Ladies Charity Classic is No Hit-or-Miss Event

Practicing for the Ladies Charity Classic are, left to right, U.S. sporting clays champion Sandi Nail, Sue King, and Vicki Ash.

By Bob Brister
Houston Chronicle
May 1989

People often ask what it is like to be lucky enough to have a wife who’s interested in hunting and shooting.  So, I explain all about the companionship of sharing the outdoor experience, knowing the lady looks forward to the start of a new shooting season as much as I do, will feed the bird dogs, knows exactly which shells and equipment to load into the car, sentimental stuff like that.

But there is an excellent chance to find out about women and shooting by visiting Champion Lake Gun Club on Saturday.

There will be plenty of men out there cheering on their women in the second annual Ladies Charity Classic, the world’s only shoot put on entirely for women, by women, with proceeds going to the Houston Area Women’s Center for Abused Women and Children.

There is no shoot like this.  Television crews already have been preparing reports, the National Shooting Sports Foundation is bringing in a crew from Connecticut to make a video, and national magazine writers will be here.

One thing that should become obvious quickly is that developing a female shooting buddy has little to do with luck.  It is more like patience on both sides when she is first learning to shoot.

Since so many men haven’t taken the time to teach, the Classic’s two preliminary days of free instruction last year were packed.  And a lot of men could learn some things from the lady instructors there.

Sue King, a Houston shooting instructor who has seen how badly women want to learn to shoot, came up with the idea last year and the shoot attracted almost 100 entrants and national attention.

This time there could be some 200 women shooting shotguns at Sporting Clays targets for a long list of expensive prizes, including five over-under Browning shotguns.  The winner of the lowest class gets exactly the same classy 20 gauge over-under as the winner of the top class.

Free instruction and coaching on Thursday and Friday is included in the $50 entry fee, except that shooters provide their own cartridges and pay for targets ($6 per 25).  For the main shoot  Saturday, Winchester provides free shells and White Flyer donates free targets.

The principal sponsor is Browning Arms Co., and Ron Mosier of that firm said recognition of women shooters is long overdue.

“Women could be a much larger factor in hunting and shooting in this country,” Mosier explained, “and they already exert plenty of influence upon how much time and money their men put into shooting.  Men whose wives and girlfriends shoot with them, get out more, and enjoy it more.”

More women than ever are also interested in knowing how to handle guns for personal protection.

Last year, I happened to be standing beside a young lady who had, prior to that shoot, apparently never fired a shotgun.  She had borrowed a gun, had no idea what gauge it was and brought along cartridges that wouldn’t fit.  But after two days of instruction from the ladies, she was hitting some of those little flying discs and enjoying it immensely.

She wound up in a tiebreaker shoot-off for one of the classes, and although she didn’t win, she came close.

“To tell the truth I came out here mostly for the lessons because I have been concerned about all the crime and all that,” she said, “and if I was going to buy a gun to protect myself, I figured it might as well be one I could do some other things with.”

Safety instruction alone would make this shoot one of the most important events of the year around here-safety for all those new lady shooters and also for the rest of us who many later find ourselves in the same hunting field with them.

The five Houston-area ladies who have worked for months putting the Classic together will serve as instructors.  Sue King, Vicki Ash, Sandi Nail, Ann Fields, and Sandy Brister were introduced to bird hunting and/or clay target shooting by their husbands and now are experienced hunters.  King is one of the best game shots and won last year’s top Classic division. Nail is currently United States Sporting Clays Lady Champion.  Sandy Brister won the USSCA national title in 1986.  Ash has won the Northeastern Championship among others, and Fields has won in a number of competitions.

They do a good job of teaching women because they know the problems women have starting out with guns.

In true Sporting Clays competition (and among Class AA competitors at this shoot) the gun must be held in a hunting position off the shoulder until the target can be seen.  Class AA is for experienced shooters who’ve won or placed in sporting clays competition.  But all other class shooters are permitted to pre-shoulder the gun for convenience and safety.

Classes A through D will be determined by the Lewis system, in which nobody knows where class divisions will fall until the shooting is over.  Last year a score of 16 out of 50 won Class D.  Ties are broken by shoot-offs.  The top five shooters in each class win prizes.

The prize list is enough to mist any lady’s eyes.

A silver high overall trophy goes to the highest score fired, regardless of which class it comes from. The five lightweight 20-gauge over-unders are Browning Citori models, one for the top score in each class. There are five fitted shotgun cases from Freer Gun Shop, five deluxe sporting clays vests and five divided shell pouches from Bob Allen Sportswear, five leather and canvas shell bags from Barbour of England, and five pairs of Bino Color binoculars with matching sunglasses from Tasco.

Shooters are entered automatically in a drawing for numerous prizes, topped by a $500 gift certificate from I.W. Marks Jewelers and including a number of accessory items from Marburger’s Sporting Goods, Night Train Luggage, and a goose hunt for four from Katie Prairie Outfitters.

Renowned artist, Herb Booth, has done an original painting especially for the Classic which has been framed by Meredith Long Galleries.  It will be awarded at a $100 patron drawing, and there will be a $2 raffle with a top prize of a Grade VI .22 semi-auto Browning rifle, custom knives, shot shells, hunting trips, gun cases, etc.  Local people really pitched in with support for the charity.  Champion Gun Club is providing the range, Briley Manufacturing Co., the big circus-type tent where contestants can relax between rounds, Anheuser-Busch and Southwestern Distributing Co., the beer.

Sue King, organizer of the Ladies Charity Classic, swings on a sporting clays target.  Waiting to practice are national ladies champion Sandi Nail, 1986 champion Sandy Brister, Laurie Sorenson of the Houston Area Women’s Center, Patsy Emory, Champion Lake Gun Club owner Dan McMillian, and Christie McMillian.

The shoot committee has worked on this for months with fervor that makes it a relief that they’re on our side.  Home phones have been busy constantly working out details of parking arrangements or food concessions or portable potties.  Our house has become a factory turning out laboriously hand-lettered signs identifying various fields and functions.

Spectators are welcome, and practice shooting and/or pool shoots (separate from the ladies’ competition course) will be open to anyone who wants to shoot, male or female in or out of the money pots, all day Saturday.

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