Last weekend, moms and daughters bonded and a ladies national champion brought home another title. A woman shared her experience on facing her fears while another spent long hours preparing for her club’s first major event. I would probably have never known about these stories because I almost didn’t go to the USPSA Northern Rockies Sectional. Almost.
After taking a hiatus from shooting to have my second child, I had a number of excellent excuses to not to compete. After all, it was just a couple of weeks ago …
Despite all of this, I found myself packing my bags, plus all the child support gear for a family trip to the other side of Montana. After 437 miles with non-stop interrogation of the Munchkin Inquisition of how many more miles, minutes, and are we there yet questions, along with the multiple feedings and diaper changes, we finally made it to Missoula.
Doing my best to stifle a good bit of mommy guilt, the next morning I kissed my husband and my two daughters goodbye and headed out to the range to compete for the first time in almost a year with my trusty M&P Pro. I couldn’t help but be excited. I felt like a brand new shooter all over again. I had no expectations of a brilliant performance. I just wanted to be safe and have some fun on the range again.
The Whittecar Rifle & Pistol Range in Hamilton, Mont., is tucked away near the beautiful mountains of the Bitterroot National Forest. Match Director Tim Thomas and his dedicated crew of Bitterroot Blasters have been working hard to build an action shooting program here. Their efforts did not go unnoticed by the competitors, who appreciated the freshly cut berms and brand new props.
Even though it was the club’s first major, this was by no means an easy shoot. From tough spinning steel targets to one-handed shooting and technical field courses, the 8 stages challenged every shooter on a wide variety of practical shooting skills.
Tim graciously allowed me to breeze through the event as quickly as possible. I ended up shooting all the courses of fire in about 3 hours. As I expected, I was a bit rusty, had some misses and tagged a couple of penalty targets, but the gun felt great in my hands and there were times it seemed like I hadn’t been away from shooting at all.
Even though I was only on the range for a few hours, I had the chance to connect with a number of women at the match. I was surprised to see the talented Sara Dunivin, a ladies national champion and a police officer in Arizona. I have had the pleasure of competing with Sara on many occasions and she’s not only an incredible shooter, but also one of the sweetest ladies in the shooting sports. Sara was vacationing in the area with her boyfriend. Usually you hear about a guy bringing a girl to the range. I love the fact Sara brought her boyfriend with her to watch her run and gun.
I was also able to catch up with Tammy Nielsen and her teenage daughter, Nicole. Tammy’s husband, Scott, heads the practical shooting program in Billings, Mont. Scott wasn’t at the match due to a prior obligation, but that didn’t stop his wife and daughter from making the competition a girls’ day out. So much better than a trip to the mall; I hope my daughters and I can share a bonding experience at the range the way Tammy and Nicole do.
I started and finished my match shooting with Irene Craft. Irene is a charming woman with a friendly and contagious smile. Chatting with her, I learned that she used to be terrified of guns but, after overcoming her fear, shooting became a hobby she shares with her husband. Watching her tackle that first stage, I would never have guessed that firearms and shooting sports hadn’t always been a part of her life.
Robyn Belcher is another talented lady on the range. Robyn didn’t compete, but she was still shooting. One of the dedicated staff that made the match a success, she was also able to capture some excellent photos from the event as well.
By noon I was back in the truck, driving to the hotel and thinking back on the entire experience. I am so glad I didn’t give in to any of those excuses, not only for the chance to get some trigger time, but also to connect with these remarkable women who have also made the shooting sports a part of their lives.
Congratulations to those who placed at the top of the ladies category in the following divisions:
Production – Sara Dunivin
Limited – Carol Fowler
L-10 – Casey Galloway
Open – Vanessa Good
Single Stack – Tammy Waite
For more information about the exciting sport of practical shooting please visit uspsa.org. To learn more about the Bitterroot Blasters in Hamilton, Mont., check out their website, BitterrootBlasters.org.
Julie Golob is one of the most accomplished professional shooters in the world and captain of Team Smith & Wesson. She has won more than 120 championship titles in international, national and regional marksmanship competitions in seven different shooting disciplines. Learn more about the champion, author, veteran, hunter and outdoor television personality at JulieGolob.com. View all posts by Julie Golob