By Diana Cook
It probably won’t come as a surprise to most people that exposure to guns, either through ownership or family proximity and activity, is not a high percentage among women.
In today’s society, with awareness and safety at high focus, surveys show the gender gap apparent. The percentage of men who own a gun is three-times higher than that of women (37 percent to 12 percent), even though quite a few more than that live with someone else who owns a gun.
That doesn’t mean, however, that when presented with the opportunity, women aren’t interested in learning more about the safe and appropriate ways to handle a firearm. That fact is exactly the reason that the Pathfinder Fish and Game Club decided to start something new two years back, organizing an event for women so they could have the chance to take that first step. The third annual Ladies Rule the Range event is scheduled for Saturday, July 25 this year, designed for “ladies who have no idea about shooting,” says Lou Ann Daniels, the event’s chairperson.
Ladies Rule the Range, Daniels explains, is “about empowering women in the shooting sports,” offering hands-on basic instruction for shooting a bow, pistol, shotgun or rifle. The whole day revolves around a variety of both targeted and fun activities, supported by volunteers who makes it their mission to show that “girls can do it too!”
“Any woman can do this,” said Daniels, pointing out that the prior two years brought in women from ages 18 to 80. “We’ve had doctors, lawyers, teachers, nurses, teenagers, grandparents, and moms. We’ve had people in wheelchairs, and with hearing impairments – we have the volunteer instructors to handle any of that”.
While some of the instructors may be male, the whole day is designed to be “just for women” Daniels reinforces. And they do bring out some female volunteers as instructors when possible. Sheila Bray, who is quite familiar with shooting pistol, skeet, and rifle is also a world-class shooter in skeet shooting.
“This is a chance for women to be out there without the guys”, explained Daniels — an element organizers learned has foundation in the reasons why many women have never engaged before.
“Some of these women have never been around shooting at all. Others may have a partner, a parent, or friends who have guns, who shoot, or hunt etc.” she said. “But what they’ve told us is that they are afraid to ask to learn. They are often worried about being embarrassed, or laughed at, or even reprimanded, for not doing it right … our goal is to alleviate all that.”
Of particular importance for women to know, Daniels says, “is that you don’t have to be big and strong to do this. Last year we had a woman who was 80 years old who came because her friend wanted to come. She was tiny! She had never shot and she wanted to learn how to shoot a pistol. And the instructor handled her with such grace.”
Going on to tell a little more of the story, Daniels told how the instructor pointed to a table of pistol firearms and asked this woman which one she wanted to try. “The biggest one!” she told him. After getting her set up with appropriate eye and ear protection, he showed her how to load it, unload it, taught her about the safety, and had her give it a shot.
“The excitement on her face when she hit the target was priceless,” Daniels said. “She was having the time of her life”.
Pathfinder’s organizing committee also brings in a group to set the stage with a little “cowboy/cowgirl action” which is perhaps the “most fun” part of the day, Daniels says. Members of that group are in costume. They wear holstered pistols and have names like Jesse James and Annie Oakley. The setting includes saloon doors to go through, a corral, and a chuck-wagon. They set up targets from the old west; old fry pans, cans and bottles.
“Who knew?” said Daniels “The group competes around the country with this — fascinating sport in itself. Everybody who has come to the event in the past says it’s a premiere part of the whole thing.”
The event also includes a luncheon, sometimes presented with its own twist. Last year Ladies Rule the Range introduced its participants to wild meats — buffalo, bison, elk and ostrich, to name a few. This year the meal plan includes bringing in wild boar from Indiana, a pulled pork option.
“Many women have never tried this food,” Daniels said.
In addition, Pathfinder organizers enlist the support of local restaurants, offering a smorgasbord of items, including things like stuffed manicotti from Canale’s, salads and delicious dessert options.
To make it even more fun, shooting instruction and the variety of activities are accompanied by other girlish interests. There will be a raffle table of basket donations, featuring things like wine and cheese baskets, and other “pamper me” options. All profits from the event go to an annually chosen charity. Last year’s went to a small animal rescue, and this year’s will go to Paws and Effect in Oswego.
“We don’t make anything on this,” Daniels says.
The cost for joining on to the Ladies Rule the Range fun is $25 and includes use of all equipment needed, ammunition, targets and the meal.
Daniels points out that “the club is very generous. They give us the whole day’s use of the club, and offer those who participate a membership through the end of the year to encourage those who want to come back after that one day.”
Once the year ends, there is hope, of course, that women might be intrigued and engaged enough from their recent experiences with the shooting sports to join up as a member.
“Overall, it offers a really good and sustained introduction,” Daniel says.
A registration form can be found on Facebook at “Pathfinder Fish and Game – Ladies Rule the Range” with further information on registration available by calling LouAnn Daniels at 315-343-4734 or by emailing Linda Parry at email@example.com. The club is located at 116 Crescent Road in Fulton.
Daniels is hopeful that Ladies Rule the Range will draw even more women this year than in years past. The first year, she said, the club was “kind of shocked. They really didn’t think it would work.” And even though she set her sites low at about 15 to 20 women, they got 50 – “and we were flabbergasted,” she said. The second year brought in 81 women, and they are hoping to hit the 100 mark this year.
She also doesn’t want people to worry about missing other events that day.
“We are very precise on timing,” said Daniels. “We start at 8 a.m. They will be done by 3:30 to 3:45 p.m. – still plenty of time to go up for the Harborfest Fireworks!”
All in all, Ladies Rule the Range is primarily geared towards fun. With great volunteers who encourage the fledgling interest of a variety of women and keep them going as they learn, “there’s such a sense of accomplishment!” said Daniels. “It’s a very good time. It’s their day to just enjoy being out there — learning and playing outside the box in the comfort of an all-woman’s day.”