Elizabeth Lanier, owner of Lanier Shooting Sports, is a National Sporting Clays Association (NSCA) Level III shooting instructor and an all-around lover of all things wingshooting and clay shooting. I recently had the opportunity to chat with her about how she was introduced to the sports, and her advice to women who are interested in becoming involved.
Britney: Please tell us about your background in upland bird hunting and clay shooting. How did you get started?
Elizabeth: Years ago I gave a guy who was an avid wingshooter his first actual shooting lesson with a local instructor, Henry Baskerville. Henry insisted that I give it a try as well, and so I did. The result of that first lesson is very apparent today, as it was, over time, going to be a sport I not only learned to love, but also led into a career in the shotgun sports. How is that for [that] “the rest is history” saying we hear so often?
Britney: Please tell us about the Girls Really Into Shooting (GRITS) group and why you started it.
Elizabeth: I started the GRITS about nine years ago after coming home from a shoot in Scotland, in an effort to find a few other women to shoot with. While there, I discovered that shooting shotguns was going to be my new hobby. In other words, doing it more than three to five times a year. I wanted to try to shoot at least once a month while my kids were in school.
I found a few ladies who wanted to participate, and the more I talked about how much fun we were having, the more folks wanted to try. I remember driving to my son’s private school after a quail hunt one day, and walking into the school still dressed [for] the morning hunt. Some of the other moms were looking at me like, “Who is this redneck?” I had on my LeChameau boots, tan cords, and a blaze orange and tan Filson hunting coat. I obviously had not been on the tennis courts. Funny how the times have changed—and for the best! I think sometimes it is hard to step out of the box and try something new, but if you lead, others will follow.
The GRITS therefore became a mission of mine; to help women understand the sport of shotgunning. To help them understand it isn’t just a man’s game, it’s not just about hunting, and that they, too, might enjoy it if they are willing to give it a “shot.”
Britney: What’s the most memorable upland bird hunt you’ve been a part of, and why?
Elizabeth: It’s hard to narrow it down to one memorable hunt. They all have had their special moments. We have had so many trips that just went miserably wrong, and yet we made the most of them all.
My first trip to Argentina for dove hunting was in 2002 and [it] started with the airplane having mechanical difficulties at Dulles International Airport before we left the USA. This bad luck continued right through to the electricity going out while I was in the shower, shampooing my hair, getting ready to go home. Naturally, the well pump shut down, and 45 minutes later, I got to finish my shower. Did I mention that I was the only woman on this trip with 16 men? When my husband said he was going, I was not about to left behind. The other men all said they wished their wives loved to shoot as much as I did.
The next big trip was when I took 14 women to Argentina. While flying into the country, Santiago, Chile had a massive earthquake. Yes, we were going to Argentina, but we were flying on LAN, which is headquartered in Santiago. In all the chaos (unannounced to us) while changing planes in Peru, our luggage did not make the connection because all the transfer records went down; our luggage (including guns) was lost in transit. Three days later, our guns arrived, one full day ahead of our clothes. We were slated to travel in Cordoba for two days prior to hunting with an English interpreter, who failed to show up as well. We were happy to, at least, start shooting—dirty clothes and all. All 14 women made the best of the worst of situations, laughed the entire time, and when our clothes finally got there, we celebrated by drinking champagne and jumping into the pool, clean clothes and all.
Every time I take a new group of ladies (often first-timers) to wingshoot, the pleasure for me personally is derived from knowing that I have introduced another group of ladies to the sport and to watch as they hoot, holler, and celebrate every successful shot. It’s quite a sight to see.
I’ve taken women to Oregon, West Virginia, Kentucky, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina to hunt birds. It’s always fun, and the women, even those who are a bit wary of shooting a “live” bird, come away hooked. I always say, “Wait ’til you pull the first feathers, and I guarantee you will be more than ready to pull the trigger on the next bird that flies!”
Britney: What’s your favorite species of upland bird to hunt?
Elizabeth: If it flies, it dies. That about sums up my thinking, and those who know me have heard me say it hundreds of times. I love the beauty of a great quail hunt, and I am just as enamored with driven pheasants—so much so that I often work as a loader on other groups’ driven shoots, just to be a part of the experience.
Britney: What’s your favorite piece of upland hunting gear?
Elizabeth: I am all about all of the gear. [Everything] serves its purpose. I love my English tweeds and LeChameau boots for driven shooting, I love my shotgun shell/game bag belt made by Upland Ranger, and several of my hunting vests and coats, from those with blaze orange to leather. I also have to admit that last year I got introduced, and thus addicted, to duck hunting. I had to eat my words and buy camo duck gear. I have to confess, I love wearing my waders and full camo into those blinds and onto points of land hidden, ready, and waiting—and warm!
Britney: What’s your preferred shotgun for upland hunting, and what’s your favorite for clay shooting?
Elizabeth: I have been taught a saying by a very dear friend and fellow shooter Richard LeHew, “If you can’t be with the gun you love, love the gun you are with.” There are no truer words for me. I have gotten to the stage where I can pick up pretty much anything and shoot it, but have found I love shooting dove with a 20 gauge semiauto if I am in Argentina and a 20 gauge over-and-under or side-by-side in the States. I have hunted quail with all gauges, but had a chance one year to shoot a .410 side-by-side with two over two. The top two barrels had hammers, and after the top two barrels shot, the bottom two would fire. I will never forget being asked if I wanted to try it, and naturally I said, “Sure, duh!” When the next covey flushed, I hit three out of four quail. The gun’s owner quickly took it back, and I was very reluctant to let it go. He jokingly said no woman would show him up with his own gun. I am sure it was “new gun luck,” as the saying goes.
Britney: Any advice for women who are new to upland hunting or clay shooting? Where would be a good place for them to start?
Elizabeth: My advice to anyone, not just women, is to have a well-honed gun mount before expecting consistent success [with] wingshooting. You will have luck because of hand-eye coordination, but harder shots are made with practice and patience. It is certainly easy to achieve— it just requires the time to learn. Often, we put too high of expectations on ourselves. Good lessons, the right gun, and realistic goals put you on the fast track to getting there. Shooting clay targets is the way to prepare. If you are a new shooter, get comfortable shooting the gun with incoming targets. Then go to slow outgoing targets, learning where to look for the target, and when to start the gun. There is a process, and finding a good coach to guide you through it is the best advice I can give. We want to grow the sport, and that growth comes from successful beginnings!
Images by Terry Allen