But I have listened and learned and now I can tune in. I can see how a branch turns into an antler. And I smile to myself because now I get it.”
While obtaining meat for the table was her initial motivation, she now gets so much more out of her time in the field.
“There are so few opportunities in our hectic fast-paced lives to slow down. When I’m in a deer blind, there’s nothing to distract me but nature and my surroundings. It’s a unique combination of concentration and meditation. Watching the sun come up. Being hyper-aware of every stick and branch, and how they change as the light does. I don’t have any other experience like that, where you are staring at one vista for hours, looking for any movement. It’s zen-like for me. And it fascinates me.”
She’s also developed a conservation ethic that extends to the wildlife she sees every day as she walks the greenbelt near her home.
“I watch the squirrels in my yard with child-like delight, and when I go for a walk in the greenbelt, I’ve seen deer, opossums, armadillos and bunnies. It’s crazy! And I love it.”
She’s thrilled to be a We Will Not Be Tamed ambassador for Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation. We Will Not Be Tamed calls us to appreciate the wildness of Texas, the vastness of our Texas spirit and why we should be inspired to conserve it.
“Texas has given me a home, it’s helped me find my identity and if I can give back to her, I will. Texas Parks and Wildlife conserves the Texas that we love and enjoy. I want to share what I’ve learned and enable people to explore what I love about Texas. We all should make sure that the land we love will be around for future generations to enjoy.”
Read more about Jess’ first hunt.