McIlhenny joined the Delta Waterfowl Board in the spring of 2021. She is an active community volunteer who grew up on Avery Island, Louisiana, where her family has resided for more than 200 years. It is there that the McIlhenny family created and still produces the Tabasco hot sauce brand. Their family history is rich with appreciation for the land and wildlife conservation.
McIlhenny also grew up close to hunting.
“Bird hunting stories were most often the topic of conversation between my father, both grandfathers and many extended cousins,” she says. “Much of the talk and time in the kitchen was spent discussing how to prepare and cook what was harvested.”
McIlhenny holds degrees from both Saint Mary’s College and the University of Georgia. In addition to Delta Waterfowl, her leadership and generous philanthropy benefit Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum, Friends of Warner Park, Nashville Symphony, Tennessee Wildlife Federation, Tennessee Wildlife Resource Foundation and the Montgomery Bell Academy as special events and chef series coordinator.
McIlhenny lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and has two sons – John and Frank. Her own interest in hunting was primarily fostered by her father. She said, “It was working with my dad and our retriever that I became more interested in hunting. I wanted to see her work put to the test. My father found some old hip boots and always made sure I was dry and warm to ensure a positive experience. I hunted occasionally as a child and throughout the years. I have loved watching my boys grow up as hunters.”
They have hunted together in Arkansas, Canada, Louisiana and Tennessee. In the most recent years, she says she has come to realize how much she enjoys hunting, particularly for waterfowl. She appreciates the small things like the boat ride through the marsh, the anticipation before shooting hour, and even missing the first shots of the morning that really make her settle down and focus.
McIlhenny says she likes to work with organizations whose work is “hands on” – something she can see the results from – and that’s how she views Delta. She is particularly impressed with the scientific-base to all of the programs and believes deeply in Delta’s delivery of a portion of funds back to the chapters who raised it. She added, “Those are things I can relate to and get behind because I can see them happen and their benefits.”