Firearms sports are enjoying a surge of interest among local women, as the West Kootenay Ladies Shooting Group (WKLSG) finds its footing to teach members the safe handling and shooting of firearms and bows in a non-competitive environment.
Founder of the not-for profit group, Amber Berukoff, began shooting just four years ago after taking a job at a local gun shop, Cantac Firearms. Today she is the owner of that shop and president of the Castlegar Pistol Club. It was while visiting firing ranges almost daily to obtain her range officers certification she noticed the ratio of men to women in the sport could be as high as 100 to one, and wondered if there was a way to attract more women to the sport.
She said the male-dominated shooting community has only been supportive of her own journey, but understood the gender gap could be off-putting to many first-time female shooters.
“Firearms are already intimidating enough,” Berukoff said. “I know a lot of women who don’t want to learn from a whole bunch of men, and that does stop a lot of women from entering into it. So I thought, ‘if I can create a comfortable start for them, as soon as they get their footing they’ll be confident enough to go out on their own.'”
Today the club has a membership of 387 women who meet regularly at the Castlegar Pistol Range and the West Kootenay Marksman in Trail. This summer the group will also be meeting at the Silver City Trap and Skeet Club.
Although attendance is currently limited due to social distancing requirements, the club hosts roughly four shoots per month.
WKLSC separates itself from other clubs by putting education ahead of the social and recreational aspects of the sport. Whether a member is focused on hunting, target shooting, or competition, the club aims to build members’ confidence and competence through skills and safety training by other certified members. The social and recreational aspects of the club flow out naturally from there.
“It’s a learning group,” Berukoff said. “What’s really nice to see … I’ve noticed that the confidence they get from shooting flows into other aspects of their lives,” Berukoff said.
“Even when you go to get your firearms licence, it’s just practical learning. They do not teach you how to actually fire the gun. I think that’s something you should know. It’s about safety.”
First-time shooters do not need a firearms licence to join the club, and are welcome to drop in for a free introduction to the sport.
The club holds regular fundraisers to provide free classes for young women aspiring to get licenced, and to buy its own firearms and bows for members to use.
Visit the West Kootenay Ladies Shooting Club website for more information at www.wklsg.net.