A retired Air Force colonel, a Bexar County court judge, and a stay-at-home mom are just a few San Antonio women who are up in arms — literally. These women, who on the surface may not seem to have much in common, share an intense love of shooting for sport.
What’s the attraction? For some it’s about the competition. For others, it’s the time spent with family. But whether they prefer game, trap-or skeet, the one thing they all agree on is that there is a camaraderie that exists among female shooting enthusiasts that draws women from all walks of life to the sport.
Col. Loretta Behrens
Walking through the Monte Vista home of retired Air Force Col. Loretta Behrens is like going on a domestic safari. A zebra rug is splayed across a living room floor not far from where an enormous cape buffalo head is mounted. A majestic leopard gazes down from a dining room wall, while a row of roe deer skulls oversees the kitchen. And that’s just on the first floor!
Loretta and her husband have acquired these trophies from their extensive travels and hunting trips both personally and through their business, Expedition Adventures, a company that organizes small-group hunting and fishing trips in exotic locations like Kenya and Argentina. It was a concept born of her husband’s own trips to Africa, where he has enjoyed hunting big game for the past 30-plus years — something that doesn’t really appeal to Loretta. “I’m not a rifle shooter,” she explains. “I prefer a shotgun and the faster action of bird shooting.”
Loretta shot her first bird (well, two to be exact) in the 1980s on a dove hunt with the Texas Rangers. Although she bagged only two birds on that inaugural hunt, today Loretta loads her prized 12-gauge Perazzi and doesn’t stop until she reaches the legal limit. Her favorite game? Quail. “I love quail hunting because it is faster and more challenging,” she explains. “Plus you get to work with the dogs, which is always fun.”
Loretta keeps her bird shooting skills sharp by practicing at the San Antonio Gun Club and participating in the Women’s Shooting League, a group she joined after settling in San Antonio in 2000.
You might think that someone who has shot red-legged partridges in Spain and hunted guinea fowl at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro would be nonplussed about what Texas has to offer. On the contrary, Loretta says that when it comes to the best environment for female hunters, you can’t beat South Texas.
“I’ve lived in a lot of different places, and South Texas is the most welcoming for women who want to shoot,” she says, adding that she was pleasantly surprised at the number of females involved in the sport. “I’ve made many good friends here who share this common interest.”
When a friend talked Janet Molak into attending her first hunt more than two decades ago, the San Antonio native landed more than just a couple of doves — she landed a husband too! Today, Janet and Mike Molak still enjoy the sport that brought them together more than 23 years ago, and in the past three years, Janet has become extremely active on the trapshooting circuit.
“I wanted a sport that was competitive but that was also an individual sport,” she explains. “I began taking lessons, and then I joined the Women’s Shooting League because I wanted to learn to shoot competitively.”
Janet began entering competitions for fun and in order to get more comfortable in the competition arena. What she soon discovered was that shooting competitions were unlike any other type of sport she had experienced. Why? Because of the people. “These are the most welcoming and supportive women you could ever hope to meet,” she says.
During one competition in which she ran out of bullets, Janet recalls another competitor from Oklahoma coming over to offer her a shell and some pointers. “She was competing against me, but she went out of her way to help me,” Janet marvels. “That’s pretty typical of most of the women in this sport.”
When she is not practicing at the Gun Club or taking part in a competition, Janet can be found at Keystone School, where she works as the events coordinator and serves as the assistant to the head of school. Her daughter will begin her junior year at Keystone in the fall, while her son just graduated from Alamo Heights. Both children are athletic and show an interest in their parents’ hobby, something that Janet encourages both personally and as the president of the Friends of the San Antonio Gun Club, an organization that until recently had been dormant.
“We are a support group that provides financial aid to kids who are going to shooting competitions,” explains Janet, who has been actively resurrecting the organization through fundraising activities such as the making and selling of Gun Club Fiesta medals. “We just awarded our first grant in the spring of 2014 to the Trinity University shooting team,” she adds proudly.
Educating and helping the next generation of shooting enthusiasts, especially females, pursue their passion is something about which Janet feels strongly. “I think that teaching women proper gun handling and safety is necessary, not just to help them feel confident in what was once a male-dominant sport, but also for self-defense,” she says.
But one of her favorite things about the sport itself is the fact that it is something that she and her husband can share for years to come. “It’s a passion we both enjoy,” she says.
Judge Eugenia “Genie” Wright
The reasons that women flock to the shooting range are as varied as the women themselves. While some go to improve their average or train for competition, others simply go for the unique female bonding that can only occur among a group of women holding shotguns. Judge Genie Wright falls into the latter category. A self-described “duffer,” she has been a member of the Women’s Shooting League since 1997. “I do it for the fun and fellowship,” she says in her straightforward manner. “This is an incredibly diverse group of women.”
If diversity is a requirement, Genie has it in spades. A Georgia native, she was 40 years old when she decided to attend law school at the University of Iowa.“It was my midlife crisis,” she jokes.
The mother of three grown children, she and her husband (renowned organ transplant surgeon Dr. Francis Wright) have moved many times over the years as he built his career. In 1994 they settled in San Antonio, where Dr. Wright now serves as the director of organ transplantation for the Texas Transplant Institute and Genie has been on the bench in Bexar County Court 7, one of only two domestic violence courts, since being elected in 2010.
With such high-profile careers, you wouldn’t think that there would be time for the pursuits of pleasure, but Genie manages to enjoy a wide variety of interests, from savoring good food and wine to ardently supporting opera. She and her husband are season ticket holders at the Houston Grand Opera and travel to Santa Fe annually for shows.
Her leisure-time activities include an extensive amount of service to the community she loves. She sits on the boards of the Blood and Tissue Center and BEAT AIDS and is active with Impact San Antonio. But even with such a full docket, Genie can still be found participating in the twice-yearly Women’s Shooting League events and honing her skills at the Gun Club once or twice a month.
“It’s just a good environment,” she says of her commitment to the sport. “There are some days where you don’t hit anything, and no one cares. We’re still going to clap and cheer for each other.”