Shuck a pump gun and testosterone immediately triggers fireworks in the brain – even if the gun is specifically designed for women.
And that is exactly what happened when we shot the Ithaca Model 37 With Ladies Stock.
I’m often asked how, as a woman, I got involved in hunting and not just as a pastime, but as a career. I myself am not exactly sure how I got started, but I remember when, or at least the first time it came to me that it was, very specifically, something I wanted to do.
I was going through those sometimes typical “finding myself” years. I’d ingloriously flunked out of college in my senior year – I’d never really liked it, and was actually a little surprised I’d hung on as long as I had – and had come back home to Northern Virginia to ride hunters and jumpers for several local stables. I waited tables at the local pub, too, its brass rail and bar stools bearing most of the local horse people at any given time. I wasn’t sure where I was going, but I was happy enough to be riding other people’s expensive steeds without paying the bills for them, and I’d found a little tenant house on a thoroughbred farm in Middleburg, smack in the middle of fox-hunting country. The cottage was a whopping $300 a month, utilities included, and a total bargain, given the symphony that rang out every time rain came down upon the cottage’s tall, tin hip roof. In all, life was easy, charmed, and flush with just enough cash for a thin, pretty, still horse-crazy, 20-nothing girl.
One early fall morning, after I’d lived in my little horse-heaven world a couple years, I woke up and decided I wanted to hunt. To this day I have absolutely no, and I mean no, idea where the impetus came from. Maybe it was one of the barn hands talking about dove hunting. Maybe it was a flight of mallards I’d seen. Could have been something on TV. Or maybe it was nothing at all. I truly don’t know. All I do know is that the idea seemed to just come to me, like some people “get” religion as they’re putting gas in their car one day.
How else could it have been? I did have a grandfather who hunted. Maybe that, at least, could be where the idea got planted. Hard to tell what impressions made on a scrawny, braided-pigtail little girl will take root, but in looking back, I’d not feel right disavowing that at least the exposure then might have been it, might have been what started the swamp peat to smoldering.
My mother’s father and mother were Hereford farmers, when I knew them. They’d always been agricultural and small-town, she a school nurse and the church organist, he an arborist, orchardist, and bee keeper of some renown in
We saw my grandparents, due to the six-hour drive between us and them, mostly on holidays and, when I was a little older, maybe eight or nine, for a glorious whole two weeks in the summer. I never wanted to leave when I was there, prayed for a storm to snow us in at Christmas, cried when the two weeks were up in July. It was an idyllic place for a child who wanted to be outdoors and didn’t know it yet. Then again, we were of that last generation whose parents were always admonishing them, “Go outside and play, it’s too nice to be inside,” even when there was two feet of snow on the ground or a rainstorm had just ended.
When you’re a child in your grandparents’ care on a cattle farm in Pennsylvania’s northwest corner, just shy of the New York State line, there were just four times during the day you were inside. The first three were for meals at the Formica kitchen table, the fourth for watching the evening news through the snow of the one channel that managed to wend its way through the mountainsides to the small black-and-white television that perched on the farm house’s front porch near the front door that was never used as such. Aside from those few hours and regardless the season, we were outside.
There was a pond a hundred yards from the house, kind of good for swimming, but better for mud fights with my brother and cousins. The pond’s bottom had a unique combination of silky smoothness and slight grit that created a perfect ooze factor. The tiny snails in each handful were just a bonus, when the slinging was in full force.
Vacated barns, their angel-winged swallows darting in and out in greeting, called to us, too. We’d been told to stay out, of course. “There are holes in those old barn floors,” grandfather told us. “You’ll plummet to your deaths.” So we were careful, but explored anyhow, loving the memory smell of hay and animals long gone, the discovery of ropes and pulleys and rusty farm implements always oddly medieval. Games and adventure skits were made up on the spot. Our imaginations had free reign.
Maybe the biggest lure of the farm itself, the thing that drew us kids to it every day, was the quick little stream that flowed behind the farm house to the pond. In that stream lived fat, pink-bellied, silver-backed trout. If you didn’t let your shadow cross the deep hole on the left side of the sodded-over culvert that permitted a tractor to cross over the stream to the pasture behind it.
I remember my grandmother and grandfather, spotting, one day, through the living room window that faced that creek, a mink. A mink! I remember thinking to myself, as the glossy creature yanked a trout from the cool waters. And then I immediately thought how lucky I was to have seen such a thing.
The mink wasn’t the only successful angler. My cousins, brother, and I always caught something, usually the small ones, but my cousin Tommy, oh, did he have the touch. A freckle-faced, red-headed firecracker of a boy—a year older than me, we looked like we should have been fraternal twins—he was wicked smart and sure of himself even then, and he was best at catching the big ones on a corn kernel-laden hook he somehow had lowered into that trophy trout hole without scattering a one of them downstream. He’d yank the fish out of the hole when it swallowed the hook, remove the offending metal, and with a distinctive kersplunk, let it slip from his gentle grasp to land in the bucket of water where the rest of our prizes swam, dying slowly.
