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.
Hattie Billups, Wildrose Augustus of Oakhurst, call name Gus
I picked up Gus just over three years ago and began training him right away. My first goal with Gus was obviously to have an obedient, well-mannered companion. Actually, I hardly sent him on a retrieve for the first few months. Retrieving is in his blood, I wasn’t worried about him wanting to retrieve. I wanted to build our relationship. I wanted him to focus on me. I heard another pack member say, “I want to be the source of all things fun for my dog.” Some people may not get that, or think it sounds cruel. Labs are very loyal dogs; they want to please. If Gus could leave me and go entertain himself, he is less worried about me. Don’t get me wrong. Gus had free time as a young pup, but he was always in training so I structured his free time. Gus and I would go on long walks. I let him explore his surroundings, but he never got out of my sight. We crossed limbs on the ground, walked in tall grass, on pavement, over rocks, etc. Since I got him in the winter, he didn’t swim until he was about five months old, which is a long time before introduction to water. I’m pretty sure that is not the recommendation of the trainers at Wildrose but it worked for us. Those of you that have ever watched Gus know he is a very exuberant retriever and absolutely loves the water.
Of course, I trained him for upland and waterfowl, but I wanted more for Gus. I purchased the Adventure Dog packet and started working on skills. Gus is now a Master Trekker. I attended my first Double Gun in 2016. In 2017 I decided I wanted Gus to win Double Gun in 2018. Therefore, I started working toward that goal and Gus won Double Gun in 2018. I also became very interested to learn more about the program Scott Wilson heads up for Wildrose Therapy Dogs, the Pet Partners program, for which the owner and the dog have to be evaluated. So, Gus is now a Registered Therapy Dog, receiving a Complex rating, the higher of the two ratings you can receive.
My husband and son hunted upland and waterfowl regularly over the years. I did some
dove and waterfowl hunting. They each had a dog, but once I got my own dog it was truly a game changer for me. I wanted to become a better shooter so that Gus actually had something to retrieve.
I would say I have been shooting for 30 years; however, I got more serious about it when I started hunting with Gus. I practiced with clay targets in the back yard over the last few years. I started taking lessons earlier this year when we joined Providence Hill in Jackson.
I have had a few diﬀerent types of shotguns over the years, but I would say the last three have been my favorite. Guy bought me a Caesar Guerini, Syren Tempo 20 gauge for my birthday a couple of years ago. Recently, we were on a three-week trip out west and wandered into a gun store in Montana. Montana and Mississippi have the same laws when it comes to guns; therefore, we were able to purchase my waterfowl gun: a camouflage skin Beretta Outlander 12 gauge. My most recent purchase came after I joined the ladies club based at Providence Hill, Magnolia G.R.I.T.S. (Girls Really In To Shooting). I purchased a Syren Elos N2 Sporting Gun 12 gauge.
I would say my favorite hunting is waterfowl. One of my goals next hunting season is to hunt sandhill cranes in Texas. I keep hearing it is the ribeye of the sky. I purchased Rex Spec goggles for Gus to use while hunting the cranes. Cranes have been know to go after a dog’s eyes if they are not expired when retrieved. We are also headed to Canada to hunt geese this fall as well as a trip back to Montana to hunt ducks along the Madison River.
These days, our daily training during the oﬀ months is mostly about keeping him in shape. I try to swim Gus often. During the summer months in the south it is a good way to keep him cool and in shape. Swimming is a great workout. Let me be clear: it is not free swimming; he is always retrieving something. Over the next few weeks I will start working more specifically on tuning up the basics getting ready for the hunting season.
I guess my advice to women entering the wing shooting world would be to get your own dog. I borrowed Guy’s dog, Corky, for a few workshops, but it does not compare to the feeling you get handling your own dog. Get instruction on shooting, if possible. I would say whether you train the dog or send the dog to one of the Wildrose campuses for training, read Mike’s book, watch the video clips, and attend the workshops and events. Labradors are very smart and very forgiving. They truly just want to please.
I keep telling Mike that with the Wildrose Women in the Field gaining in numbers the term Gentleman’s Gun Dog needs to be tweaked. I have also heard him refer to the dogs as, Dogs of Duality. I think that works.