Summit sharpshooter Kristin Walter at the 2016 Rimfire Challenge | SummitDaily.com

Summit sharpshooter Kristin Walter at the 2016 Rimfire Challenge

Let’s just say Kristin Walter has been around guns for a very long time.

On a crisp morning in the thick of hunting season, I finally caught up with Walter for a much-belated article about her win at the 2016 Rimfire Challenge rifle-shooting championships at the Summit Shooting Range on Aug. 27. The 38-year-old real estate agent from Houston, Texas won by a landslide — she shot a near-perfect 200, placing 16 of 20 shots inside the inner X of the bull’s-eye — with a .16-caliber rifle she borrowed from a range volunteer. Oh, and it was her first shooting competition. Ever.

When I ask when and how she learned to shoot, Walter started talking about hunting trips as a youngster in east Texas with her dad, a Vietnam veteran who served in the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Infantry Division. The two would track rabbits, deer, wild boars and more, she said, and then she started explaining her very first time shooting a pistol.

“Actually,” she said after a pause, “Maybe you shouldn’t print that. It’s really young.”

Fair enough. But it goes without saying that Walter knows her way around guns, from dominating the Rimfire Challenge to attending the range’s popular Women On Target programs, which introduce females of just about any age to gun control, safety and care. In fact, it’s how she got back into shooting when she and her partner moved to Summit County from Denver two years ago: she took the class, discovered the range and was instantly hooked all over again. Ever since, she’s been a regular visitor with a female-specific .270.

“When you see all those women out there who have never fired and they’re afraid, it’s just a great introduction,” Walter said about the women’s classes before talking about the volunteer-run range. “We have this hidden gem here. It is one of the last true outdoor ranges you don’t have to pay huge amounts for (and) it’s in a beautiful setting.”

Walter hasn’t been hunting in a few years, but she’d love to make the trip with her father one of these years. After all, she lives in the heart of the Rockies now — prime autumn hunting territory — and her dad’s hometown of Sugar Land, Texas is currently a blazing 91 degrees. Until then, Walter talks about the Rimfire Challenge, her childhood hunting trips and why she’ll be trading a rifle for ice skates soon enough.

Summit Daily News: You’re playing adult league hockey this winter. How did you make the transition from shooting range to ice rink?

Kristin Walter: I think it was something I’d never expected to do and some friends told me the league is friendly to newbies. The fall league started and I don’t think I’ll get to that, but I’ll try for the winter. I don’t know how to skate that well — I’m a Texas woman and we don’t grow up on skates — but that team is so nice to me. I think they avoid me because I’ll probably hurt them more with how bad I am on skates.

SDN: Was this your first year in the Rimfire Challenge?

KW: I hadn’t done any shooting competitions before this year. I saw in the Summit Daily that they had a basic NRA pistol class, and from that class I started talking with the Summit Range officers. They encouraged me to take the Women On Target class, where they have you in the class for the morning and then out to the range in the afternoon. I brought by .270 to get it sighted in, and when I was shooting my rifle one of the instructors encouraged me to come out for the Rimfire Challenge.

SDN: What do you think they saw in you?

KW: I’m pretty accurate at 100 yards with my .270 — I shoot in the same hole consistently. My groupings are tight and they let me borrow a .22 for the Rimfire. We spent some time sighting it in, and once we had that ready I was ready for the competition.

SDN: Talk about the difference between your .270 and the gun you used at Rimfire. Did you have to change your approach to shooting?

KW: Yeah, there’s a big difference. The .270 I have is a lady’s size, but it’s still much heavier than the .16. When I’m shooting the .270 and breathing, I don’t notice the movement as much with the stock in my shoulder. With the .16, it’s a lot lighter and more sensitive. It was important for me to have excellent breath control to make that shot at the exact moment when I’m not moving. (With) the .270 I get tighter groupings, and I think it’s just because I’m more familiar with the heavier stock and gun.

SDN: You mentioned breath control. Where did you learn the ins and outs of shooting?

KW: My dad always took me hunting when I was young. I haven’t hunted in a long time because he’s in Texas and I’m here, but that was one reason I wanted to hook up with the Summit Range: there’s no intimidation or weirdness there. I grew up with those skills from my dad, but the guys at the range were willing to help me out. You can always learn more.

My dad is just an awesome person for taking us when we were young. My dad is a Vietnam vet — a former radio operator for the military — and that’s what I like about the range guys: They’re all former military and I feel safe because they have that training. They speak a language I’m familiar with.

SDN: Do you hunt these days?

KW: No, not really. I’d like to though. I’d ideally love to bring my dad out. That would be the ultimate for him. When we were young we’d hunt deer, rabbit, squirrels, wild hogs. You have hybrid boars these days. We’d hunt in east Texas and south Texas, also the hill country, too.

SDN: What did you enjoy the most about hunting as a kid?

KW: Just having that quality time with my dad. We didn’t have cell phones back then, so you could check out and go in the middle of nowhere to camp. I’ve always loved being outside and I’m grateful my dad didn’t say, “You’re a girl, I can’t take you.” That’s one thing I appreciate about my family. All of my great aunts, grandmothers and my mother hunted, so now, when I tell people I hunt, they’ll give me a strange look, but that’s how we grew up. Like I said, my favorite part of going was spending quality time outside and learning at the same time.

SDN: Have you kept up with target shooting over the years?

KW: It comes and goes. I’ve been to the Centennial Gun Club (on the Front Range) with my pistol, then out to the Cherry Creek Reservoir to their range. Target shooting allows me to relax, to be honest. When I’m target shooting, you can’t think about anything else. You truly have to be focused — no work, no life problems, and it’s that intense focus that is so relaxing to me. I’m able to just have fun, and not necessarily check out, but be at one place at one time, without thinking about other things.

SDN: Will you be back next year to defend the title?

KW: Sure. I was a little disappointed because I shot a 200, and 20X is the highest you can go, with bull’s-eyes on all four targets. I wanted to get that. I was thinking about my dad and making him proud, so when I was done I thought he’d be disappointed I didn’t hit that 20X. But, of course, he was elated.