NRA Women have long known that a Venn diagram exists among the various outdoor pursuits, whether it’s hunting, fishing, shooting, camping or hiking. So how do we better unite the many women outdoor enthusiasts who share these common interests? An article recently published in The Outdoor Wire shed light on how two groups—one a private venture and the other a state government agency—have accomplished this mission.
How Did They Do It?
The Law Enforcement Section of the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division (WFF) and Ladies Who Hike recently joined forces when, last spring, the group was invited to attend WWF’s Introduction to Handguns course. The class provided basic tips on firearm safety and storage as well as shooting range experience. Most of the members who attended were handling a firearm for the first time.
Ladies Who Hike was founded in 2017 by Brittney Davis, who created the hiking group to provide a community for women in the Birmingham area in which they could share a variety of adventures. Members are treated to 12 yearly local and regional hikes, as well as an annual trip and other outdoors-related experiences. The group has grown to 125 members and has traveled extensively throughout the Southeast.
“Ladies Who Hike was started when I went on a solo hike,” Davis said. “I had the idea to invite other women along and make a day out of it. The group grew organically from there. My motivation is to have a community and sisterhood where like-minded, positive women can come together and enjoy nature.”
As a Girl Scout growing up in Mobile, Alabama, Davis said she enjoyed camping and all things nature related. In addition to hiking trips, Davis said she takes inspiration from her time as a Scout to help introduce other women to new outdoors experiences.
The four-hour handgun course in which the women participated is taught at various WFF public shooting ranges throughout the state, ideal for those with an interest in learning how to fire a handgun in a safe, family friendly environment, says Davis. All firearms, ammunition and eye and ear protection are provided, but attendees are required to have a Wildlife Heritage License to participate.
“I believe gun safety is very important, and I wanted to provide my ladies an opportunity to learn how to use a firearm properly and get comfortable using a gun,” Davis said. “Many of our women said it gave them the confidence to go and purchase their own gun.” She says the class was perfectly structured for her first-timers.
Participant Tiffany Morris of Ensley, Alabama, said she joined Ladies Who Hike for the sense of community it offers women looking to explore the outdoors. “I enjoy hiking,” she said. “But I don’t always want to go by myself.” Hiking and shooting sports were not a part of her childhood, and she had never fired a gun prior to attending the class. She now says Morris said her experience has sparked an interest in target shooting, and plans to practice her new skills at one of the WFF public shooting ranges in the future.
“The instructors taught us how to stand and how to hold a firearm while using it,” she said, while also learning about the correct type of ear protection and safety glasses, and proper range attire. "Learning how important it is to focus on the target and your breath was also a surprise.”
Sgt. Scott Kellenberger, WFF’s Hunter Education Coordinator for District 2 in northeast Alabama, was the lead firearms instructor during the group's visit to the Cahaba River Wildlife Management Area (WMA) Shooting Range near Helena, Alabama, earlier this year. He covered topics like safe handling and storage of firearms, range safety and etiquette, stance, grip, sight alignment, and trigger press and reset. Students also gain an understanding of how the purchase of a hunting, fishing or Wildlife Heritage license helps support conservation efforts in the state.
Kellenberger said they spend about two of the four hours shooting (with frequent breaks offered), with each shooter assigned her own instructor. “That one-on-one instruction isn’t something you’ll experience in most firearms classes," he said.
While the class is aimed at new gun owners, Kellenberger also recommends it for those who might need a refresher course.
“Even if you are a longtime, well-trained gun owner, there is always something new to learn,” said Kellenberger. “The course teaches lifelong firearms safety habits to new shooters and is a great way for experienced shooters to sharpen their skills. It’s also an excellent way to make new friends who share an interest in shooting and supporting conservation efforts within our state.”
For a schedule of future classes, visit outdooralabama.com/programs/firearms-101-introduction-handguns.
To learn more about Ladies Who Hike, visit ladieswhohike.org.