Carol Emsley has a concealed weapons permit. But that doesn't mean she is comfortable with the handling of her gun.
When she heard from a friend that the Hernando Sportsman's Club was holding a Ladies' Day to introduce women to gun sports, she was immediately interested.
She and a group of five from Citrus County came together last month to spend the day getting an instructional peek at different shooting opportunities with various types of firearms.
"The repetition was good for me," Emsley said.
According to a Gallup poll, conducted in 2011 of self-reported gun owners, 47 percent of American adults have a firearm somewhere in their household. That is the highest number since 1993. Out of that number, 23 percent were women who reported that they owned a personal firearm.
The Hernando Sportsman's Club, which is committed to educating the public on firearm safety, recognizes that gun ownership among women is on the rise. In October 2011, the club held its first Ladies' Day event designed to introduce women to gun sports in a controlled environment.
Ladies' Day was such a hit that the club held a similar event this year, on Sept. 29. Again, the response was overwhelming, forcing the club to close registration at the beginning of August.
Diane Rickert, the club's treasurer and a main organizer for the event, said walk-ins that showed up at the gate were admitted. She also said 99 women were in attendance at the first safety briefing at 8:30 a.m. Some were even signing up for next year's event.
Ladies' Day took place between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. and ran safety briefings every half hour before participants were allowed unlimited access to seven different shooting stations. Each was guided by range officers who provided one-on-one instruction.
The $20 registration fee included ammunition, use of the guns and unlimited access to the stations and could be applied to a full club membership at a later date.
Diane Rickert spent part of Ladies' Day selling tickets for a drawing to benefit Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and their ground-breaking research on childhood cancers.
Sitting at a booth under the local charities banner, Rickert and Lisa Morgan, the 4-H program coordinator at the club, pitched the drawing to visitors. Displayed were two handguns, donated by Bullseye Gun Shop in Brooksville.
The club doesn't get behind many charities, Rickert said. But this one donates all the proceeds to fund childhood cancer research. Only 100 tickets were available at $25.
Rickert said Ladies' Day took a collaborated effort of volunteers to pull off. And response was positive.
Kim Brooks, while not a novice shooter, still wanted more practice using various types of guns in different shooting environments.
"I really liked the defensive shooting," Brooks added, "and being able to learn how to react with situations."
Kimberly Clay, who attended with Brooks, hadn't fired a gun in 20 years. "I really liked the steel stage shooting," she said. "Now I'm looking forward to coming again."
The Hernando Sportsman's Club is located at U.S. 19 in northern Hernando County. The range offers many practice opportunities for shooting.
Ladies' Day stations included Handgun Introduction, Plinking, Steel Stage Shooting, Cowboy Action Shooting, Bowling Pin, Practical Pistol Shooting (sponsored by the United States Practical Shooting Association, USPSA) and Defensive Pistol Shooting (sponsored by the International Pistol Association, IDPA).
Each station provided expert guidance from Hernando Sportsman's Club range officers.
Barbara Macocellum never pulled a gun trigger before. "I am a newbie," she said. "I wanted to get the different feels of different guns because I eventually want to get my concealed weapons permit."
Macocellum attended the event with her friend, Stephanie Russ, both from Inverness. Russ had some experience shooting and owns a gun. Still, she wanted to become more comfortable with weapon handling.
In the trap field, Angel Bess from Spring Hill and Ann Wajerski from Tarpon Springs were preparing to try their skill at trap shooting. Trap and skeet shooting use clay disks. For trap, the disk is tossed upward while skeet disks are tossed in horizontally. Shooters use a shotgun to hit the target.
Bess is a member of the club with her husband and enticed Wajerski to join her for the event.
Wajerski watched as Bess tried her skill. "They always seem to hit the first one," she said with a laugh.
"That's because they think about it after that," chimed in Ken Morgan, a range officer for the club. "(Ladies' Day) gives them an opportunity to come out here and shoot by themselves," he said.
Bess surprised the observers by breaking the pattern and hitting the target all three times. "I've done it once before," Bess admitted, "with my husband, my son and my daughter."
But it was her first time attending Ladies' Day. She was impressed. "It is very organized," she said.
"I love it that the husbands aren't here to tell you that you did it wrong," Bess added with a laugh.
Joe Coleman, a shotgun range officer at the club, said the event was a great way to get the women to feel comfortable handling a shotgun. "All four of you shot," he said, gesturing to the group. "Did it kill you? And that's the point. You want to have fun."