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Community Portrait: Crack sharpshooter helps women build their skills

Community Portrait
By: Story and photo Michael Kirby
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Patricia McLelland-Merydith is a petite woman, 54 years old, maybe stands 5-feet-3 inches tall, weighs 109 soaking wet, is kind and polite. Nothing about McLelland-Merydith’s appearance or personality would lead anyone to believe that she is an expert with the 12-gauge shotgun in her hands. She grew up one of seven children and learned to hunt and fish at an early age from her father, Estle McLelland, who hunted and fished to supplement his family’s food budget with the game he brought home. “My dad worked hard in construction and almost every day he would come home, then go hunt or fish whatever was in season, and that’s what we would eat. He had seven kids to feed,” McLelland-Merydith said. McLelland-Merydith hunted with her father and learned these outdoor skills right alongside her brothers. She also learned how to cook the game her father brought home for family meals from her mother, Lechaire. “My mom was so good at cooking game that sometimes we didn’t know we were eating deer,” she said. McLelland-Merydith loves everything cowboy. She loves old western movies, likes the rodeo; the décor in her Foresthill home has a western theme. She loves being outdoors and sleeps in a specially designed open outdoor bedroom overlooking her backyard acreage five months of the year. McLelland-Merydith always had an interest in trap shooting but would just watch as men shot at the small clay targets that zipped in front of them. That all changed in 2002 when McLelland-Merydith decided, “I can do that,” and first visited the Auburn Trap Club just outside of town to try her hand at trapshooting. Being a woman in a male-dominated sport was not always easy for McLelland-Merydith, and doors were not often opened easily for her. But slowly with her skillful ability at trapshooting and outgoing personality she was welcomed in the trap shooting clubs alongside the men. McLelland-Merydith competes in 20 to 25 shooting competitions a year and has won many awards for her shooting abilities, competing right alongside men in her division. This weekend she will again compete in the California State Trapshooting Association’s yearly top competition in Lincoln. In 2005 McLelland-Merydith put on her first “Women on Target” shooting clinic designed especially to help women feel comfortable and safe with firearms. The clinic was a success and on June 18 at Coon Creek Trap & Skeet Club in Lincoln, McLelland-Merydith will put on her ninth National Rifle Association Women on Target Instructional Shooting Clinic. On average 75 women sign up to learn how to safely use a shotgun and how to trap shoot. “The clinic is a hands-on introduction to shot gunning and teaches women gun safety and etiquette. So many women are intimated by a shotgun,” said McLelland-Merydith. Everything needed is supplied, including loaner shotguns, shells and clay targets. Hundreds of women have attended McLelland-Merydith’s clinics and have gained confidence in shooting sports, some becoming active trap shooters. McLelland-Merydith is a lifetime member of the NRA, a certified NRA shotgun instructor, former firearms salesperson, has been featured in shotgun magazines and her clinics have been featured in NRA literature. She lives in Foresthill with her husband Rod, who also trap shoots. “For me it’s all about passing this knowledge and skill to others, especially family,” said McLelland-Merydith. “I owe all of my passion for shooting to my dad, even today, he’s 80 and I still enjoy watching him shoot.” Complete information on attending McLelland-Merydith’s clinic can be obtained by calling (530) 367-3336 or at wot.patricia@yahoo.com.