It’s an amazing view from the Summit County Shooting Range toward Summit Cove, the Dillon Reservoir and the Tenmile Range. Last Saturday, a biting chill accompanied the breeze that blew up from the road and over the firing range.
But that didn’t stop 17 women from showing up to take shooting lessons from Summit Range Association officers.
The group was a part of Camp Experience, an annual educational women’s retreat that took place this year at the Keystone Conference Center. The retreat includes presentations by renowned speakers, seminars on topics such as social media and activities such as yoga, hiking and martial arts. The event also raises money for nonprofits related to women, including The United Way and the Women’s Foundation of Colorado.
This was the first time that Camp Experience has partnered with the Summit Range Association for shooting lessons.
“We always have something for women to try that they’ve never tried before,” Camp Experience founder Betsey Wiersma said. “I’ve always wanted to try shooting, and I think shooting for adventure and sport is something that women maybe don’t have a chance to do.”
So she connected with the SRA, which arranged for several range safety officers to volunteer their time to train and to supervise the experience.
“We’re more than glad to offer our time,” said Brad Deats, chief range safety officer.
Upon arrival, the women gathered in front of Deats and the other officers, bundled in jackets, hats and gloves, with looks of excitement and expectation.
Deats greeted them with, “You ready to shoot things?” They cheered and clapped in response.
“Safety is No. 1 here,” he continued, “and then fun is the next part.”
Deats proceeded to discuss the three main rules for safe gun handling — keep the gun pointed down range at all times, keep your finger off the trigger until you’re about to shoot and keep the gun unloaded until ready to shoot.
After the basics were covered, the group split into two groups, one going with Deats to shoot handguns at paper targets and the other heading to another part of the range for clay trap shooting with shotguns.
Range safety officer Bill Hardy led the trap shooting session, assisted by his protege, James Noreen, a proficient shooter. Only a few of the women had fired shotguns before, and then only once or twice.
Hardy showed the correct stance — feet braced apart — and proper handling technique — gun tight against the shoulder, elbow up, cheek pressed against the stock. Unlike shooting with a pistol or rifle, the shotgun should only take a few seconds to aim, he said. Follow the clay trap right as it sails into the sky, and then take the shot just below it.
After a reiteration of the safety procedures, it was time to get down to it. Two women stepped forward to shoot with Hardy and Noreen. Hardy handed his charge the gun, checked her stance and then loaded the gun and signaled for the trap to be released.
The shot echoed off the hills, and those watching could see the slight trail of the pellets’ path, just to the side of the bright orange trap. A near miss.
Hardy and Noreen continued to coach their first students, giving tips on stance and aim, while the others took pictures and talked excitedly.
Lisa Lindgren, from Longmont, said she chose to take the shooting course because she now owns several guns and wants to learn more about them.
“I need to learn how to use them,” she said. “I have no experience with guns, and I want to learn how to use them responsibly.”
Kim Dushinski, from Lakewood, was the first to hit her target. Bam! When the clay trap exploded into tiny fragments, the entire group cheered, their whoops mingling with the echo of the gun. High-fives all around.
“This is fun!” she shouted.
Dushinski said that her father taught her to shoot when she was younger.
“I like shooting,” she said. “I think it’s fun. It’s a good confidence booster.”
As the shooting continued, this statement proved to be true. More and more clay targets shattered mid-air, to more cheering.
Susan Aberbook, of Highlands Ranch, had never shot before. After the first round, she admitted that she kept squeezing her eyes shut each time she pulled the trigger. By the second round, she hit two in a row. Her entire face lit up as her friends gave her high-fives and took her picture.
“It’s fun to see the smiles on their faces. After that first shot when they’ve never shot a gun before, it’s just an ear-to-ear grin,” Deats said about why he enjoys teaching shooting. “And up on trap, the first clay that explodes when they shoot, they usually jump up and down and smile. We’re right there to hold the gun when that happens, just in case,” he said, joking, “but yes, it’s very rewarding, really enjoyable.”
At the end of the trap-shooting session, Hardy’s own grin matched that of his newly accomplished students.
“Ladies, that was fun!” he declared.