Winter mornings are serene in the cypress groves of the Mississippi Delta. There’s the glide of the canoe, and the gentle ripple of camouflage waders disappearing into waist-deep water. What finally breaks the pre-dawn quiet is the fire of a shotgun, and the splash of a Labrador Retriever. And then, there’s the laughter of a group of women. That’s the sound of Swamp Witches.

The Swamp Witches have been duck hunting together for nearly 20 years. Men are often surprised to stumble upon a half-dozen women—not in the company of fathers or husbands or brothers—out hunting. In this episode of Gravy, reporter-producer Dana Bialek goes hunting with the Swamp Witches and explores the rise in women hunters, how hunter recruitment is connected to the conservation of waterfowl habitat, and what it means to celebrate hunted game around the table.

Dana Bialek is a radio producer based in Brooklyn, New York.

A special thanks to Allison and Jim Crews for their hospitality and for making this story possible.

The music is this episode was from the album Mississippi Number One by Eden Brent of Greenville, Mississippi.

Some of Lila Sessum’s favorite recipes for game can be found in John Folse’s cookbook After the Hunt.