Jo Ann Keegan, Vicky Heine and Ginny Esposito are three local women on a mission.

Jo Ann Keegan, Vicky Heine and Ginny Esposito are three local women on a mission.

"I grew up with guns all my life. I belong to the Middletown Pistol & Rifle Association and I'm also vice-president, as well. As a member of the club, I noticed right away that there were no women in the club," says Heine.

Therein lies the problem with many fish and game clubs. Even those that have women members, it's usually nothing more than a token amount. These women want to change that, knowing that women who see others getting involved may be inclined to give it a try themselves.

"Women aren't involved enough. I feel like New York needs the support of our women to keep our heritage and love of the outdoors and shooting sports going," Keegan says.

Keegan has been active in shooting sports for nearly 10 years now. Her passion runs deep.

Esposito is the same way.

"My father raised us to appreciate the shooting sports," she says. "He felt it was very important for us to understand how to handle firearms. As I had children, both my son and daughter were taught safe gun handling, as well.,"

The void these women see is real. Where does a woman go if she's interested or even curious about learning the shooting sports? What venues are there to encourage that kind of interest?

According to the National Shooting Sports Federation (, women are the fastest growing segment of shooting sports participants. They may not always hunt, but many women find enjoyment in recreational and competitive pistol, rifle and shotgun shoots.

While there is more of a push to encourage women to take up shooting and outdoor sports in general, there are only a few events for them. Clubs that do hold women-oriented events don't hold enough of them during the year. I say one or two events are just not enough.

So Keegan, Heine and Esposito organized and held their first "women-only" sporting event. Their Women's Educational Outdoor Sports Program at the Middletown Pistol & Rifle Association ran a few weeks ago and 10 women attended. You need to start somewhere, and this was a great way to get the ball rolling.

Instructors from the Middletown Pistol & Rifle Association provided the women with instruction on safe firearm handling and marksmanship. Few of the women who attended had any prior experience with firearms.

When I asked them what they thought the main reason was for lack of women participating in shooting sports, all three said the same thing: negative media coverage.

Another reason is that "a lot of women are intimidated by the men," says Heine. They also contend that many women who do shoot are better than men. I wouldn't argue with that.

Their plans include asking for more clubs to host "just for women" seminars and outings.

One event per month per club is the vision Heine articulates for the group.

If you're a club member and want to do more, contact either Heine at 845-782-0048, or Keegan at 845-361-4358.

Giving women more opportunities to experience the shooting sports, along with other outdoor venues, is critical to the long-term health of our shooting future. It won't happen unless you just do it.

David Dirks' outdoors column appears weekly. Readers can download the DirksOutdoors podcast show from his Web site