We’d fillet our catches in the afternoon on a stump in the yard, Tommy leading the way for all of us and saving his big one for last. With the stump now sticky with fish blood and fish guts and shiny with bits of trout skin, Tommy would stick the point of the sharp pocket knife he used into the wood, then reach down into the bucket with two hands to ease the last, barely breathing trout out into the pure air and lay it on the log. We were, as a group of children, singularly quiet, our breaths held waiting for a magician to perform his final trick.
But the magic never came. Inevitably, Tommy’s big fish would be a pregnant female. He’d do something with the knife behind her gill or head to still the big fish, then slit the belly. Always, eggs would pour forth. Then Tommy would curse, softly. We did not swear as children, and so it was shocking for a boy of 10 or 11 in the early 1970s to say something as simple as “Damn,” especially so that his cousins a year or two behind him could hear.
The look of anger and sadness that mixed on his face was unforgettable. It was like he’d been presented with a puzzle that he should have been able to figure out but instead had to have someone older and wiser finish. Then disgust would take over, and he’d discard the fish, unable to look at it any longer. I asked, the first time this happened, for it seemed to happen every summer, why he was so upset, and he looked at me in pain and said, “I didn’t know she was pregnant. I shouldn’t have caught her. Do you know how many fish I just killed?” And then, in true aguish, he’d look down at his kill and say, “I should have known.”
I couldn’t fathom why he felt he should have known such a thing. But the gravity of what he felt I took to my own gut, his sadness became mine. I was so impressed that he felt as he did. We couldn’t have put it into words then, being as young as we were, but what I know now is that Tommy felt he’d wronged something in the scheme of nature’s cogs and wheels.
He’d given clues before. We’d walk down the long dirt road that fronted the farm, and he’d peak into a bird’s nest woven amongst the branches of some tree, making sure it was empty of eggs and weathered enough to be called abandoned before he’d gently pry it loose and hand it to me. We’d pick watercress for the dinner salad from the myriad rivulets that ran through the cow pastures, but just a little here, a little there, so as not to denude one area completely. Yet it wasn’t until those shiny pregnant trout fell to his pocketknife that I realized there was something more to our romping around in the sunshine than just a basic consideration for that which surrounded us, more than just a slightly tangible acknowledgement of being a part of the bigger picture.
I don’t know how such a boy
Jennifer L.S. Pearsall is a professional outdoor writer, photographer, and editor, who has been a part of the hunting and shooting industries for nearly 20 years. She is an avid clays shooter, hunter and dog trainer. Please visit her blog “Hunting the Truth” at http://huntingthetruth.com.
“Focus, movement, faith.” These are the words Elizabeth Lanier whispered in Sophie’s ear just before she called pull and crushed her clay target. Sophie had received a Beretta 28 gauge for her Mother’s Day present this year, and at the age of 72 and began taking shooting lessons with Elizabeth.
Jane Brown is one of those rare women who can walk into a room or onto a field and capture the attention of men and women alike. She embodies grace, charity, and humility, and these qualities make her a natural leader.
When I left theFBIAcademyafter sixteen weeks of training in 1986, I was covered in the most beautiful shades of purple, green, and yellow from my face to my collarbone, and down my bicep. The shotgun was too long, and my long neck and high cheekbones made it impossible to mount the gun properly to my shoulder while maintaining a proper sight picture (which is critical to defensive shotgun shooting). I lifted my face off the gun while shooting creating a horrible flinch, and all of the bad habits that ensue when shooting an ill-fitted gun followed suit. I was convinced that no one had ever hated a shotgun like I did in my bruised and frustrated condition.
Wouldn’t it be great if four-time Olympic shooting champ Kim Rhode finally appeared on a box of Wheaties?
As legend has it, if it had been up to Wayne LaPierre, Executive Vice President of the National Rifle Association, Kim would’ve been beaming her warm smile on the Breakfast of Champions back in 1996, when at age 16, as the youngest member of the U.S. Summer Olympic Team, she won her first Gold Medal for double trap.
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
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
She subsequently became acquainted with shooting when she moved from
“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
“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.”
For their honeymoon, they went to
“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.”
To read Shotgun Life’s previous stories about the DIVAS, please visit:
People often ask me how I find the time to shoot in the midst of a very hectic life raising three children, keeping up with the daily responsibilities of living on a farm, teaching and all the other domestic and civic duties we manage to get ourselves into. I'll tell you how, and more importantly why I make it a priority.
A venue for traditional wingshooting will soon open, tailored specifically for women - and it's about time.
Called the Ladies Shooting Syndicate, it's the brainchild of Blixt & Co. in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The Ladies Shooting Syndicate is by membership only. It organizes splendid shooting trips to luxurious destinations for like-minded women. In effect, Blixt & Co. has transported the Golden Age of Shooting into the 20th century for women with adventurous sensibilities.