“That was just second nature to me to see a shotgun or a rifle in the gun rack,” said Rhodes, a feisty blonde with a Southern accent. “Whenever something slithers, crawls or hops, you've got to pop it.”
The group offers clinics and seminars in fishing, archery, dog training and how to handle handguns, shotguns and even an AR-15. They also organize hunts all over the world.
Rhodes said the group gives women the chance to find their niche in the outdoors. For instance, she said, those who don't want to shoot something “with eyelashes” might enjoy shooting clay targets. But the 60-year-old Dallas designer said it doesn't take newcomers long to become converts.
Statistics from the National Sporting Goods Association show that the number of women hunting and shooting has been on the rise. According to the latest statistics, women hunting with firearms has increased from about 2.7 million in 2000 to about 3 million last year, and the number target shooting reached about 4.7 million.
When the “divas” gather, there's lots of encouragement shouted, and usually a fair amount of accessorizing as well, said Rhodes, who has decorated promotional materials and their website with leopard print.
“When they first come to see us they may be in flip-flops and blue jeans and a nice tailored shirt and the next thing we know, it's Annie Oakley,” she said. “They have everything but the buckskin and the deer that they killed all draped around them.”
Cheryl Long, 58, of Fairview, located just north of Dallas, joined the group around the time it was formed, not long after she started shooting pistols. She's now the group's communications director.
“I really loved the actual part of the shooting and the competition,” she said. “Then it was the camaraderie of the women. I loved the independent spirit of the ladies.”