Love, Shotguns and DIVAS

This is the third installment of our occasional series on DIVA, Women Outdoors Worldwide.

While there are certainly plenty of women in the great state of Texas who own a gun, Cheryl Long is special among them. That’s because she’s the current president of the organization, DIVA Women Outdoors Worldwide.

DIVA is thoroughly dedicated to encouraging and mentoring women of all ages in the shooting sports.  For more than 10 years through successful clinics for women and youth across the USA, this unique organization has introduced more than 3,000 women to the shooting sports.

And so it only makes sense that a devoted gun enthusiast like Cheryl takes the helm of DIVA. It also makes sense that the group was formerly known as Texas Women’s Shooting Sports, since Cheryl and her husband, Denny, love to hunt quail, dove, duck and mule deer on their leased 12,000 acre spread in west Texas.

Cheryl came into the world of shotguns and hunting from a fairly unusual start.

“I sang with a band called Maya for 20 years in Oklahoma City,” she recalled.

She subsequently became acquainted with shooting when she moved from Oklahoma City to Texas 1992. She had moved to Texas because of the big “L,” love.

“I had fallen in love with this gentleman who was very big into hunting and who was just an overall shooting enthusiast,” she said. “At the time, I didn’t know a thing about guns, and really, I was afraid of them.”

Still, she was swept off her feet and onto the alter.

As proof that love conquers all, despite her fear of guns, she stuck by her man even though there were loaded guns stashed all over their house. “They [guns] were there for home protection and the occasional coyote and skunk.”

Eventually, Cheryl was talked into her first shooting experience by her husband. He handed her a Smith & Wesson .357 pistol and told her to hit the target. Without having any ear protection, the boom of that first shot only served to frighten her all over again. But she didn’t give up.

The turning point for Cheryl was a Dallas Safari Club convention where she found an instructor who offered an intensive two-day course in shooting. Shortly afterward, she purchased her very own first gun, a Glock 17 9mm. This Glock took her on a journey from someone who was frightened of guns to where she reached the point that she could speed shoot from the holster and sometimes “beat the men,” she said.

It was during this time as a crackerjack pistol shot that Cheryl was introduced to shotguns.

There was a one-year anniversary soiree in 1998 of the Beretta Gallery in Dallas, and she attended the reception. She registered for the door prize and sure enough won a 20-gauge Beretta 390. She was elated…until she tried shooting the gun.

“I shot horribly,” she recalled. “I tried to get better, but couldn’t.”

It turned out that the main problems were eye dominance and gun fit. Her first instructor, Gaylen Capps, recognized that she was a right-handed shooter, but left-eye dominant. He  had mentioned the eye dominance issue and suggested using Chapstick on the left lens…but that was way too messy for Cheryl and she really didn’t understand the importance of seeing the targets with the right eye…the SHOOTING eye.

After learning this important piece of information, she got that Beretta 390 fitted to her and started using a patch on her left eye to shift the dominance to her right one. As usual, there was no stopping Cheryl after that.

She started taking lessons from the greats such as Andy Duffy and Dan Carlisle, and made it into B Class for sporting clays.

As Cheryl’s sporting clays career began its ascent, she had a terrible and unfortunate turn of events. Her beloved husband passed away in 2003. Now a woman shooting on her own, she decided to join the Dallas Gun Club to find other people to shoot with.

Fate would intervene…

In 2005, a mutual friend introduced her to Denny Long. Their friend told Cheryl, “You have to meet this guy. He’s single, he’s fun and he’s a great shot and I think you’ll be wonderful together.”

They went on their first date that Memorial Day weekend. “I thought he was OK,” Cheryl confided. “He didn’t have much to say and he didn’t call me, and I didn’t think much about it because he didn’t make much of an impression.”  That was about to change.

It was about three weeks later that Cheryl went with one of her girlfriends to Backwoods Gun Range (sadly now closed) north of Dallas to practice skeet for an upcoming league at Dallas Gun Club.

