By Dr. Ben McClelland
As told through the women’s words
During the past fifteen years female participants in shotgun sports has increased 61.1 percent, according to Chris Batha, “Shotgunning Women’s Movement,” Shooting Sportsman. Field clothing for women has been designed to meet the new demand, as well.
Of course, for several years there have been some women wingshooters in the Wildrose pack, including Associate Trainer Sarah Barnes Reffert, whose was pictured afield in Covey Rise some time ago and Associate Trainer Erin Shay Davis. However, in the last few seasons the number has grown significantly. In this article we feature the stories of some in their own words. You may expect others’ stories to follow.
Bess Bruton, Wildrose Irie
In May, 2016, I started working at Wildrose Kennel in Oxford, MS, after attending the March Handlers clinic, and learning about the training method Mike had developed. I had been looking for a place to learn how to train dogs, with a more positive, balanced way of training. Being a horse trainer for over 30 years helped me to understand the Wildrose Way, and its excellent benefits, and results. My main job at the kennel was working the momma dogs. It was rewarding, and I gained a lot of knowledge working with different ages, experience levels, and personalities.
Irie and I first met in November, 2016. She had gone through basic gundog training with Clint Swinney, the kennel manager. In March, 2017, Irie was placed in the kennel’s new “Service Companion” program, and came to live with me to be trained as a Therapy dog. In October, 2017, she passed the Pet Partners Therapy dog evaluation, becoming a Certified Therapy Dog. Since then, she has achieved status as an approved Courtroom Dog, a Master Trekker Adventure Dog, and an advanced gundog.
When I started at the kennel, I became interested in clay shooting, and upland bird hunting. The guys at the kennel taught me how to handle and shoot a shotgun. I practiced shooting clays, under the watchful eye of Bryan Hargrove and I participated in the gundog seminars offered through the kennel. I’ve also taken clay-shooting lessons at several clay courses. Shooting clays helps with being able to hit a moving target, quick response, and hand-eye coordination.
Before buying a shotgun, I tried a lot of different guns, mostly friends’ guns, and rentals at clay courses. I purchased a 20 gauge, Mossberg Youth Over & Under. It is lightweight, for a small frame person. Most of the other brands were too heavy or the balance was just not quite right.
It is difficult to find women’s clothing in a size small, which is comfortable. I wear corduroy pants for winter upland hunting. And lightweight pants for summer clay shooting. Also long sleeve shirts are good to protect the arms and fingerless gloves for a good grip, without interfering with feel of the trigger pull. A good pair of tough, waterproof boots is essential when walking through unpredictable terrain.
I mainly go with Irie on tower shoots for pheasant either to shoot or to pick up. Wildrose Double Gun is on my calendar for fall, 2019, and a couple other Wildrose gundog events in 2020, as well as possible upland bird hunts next season.
Irie and I do a lot of hiking, and she travels with me, which helps develop good social skills, and she gets lots of experiences being in different types of environments. At home, and on the road, Irie also works on obedience, and retrieves with WR bumpers, and a launcher, following the Wildrose Way.
I suggest that women work each skill separately: Learn proper dog handing, and proper gun handling/ shooting at separate times. Practice both for several months separately. Then combine the two, in several practice scenarios or workshops with instructors. Last…go hunting, once you have developed aptitude, knowledge, and confidence.