Annual women's shooting event stays on target

Shot after shot, round holes appeared on the target's bull's-eye, and with each one Denise Oldland's smile grew wider.

"That's really cool," the first-time shooter said while pouring more powder down a muzzleloading rifle. "I really didn't expect to hit the target at all today."

Jim Fry expected Oldland and other women to hit targets. He also expected them to gain an appreciation for the shooting sports.

"We're just trying to give women the opportunity to try several kinds of shooting under highly-supervised conditions," said Fry, of the Chisholm Trail Antique Gun Association. "Ideally they'll hit some targets and find it's something they like or at least get a better understanding of shooting."

Saturday's Women On Target event was the seventh to be held at the club's range in eastern Sedgwick County.

The first year, 12 women attended. This year the number was about 50, and Fry had to turn some women away.

That reflects a national trend.

Bill Brassard, of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, said female participation in all aspects of shooting and hunting are on the increase.

His organization holds First Shots shooting events around the nation for beginning shooters.

"Women routinely make up more than 50 percent of the participants," Brassard said. "There's a huge interest out there, definitely in the millions."

Fry said there's a growing support for such events, too. He easily gathers 25-30 volunteers from his gun club to help with the all-day event. That's enough to assure plenty of coaching on shooting and safety at the handgun, .22 rifle, muzzleloader and archery portions of Saturday's event.

A grant from the National Rifle Association pays for most of the costs, including free ammunition.

Fry said the $10 registration fee mainly pays for the women's lunch and the cost of portable toilets brought to the grounds.

The women were divided into four groups and sent to different shooting stations for about 90 minutes of shooting. Women had a coach at their side for every shot.

Many gravitated to a particular type of shooting.

Stacy Alexander was the last of her group leave the archery range, shooting several dozen arrows at a target after other women had moved on.

"I really liked it a lot," she said. "I'd never shot anything but a paintball gun before this. This is a lot of fun."

Most women said the shotgun was the most difficult, but also the most satisfying.

Rebekah Kautz initially struggled hitting a flying clay target.

With David McCalla's patient coaching, she eventually shattered four targets.

"It's quite the experience," Kautz said as she walked from the shooting line, smiling wide. "It's something I'd like to do again. This is a great opportunity."

For information about the 2011 Women On Target event, contact Fry at ctagawot@att.net.