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The elder stateswomen of local trapshooting

Discussion in 'Uncategorized Threads' started by Joe Potosky, Jan 3, 2008.

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  1. Joe Potosky

    Joe Potosky Well-Known Member

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    The elder stateswomen of local trapshooting

    By AD CRABLE, Outdoor Trails
    Lancaster New Era - Lancaster Online

    LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. - Snow was melting and giving off a vapory fog not conducive to picking up 4½-inch round orange clay pigeons zipping through the air at various angles at 40 to 50 miles per hour.

    Nevertheless, 79-year-old Eloise Gouge stepped into position among a group of men, some of whom were not yet born when she began busting clays, and shattered 24 of 25 at 16 yards with her single-barrel 12-gauge shotgun.

    In a second round, farther away, she hit 18 of 25. Even though it was her first shoot since surgery to remove cataracts and drooping eyelids, she was not pleased.

    Gouge, known affectionately as Miss Ellie to the 72 other shooters at the trapshoot this day at the Southern Lancaster County Farmers-Sportsman Association near Quarryville, was one of five female shooters over 60 at the club.

    These doyennes of the Pen-Mar League are welcome and able members of their clubs. Most have traveled similar routes to be here.

    Like many of the others, Gouge, of Darlington, Md., got tired of staying home when her husband would grab his gun for weekly hunts or trap shoots.

    A retired secretary to the director at the Army's Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Gouge began hunting pheasants and squirrels with her husband. But she didn't enjoy the killing and tried her hand at shooting artificial birds.

    Only 5-foot-2 and a wispy 136 pounds, she developed a keen eye and became one of the best shooters in her club in the 1950s.

    She once broke 199 out of 200 clay pigeons and is the only woman at a York County club to ever hit 100 straight. One year, she was Maryland's state lady's champion.

    Last year, when she was 78, Ellie busted 558 out of 600 clay birds during the league season, becoming the first woman to win the league's High Senior Veterans championship.

    "It's something you can do with the family and something you can do for yourself. It's a perfect sport," she says before a shoot dressed in a baseball cap, blue jeans and turquoise earrings.

    Like every other woman shooter I interviewed, Miss Ellie says the most rewarding attribute of the sport is its "fellowship and friendship."

    Vickie Ruhl is a longtime fellow member of the Cedar Gun Club. The 65-year-old Elizabethtown woman just recently shelved her shotgun after being told if she continued to shoot she would require surgery to repair a bulging disc in her neck.

    Like Gouge, she, too, refused to become a shooting widow.

    "I got tired of sitting and knitting," she laughs. "I said, 'I can do this.'" And she did for more than 20 years, roaming almost every weekend year-round to shoots as far away as Florida and Ohio.

    In 1996, she was the Pennsylvania state runner-up for women and earned a spot on the state team at the Grand American national shoot in Ohio.

    She, too, once hit 100 straight shots.

    Sitting at shoots, watching the other women she long competed against hitting clays, is sometimes torture for the licensed practical nurse at Masonic Village.

    "There are times when I say, 'I should get out there and shoot. I can beat that person.' But I can't."

    At age 47, Linda Szafraniec of Bel Air, Md., discovered something about herself: "I liked it best when I saw something break."

    She started shooting plastic jugs filled with water at gun ranges. Eventually, she and her fellow chemist husband at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds found their way to a trapshooting league in 1987.

    She bought a used shotgun at a gun show. She couldn't see over the top of the barrel and had to hold her head up to see.

    The first time she shot she went 0 for 25 and bruised her face. The second round she hit three. She kept trying.

    Now 60, she shoots a double-barrel Prazzi and has earned her way into a Grand American nationwide shoot. She's won Maryland state champion women's titles in various categories in 1998, 1999, 2002, 2003 and 2005. She was on the Maryland state team in 2006.

    In trapshooting, she says when asked to describe the allure, "You're really competing against yourself. It's really a mental game."

    Agrees trapshooter Gale Wallace, 61, of Oxford, "A lot of it depends on the weather. You think about the cold. The mind moves and wanders sometimes."

    Mary Sue Zdenek's father shot trap until he was 93. The 66-year-old woman from Havre de Grace, Md., is following in his footsteps.

    Her father got her started when she was 16, even though she was scared of guns. "I was reluctant but after I got started I just couldn't stop," she says.

    She missed 18 months after undergoing treatment in 2004 for ovarian cancer. "I got a lot of support from the shooting community," she says.

    Shooting trap is addictive, she offers. "It's seeing the target break and when you don't break them you want to go back and try again."
     
  2. Robb

    Robb Member

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    Did Eloise enjoy shooting at the Lynchburg Ohio club? If so I remember her well. Quite a lady. Is she still shooting the Lujtic?
     
  3. Inkspot Kelly's Great-Nephew

    Inkspot Kelly's Great-Nephew TS Member

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    This is a great article and I have the honor and privilege of knowing all of these fine shooters. Keep it up ladies!!!

    Dave Shaeffer, Sr.
     
  4. Barrelbulge(Fl)

    Barrelbulge(Fl) TS Supporters TS Supporters

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    Terrific!! They should be an inspiration to all of us. Mike.
     
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