Girls Really Into Shooting Aims for Sport, Camaraderie
By Jamie Turner. Photography by Turner Photography Studio
The distinct odor of gunpowder and the popping sounds of gunfire fill the air on this beautiful spring morning at the Orvis Hill Country Shooting Grounds in picturesque Fairfield, Pa.
Sporting clays is the reason a small crowd of mostly men clad in brown and green gather here, but I am here to witness a group of gun-toting women show all of us how much they enjoy this sport, and each other’s friendship as well. The local chapter of Girls Really Into Shooting (G.R.I.T.S.) is a group of local women who are, well, really into shooting.
As I ride around in the camouflaged ATV with this group of women, I am taken by both their passion for the sport of shooting and their love of the outdoors.
Miriam Meglan, director of the local G.R.I.T.S. group, recalls her first trip to the range as a bystander a few years ago. She absolutely loved the people. The camaraderie of the women was nothing like she had seen before and she enjoyed the social aspect that the group had to offer. Meglan decided to come back, and for her first few months she rented a gun and took lessons from an instructor at Orvis Hill Country. It quick-ly became clear this was something she wanted to con-tinue to do. That Christmas, Miriam received her own shot-gun as a gift from her husband, who also shoots, and she was well on her way to spending weekends on the range.
G.R.I.T.S., locally and nationally, includes women from all walks of life who have at least one thing in common: a pas-sion for shooting sports. Their membership is diverse, ranging from twentysomething mothers to empty-nesters, grandmothers and everyone in between. Skill level ranges from novices to the sharpest of shooters, but they pride themselves by being tightly bound by friendship. Each chapter boasts a safe and encouraging place for beginners to learn as well as a more-challenging environment for experienced shooters.
The local chapter of G.R.I.T.S. is made up of about 12 women. Liza Theleman, one of the local regulars has been shooting with G.R.I.T.S. for over eight years, used to drive to northcentral Maryland to shoot before places like Orvis Hill Country were open for business locally. Theleman’s family belonged to the Isaak Walton League in Poolesville, where her husband oversaw the shotgun range. She explains how she had been shoot-ing with her family for 36 years before G.R.I.T.S. came along. “If I could shoot my shotgun every day, I would,” she says with a laugh. It is obvious she isn’t kid-ding. “Shooting is a really big thing in Frederick” and “folks around here not only shoot for fun but for charity as well.” The women explain to me quite a few of the shooting events they attend help support local charities, such as Mission of Mercy.
Kim Selby, who is also shoot-ing this day, has been with G.R.I.T.S. for more five years. She was brought in by Theleman and, once introduced, she absolutely loved the group. Selby, who is the executive assistant of special events at the Frederick County YMCA, has taken her passion to others. She helped even create a “Clays For Kids” charity event to help support the YMCA.
G.R.I.T.S. only has two rules: Members have to be female and there is no keeping score. That’s it. There are 19 chapters of G.R.I.T.S. across the country with more adding. When you join G.R.I.T.S. you become a member of every G.R.I.T.S. chapter and are invited to shoot at any of their locations or events. Being a G.R.I.T.S. member allows women to have access to events and dis-counts for products and shooting destinations at various locations throughout the country.
It is obvious watching these women that what matters most while they are on the range is having fun. “There are no score cards. We don’t keep score,” Meglan says. “This is all about fun. G.R.I.T.S. exist to encourage and help others get better by not being competitive.” Miriam says shooting can be challenging and not very easy to master, but with the support of the other women it is something they all can pursue and grow their skills and friendships.
The women recently took a trip to attend a group shoot at the Hudson Valley Shooting Sports range in upstate New York. There, they spent the weekend shooting and learning from many other women of all ability levels. “It was a great two days of shoot-ing with friends,” Selby says. “Just being with all the other ladies. You just don’t get the same type of encouragement when you shoot with primarily men.”
The women tell me there are specific instructors just for female shooters at these events; they train them on equipment made specifically for women. Both Selby and Meglan have guns made specifically for women. Selby shoots a 12-gauge Syren shotgun while Meglan has a 20-gauge Syren. Syren is a brand of shotguns made specifically for women with a mission of being able to provide equipment and knowledge that make the shoot-ing experience more enjoyable and less stressful for females.
The local chapter of G.R.I.T.S. is a growing organization. The more members it gets, the more opportunities for shooting it will offer in the future. Each chapter meets about once a month to shoot mainly sporting clays, although some chapters occasion-ally organize outings that involve shooting game birds in flight.
As we wrap up at Orvis Hill Country, there is no denying the spirit of the G.R.I.T.S. women. They make me laugh and they pique my interest in this cool sport they call “golf with guns.” If I learned anything this morning with the G.R.I.T.S. women, it is that competitions can surely take the fun out of a great day in the woods. With laughter and camaraderie and no one judging, maybe there is a lesson to be learned here for all of us.