“There was Denny,” she said. “When my girlfriend and I were finished with practice and about to leave, he convinced us to get to get into his 1949 Willys Jeep named Nellybelle and join him for some sporting clays. We had the best time, we laughed, had a lot of fun. We’ve been inseparable since then. We’ve been married three years now.”



Cheryl and Denny Long

For their honeymoon, they went to South Africa to hunt kudu, blue wildebeest and impala. Last month, she and Denny went to Argentina with DIVA founder, Judy Rhodes and a bunch of her closest friends in the Provence of Cordoba at an estancia operated by SYC Sporting Adventures.

“We hunt a lot and love it,” Cheryl said.

Cheryl has graduated up from her 20-gauge Beretta 390, which she still uses for birds, to a 12-gauge Beretta Urika 391 for all other shotgun sports. 

By her own admission, the Urika 391 is chock full of aftermarket bling including a Briley action closer button and forend cap (both in red), Briley titanium chokes and a dropped and a canted stock by Ken Rucker of Speedbump Stockworks. Her initials are engraved on the receiver by a renown Italian engraver. And DIVA TEAM is proudly displayed on the barrel.

Now most of her life is tied up hunting with Denny and staying involved with the DIVA WOW.

“DIVA has done so much for me,” she explained. “I receive great satisfaction from what I’ve learned by sharing and passing that knowledge on to other women. It’s extremely empowering to women. I know, because shooting and hunting has empowered me…and I feel a sense of purpose. To see it take shape in front of you, and see someone else run with it is extremely rewarding.”

Deborah K. McKown is Editor of Shotgun Life. You can reach her at

To read Shotgun Life’s previous stories about the DIVAS, please visit:

Judy Rhodes Gets Women Out of the Mall and into the Hunt

The Secret Passion of Anginette Jorrey

Useful resources:

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We Shoot the Zoli Columbus at the Whittington Center

When Chris Batha told me at the 2009 Safari Club Convention that Zoli made great guns, I knew I should spend quality time with Paolo Zoli and Steve Lamboy, the company’s general manager in the U.S. One thing led to another and a few weeks ago Steve sent me a new 20-bore Columbus from the Italian gunmaker.

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A New Gun

Ladies, how about a new gun for the old hunter? He may have a birthday coming up or maybe Father’s Day, or maybe “just because…” As you know, your hunter has been trying very, very hard not to look at another new gun. But how can he look the other way for the millionth time when his favorite sporting magazines are jammed with all the latest beauties in steel and walnut!  I’ll bet he’s been eyeing that Caesar Guerini for a while? Me, too. Gold inlaid pheasants, quail, woodcock…Drop dead gorgeous! And the fit? They were made for gunners who adore their wives…

How about the new F3 Blaser Baronesse? Crisp, clean, and smothered in scroll or engraved with art scenes – if you want. There’s plenty of choices to dress it up or dress it down. Personally, I prefer the one with mallards locked and committed on the side plates. Of course, there is the one with a pair of English setters on point with the gunner walking in for the flush. They are all laced in gold for that little something extra!

Like something a little more traditional? Something with a more “old New England” look? How about a custom-made little beauty to dress up the gun cabinet and make him sigh every time he holds her (and you) in his arms? Connecticut Shotgun’s got just the ticket! The new RBL-28 Round Action Game Gun. It will make him feel rich, humble, and lucky all at the same time. Like you, it is a perfect “ten” and he will love it!

Ok, maybe you are ready to move up to the top of the ladder. Good fortune has smiled on you both – again, and you are ready to give him a real treat. An investment that will only increase in value over time. One that nobody in your presence or his, will glance twice at, as your loader, with gloved hand, offers the first of a matched pair for the driven shoot. May I suggest the Holland & Holland – M’am? And not the “cheap ones” either. You want the real deal: A matched pr. of Royal Deluxe Sidelocks, in 12 bore, for just $175,000…

As you can see, there is something for everybody when it comes time to treat the man of your life to a new gun. Whatever your tastes (or his), whatever your budget, the heydays of gun manufacturing are now. However, if you run into me this season in the field, don’t feel too embarrassed if I’m carrying my old, pitted double I got for Christmas when I was ten years old. My Kreighoff or Boss or Purdey is probably back in London having a little work done on the triggers.

