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.
Heather Cass, Wildrose Jack
My dog’s name was Jack. Born in the UK in 2007, Jack came to Mississippi —where we met—as a finished gundog in 2011. I had visited Wildrose for the first time in late 2010, after reading a magazine article about Mike Stewart and his wonderful dogs.
My goal was to get an already- trained adult dog as a companion and family dog.
I had no experience hunting and no idea about “handling” or even retrieving. I got Jack because he perfectly fit my needs as a companion. The added bonus was that he was a skilled hunter. He clearly loved his work. And to do his work properly, he needed a handler. It turned out this was a team sport. I was intrigued. I had planned from the outset to work hard with my dog to maintain his obedience skills. It was easy and fun to expand that to include his hunting skills. And with the help of the seminars and events that Wildrose sponsors, I was able to learn while he practiced. And have a lot of fun and meet wonderful people along the way.
To increase my versatility as a handler, I’ve begun shooting sporting clays at a public course near my home. Most of the “regulars” are retired military and many of them spend part of every day there. They are friendly, generous with their knowledge and, of course, love dogs. They have an excellent training program, which I thoroughly enjoy. I’ve acquired a sporting clays gun. When I graduate to the field, I’ll need another gun. But that problem is still in the future. My next step will be, following the principles of the Wildrose Way, to find a “transitional” event. There I can put together handling and shooting in a situation which is more controlled than the possible chaos of a real hunt.
This summer my focus is on finding a successor to Jack, who died last year. I will always miss him, and always be grateful to him for introducing me to this wonderful sport.
The popularity of shooting sports for women seems to be exploding. I don’t see a downside. I’ve always felt very welcome in the field. So, my advice if you think you might be interested: go for it! It’s a wonderful way to spend time outdoors with family and friends and – of course – DOGS! You won’t regret it.