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.
Marietta Pabody and WR M1A1 Abrams, call name Abe.
During our 20-year marriage, Glenn had trained and hunted over three Labs and one mixed breed. I loved each of our gundogs, which were also family dogs; however, I didn’t hunt and was very averse to training with e-collars, which Glenn used at that time.
When it came time to pick a breeder for the heir of our most recent retiring gundog, we both appreciated the positive training methods in The Wildrose Way. Following these training methods, I knew I wanted to, and could, partner with Glenn to train Abe, with whom I started working on March 9, 2018, puppy picking day at WR Oxford.
Our goals were first and foremost to train Abe as a gundog.
Being a new trainer/handler, I had to quickly learn to be patient. Results didn’t happen overnight. It was/is challenging partnering with Glenn to train Abe, because Glenn has been training dogs since dinosaurs roamed the earth and was now training Abe and me. We have to collaborate on training plans and share results.
Abe has two handlers who have subtle differences in how they handle. Now I was training a gundog, but I hadn’t gone to the dark side . . . upland hunting. A second goal was to campaign Abe in UKC Hunt Tests. At this point I knew that I needed to learn how to shoot a shotgun, which is required by handlers in all but the Started tests. I began taking skeet lessons in February, 2019. Since then, I have been taking weekly skeet lessons from a National Skeet Shooting Association Certified Level 3 Instructor. In June I started taking a second lesson weekly. It was so much fun that one night before lights out, I turned to Glenn and said, “I have a confession. I want to kill a bird.” My desire to hunt was born. On September 1st, 2019, I will go on my inaugural hunt with Abe when we open the Northern zone dove season in Lubbock, TX.
Choosing a gun has been a thoughtful process. From February, 2019, to May, 2019, I shot Glenn’s Beretta 686 Onyx 28 gauge while I researched which shotgun I thought would be best for me. My top considerations when choosing the right shotgun for me were: Fit, Length of pull (females require a shorter length of pull), Height of comb (females require a higher comb), Cant of buttplate (females typically find a canted buttplate more comfortable against the shoulder), and Gauge. I really liked the weight of Glenn’s 28 gauge and the recoil was acceptable. Most people I talked with recommended a 12 gauge, but I knew it would be heavier and thought the recoil would kill my shoulder.
I was also concerned about Look: I wanted a wood stock and didn’t want an engraved game scene. In May, 2019, I bought my first shotgun, a Beretta 691 Vittoria Sporting, over under 12 gauge with 30-inch barrels; the 691 was specifically designed to fit the smaller frame of lady shooters. None of the shotguns I shouldered had an exact fit, even the Beretta 691, so I had after-market modifications made to improve the fit:
Added adjustable comb (allows comb to be adjusted up & down, right & left; although the 691 was built for a woman’s frame, the comb wasn’t high enough for me) and Added Graco Gracoil Adjustable Buttplate (allows buttplate to be canted and reduces recoil). The last modification to be made: Change to right cast from neutral cast (comb is adjusted as far right as possible and I’m still shooting slightly left of target). I’m considering purchasing a 3-gauge fitted tube set so I may also shoot 20 gauge, 28 gauge, & .410 bore with my 12 gauge 691.
I have found limited sources and selection of hunting attire. Some women’s attire appears to have the same cut and proportions as men’s attire; shirts and pants are boxy as if no consideration was taken for the women’s shape. If another salesman tells me they don’t have women’s hunting attire and then asks me if I’d like to try on the men’s equivalent, I think I’ll just shut down and go to my place! What I like today: SHE Outdoor: Base layer tops & pants, camouflage tops & pants; Orvis: Field pants, shooting shirts, upland shell, upland hunting vest, upland waxed cotton mesh strap vest, guide pants & river guide shirts (for training in hot Texas summers); Filson: 3-layer field jacket, twill belt pouch (for skeet)
We have several field activities planned with Abe.
- September 20 Uvalde, TX, dove hunt
- Local dove hunts remainder of season
- Regular group training at WR Texas
- Basic & Advanced Handlers Workshop at WR Oxford
- Cajun Experience at Covey Rise Lodge
- UKC Hunt Tests
- Working Guy Billups’ IV momma dogs
- Retrieving for European pheasant hunts at Greystone Castle, Mingus, TX
My advice for women who want to become dog handler/shooters is don’t wait; start today! Mack, our once-in-a-lifetime dog, passed April 1, 2018, at 16 years. Because I wasn’t training gundogs or hunting, I only knew the incredible family dog he was; I missed the opportunity to know the whole Mack. Thanks to now being a handler and shooter, I will know the whole Abe.