Happy shopping, my dear. And if you need a little help, just ask.

With all my love,

Capt. Dave

Capt. David Bitters is a writer/photographer and a striped bass/sea duck hunting guide from Massachusetts. His photos and essays have appeared in over one-hundred magazines. Capt. Bitters is currently finishing his first book, A Sportsman’s Fireside Reader – Tales of Hunting, Fishing, and Other Outdoor Pleasures. Contact him at or (781) 934-2838. You can also write him at P.O. Box 366 Duxbury, MA 02331

The 3 ½ Inch Magnum

I’ve been shooting waterfowl now, for over thirty years and have arrived at a few of my own conclusions. One of them being that the 3 ½ inch magnum waterfowl load is a completely unnecessary American obsession.

The 3 ½ inch load punishes my shoulder, makes me flinch, causes my Browning Gold to jam, and does nothing that I cannot do with a standard 3 inch shell. Gene Hill said something to the effect that, if you can’t reach what you are aiming for, find a way to get a little closer. I assure you, he was not suggesting the 3 ½ inch magnum as the answer!

I dare say, in the not too distant future, we may happily see ammunition manufacturers touting the “new” 2 ¾ inch waterfowl load that “does everything the three-inch shell can do…and more.” I for one, certainly hope so. If we can land a spaceship on Mars, why can’t we make a non-toxic waterfowl load in 2 ¾ inch that “knocks ’em dead” at fifty yards?

Now I will shock you by telling you I will not buy a waterfowl gun that is chambered to take anything less than 3 ½ inch magnum loads. I will not shoot 3 ½ inch loads of any kind, but I want a duck gun (and I think you should, too) that’s made to handle the 3 ½ inch loads. Here’s why.

I have been in duck blinds, duck boats, lay out boats, salt marsh ditches and a few other enjoyable places where three different gunners, all side by side, are shooting shotguns with three different length chambers. Ammunition is often freely shared and more than once, I have seen a 3 ½ inch chambered gunner hand one of his roman candles to a 3 inch chambered gunner – or worse! I tremble to say I have also sat beside a 3 inch chambered gunner and seen him load 3 ½ inch shells into his gun – and fire! I grabbed the next one out of his hand and asked him to read to me the engraved chamber length on his receiver. In all sincerity and innocence he said to me, “what’s the receiver…?”

Until common sense and proper gun safety are back in vogue, my vote goes to the 3 ½ inch magnum duck gun, loaded with 3 inch waterfowl loads. And as soon as the ammo manufacturers roll out the new 2 ¾ inch non-toxic waterfowl loads, that can and do everything a 3 inch waterfowl load does, we will dine on roast mallard, teal and black duck with grace. Maybe even some geese. And yes, I will even let you give me the ol’ sporting, college punch, right in the shoulder.

Capt. David Bitters is a writer/photographer and a striped bass/sea duck hunting guide from Massachusetts. His photos and essays have appeared in over one-hundred magazines. Capt. Bitters is currently finishing his first book, A Sportsman’s Fireside Reader – Tales of Hunting, Fishing, and Other Outdoor Pleasures. Contact him at or (781) 934-2838. You can also write him at P.O. Box 366 Duxbury, MA 02331

The 10 Best of the Safari Club International 2009 Convention

The Safari Club International Convention, held this year in Reno, Nevada, is like the metaphoric pirate’s treasure trove of the finest shooting and hunting equipment, guns, art and jewelry that the human spirit can generate. The cornucopia of shotguns dazzles the mind and spirit, for here are the most elegant, most elaborate and most technically advanced on the planet.

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