By David O. Chung
CFO On Target Defensive Training

Nestled in the Southern Rockies of North East New Mexico, sits the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) Whittington Shooting Center near the small town of Raton.  The Whittington Shooting Center is NRA’s gem of all shooting facilities, and covers more than thirty thousand acres of wildlife sanctuaries and shooting ranges of all different venues.  It is truly a magnificent place for any shooting enthusiast to hone their shooting skills for pistol, rifle, and archery, muzzle loading, including outdoor and camping activities.One of the major events that have been going on for the last three years at the Whittington Shooting Center is the Women’s Wilderness Experience.  This event is sponsored by the NRA, and specifically targets women of all ages from different social backgrounds, different professions and lifestyles who have never participated in any shooting activities.  This year we had over one hundred women sign up for this three week event.  Included, were thirty instructors to help with instruction, logistics and communications.  Each instructor was hand picked for their expertise in shooting skills, and ability to give personal attention to detail.

Every woman who participated had various reasons for attending this program.  Some had personal stories that were happy, sad, tragic, and out of the ordinary.  But one thing was certain.  They all wanted to learn, “what was this thing about shooting guns, and self defense”?

It was quite interesting teaching many of the older women who have never held a gun their entire lives.  You could see the excitement in this one lady’s face when we took her to the long range rifle venue.  She hit a steel buffalo with a 308. at fifteen hundred yards!  At eighty one years of age, she actually jumped for joy, and almost clicked her heels!  Really!  What a sight to behold.  But she wasn’t the only one celebrating new found skills in the shooting world.

In the end, everyone had a great time.  The fun and camaraderie each person experienced created friendships among strangers that would last a lifetime.  The education they had about the shooting world changed a lot of stereotypes these women had about guns.

Spending three weeks learning how to shoot for these women wasn’t easy.  During the three weeks of training, it was a comprehensive program that started with the basics, beginning with classes for each shooting venue.  The groups of women were divided into four tribes, and rotated through each venue starting with archery, and then moving through revolver, pistol, rifle, long range rifle, shotgun, concealed carry, and finally auto trials.  Yes! The women were taught how to shoot fully automatic guns.  The smile on their faces was unforgettable!

When it came to camping and outdoor activities, a whole world of survival skills really opened the eyes of women who had no idea that a person can live off the land.  The tools, tricks and common sense training that were applied to their experience had a profound meaning of, “living in the wild”, and not relying on civilization to come to the rescue. Simple things like lighting a fire, building a shelter and hunting skills made a big impression on women who grew up in large metropolitan cities.

Because of the nature of the Wilderness Experience, the NRA has also included the rituals of Native Americans where participants can experience what it is like to partake of Native American Customs of ancient times.  One of the sacred rituals women can choose to participate in is the Making of Relatives Ceremony.  This is done by the Lakota Sioux people called Hunka.  A Hunka relative is considered to be closer than a blood relative.  For Hunka are our spirit relatives.  In this belief, we are connected in the above world, and remember each other in this one.  In the old days the wilderness family is the measure of wealth to Native Americans.

Next year’s event will be announced this winter.  Just go to the NRA website, and click on the WWE Women’s Wilderness Experience.

I was impressed at the professionalism of all the instructors, and the safety that was ingrained into the entire program.  This was a truly significant event for anyone who wanted to learn the hard core reality of shooting, weather it be for hunting, self defense, sport or competition.

So if you are a woman who wants a little excitement in your life, and want to experience what the shooting, camping, and outdoor lifestyle is all about,  may I suggest that you contact the NRA, and investigate the Women’s Wilderness Experience for yourself.  I guarantee, you will be pleasantly surprised.

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