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 By Sarah Brubeck

Valley News Staff Writer

Monday, May 6, 2013 

(Published in print: Monday, May 6, 2013)


West Lebanon — Heidi Gouger, of Swanzey, N.H., held the stock of a shotgun against her right shoulder and aimed at an orange clay target as it flew through the sky.


Gouger missed the target, which fell to the ground and crumbled to pieces.


“No, I don’t like it. I don’t even want to fire it again,” Gouger said as she handed the firearm to her instructor.


Gouger was more than five dozen women who signed up for the first-ever Ladies Only Range Day at the Grafton County Fish and Game Association range off Trues Brook Road in West Lebanon.


The idea came to fruition when Bill LaPan and his wife, Stacia, were having lunch with female friends and told them how much like they like to shoot trap.

Her friends’ interests were piqued, but said they would be intimidated to shoot with men around.


So the range day for women was born. The event was free and club members donated ammunition and their time. The day was split into three stations: handguns, rifles and shotguns. LaPan was expecting 10 to 15 women to sign up, but yesterday, 62 women were prepared to shoot.


By the end of the day yesterday, LaPan and other club members were already making plan for the women-only range day.


Many attendees, including Sandi Gould, of Plainfield, signed up yesterday because she didn’t want her husband to teach her.


“It’s like when you try to teach your kid how to drive. It doesn’t work,” Gould said. “But when somebody else teaches your kid to drive, it works.”



 Both Tina LaPan’s husband and son were instructing the rifle station yesterday, and she said they’re both good instructors, but she often gets frustrated learning from people she knows.


“I told my husband that 60 women showing up should tell men something. (Women) want to shoot but we don’t want to do it when men are around,” she said.


Tina LaPan suggested women-only hours once a week.


“I think you’d get a lot of women who would try it if they knew it would be us girls here,” she said.


Each woman’s experience yesterday varied.



Jaime Kingsbury, of North Hartland, and Stacey Kingsbury, of White River Junction, both attended because their husbands want to teach their children how to hunt.


“I have two boys and they want to hunt like daddy. So I need to do it. I need to get comfortable,” said Stacey Kingsbury, who has 7-and 8-year-old sons.


Others, such as Debbie Hickey, of Hartland, who has been shooting for 38 years, and her daughter, Candi Gates, of Hartford, have been shooting all their lives.


Hickey said she thinks every person should take a gun safety class, whether they intend to hunt or not.


“Safety can only be taught to the ones who want to learn,” Hickey said.


Both Hickey and Gates agreed that if more people learned how to shoot properly, then the tone of the gun control conversation would change. Hickey and Gates both said they’re in favor of background checks, but said they believe that even if guns are outlawed, people who want to commit horrific crimes would still be able to get their hands on guns.


“There is always going to be those people who are going to try to ruin it,” Gates said. “But I think the majority of the people out there want to be responsible and they want to be able to have a good time and that’s all they’re looking for.”


And while Gouger, the woman from Swanzey, N.H., didn’t have much luck with the shotgun, her friend Julia Lynch, of Canaan, was a natural.


But before she picked up the shotgun, she was jittery.


“I feel this is going to be multi-tasking at its finest. This is frightening. It scares me because I don’t know how hard it’s going to kick,” Lynch said as she watched her friend.


But when Lynch aimed the shotgun and fired at the clay target, it broke into pieces in mid air.


Lynch turned her head, mouth agape and looked at her friend.


“I like it!” Lynch said.


It was Lynch’s first time firing a shotgun, but she hit her first five targets.


After hitting seven targets in a row, Lynch yelled, “I love this sport!”


Lynch and Gouger have a “mainly gun relationship.” They met for the first time in March when they both signed up for a pistol class.


When it was time to try the pistols, Gouger would only touch one gun: a Ruger SR22 pistol. It was the pistol her husband bought her for Christmas.


Other women in the group tried a lighter Ruger .22 caliber revolver or a Glock 17. But not Gouger.


Although Gouger has taken a basic pistol class, yesterday was the first time she shot her Ruger SR22 pistol.


“I’m building a relationship with my gun,” Gouger said. “Today is all about my gun. I was a little nervous the first time.”


Nearby, a group of women stood to the side and watched others as they shot. Two of the women wore dark pink hearing protectors resembling earmuffs, while another woman wore light pink.


“I’m so glad to see others with pink ear things,” said Lisa Ott, of Lebanon, who was also wearing bright pink ear protectors to block out the reverberating sound of the shotguns.


Ott grew up in a hunting family, but her brothers didn’t let her participate because they said she would talk too much. Her first experience with a handgun was eight years ago when she took a class through the National Rifle Association.


“I think women are more intimidated by shooting around men,” Ott said. “If a man is shooting, then he’s probably a good shot. Women need that different range of experience. It just makes you feel more comfortable.”


When it was time to shoot rifles, many of the women showed the same insecurities as they did when they picked up their first shot gun.


“Why would this be fun?” Gouger said to Lynch as they watched other women prepare their rifles.


The rifle station was set up so that the women shot at a mound of dirt with purple, blue, green and pink balloons attached to a yellow line. The balloons served as the target, so it was obvious whether or not a shooter was successful. The balloons swayed with the breeze, adding to the challenge.


But Gouger and Lynch found the rifle shooting relaxing. The women were able to sit down and brace their rifles on a stand. Once they had the target in their sights, they were told to take a deep breath, partially exhale and then click the trigger.


“Oh my gosh, I loved that,” Gouger said as she headed back to the lodge for lunch. “I’m going to go home and tell my husband I want a rifle.”


Sarah Brubeck can be reached at or 603-727-3223.