One of the main misconceptions about people who work in the shooting-sports industry is that everyone gets paid to shoot. Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s true that some people get paid to crush clay targets for a living or punch holes in paper, but very, very few. The reality is that the remainder of folks work hard every day so that others can enjoy the shooting sports.
Such is the case with Christina Loudenslager. Originally hailing from central Michigan, she moved to central Ohio two years ago to become the manager of Eagle’s Nest Sporting Grounds, a new, 85-acre, state-of-the-art shooting facility.
“We offer clay-target shooters three different courses,” said Dan Bailey, owner of the range, “five-stand, sporting clays and FITASC (pronounced Fee-task) the European equivalent of sporting clays.”
Loudenslager, a competitive shotgun shooter herself, first met Bailey five years ago at a FITASC event. “After watching Dan shoot, I knew I wanted him to mentor me,” said Christina. “But at first he was reluctant to take me on.”
Bailey added, “I wanted to make sure she was serious about competitive shotgun shooting and had the drive required to be successful. But I needn’t have worried; Christina is just as competitive as I am, and we are constantly pushing each other to be better shooters. She even beats me now every once in a while,” Bailey grinned proudly.
As range manager, Loudenslager described her job as a combination of indoor and outdoor responsibilities. “Indoors, I keep track of club memberships, schedule shoots, and do most anything else that must be done to keep the ranges and clubhouse running smoothly,” she said. “Outdoors, I load clay targets into the Promatic throwing machines, mow grass, and again, anything that needs doing. But given a choice, I’d much rather be outdoors.”
She went on to say that her computer and organizational skills have come in very handy, learned during 11 years at her previous job as a veterinary assistant and office manager.
“I knew Christina was smart,” said Bailey, “so that combined with her competitive shooting background, it was a natural fit that I hire her as manager. It’s worked out so well that my wife, Peggy, and I now consider her our ‘adopted’ daughter, as we never had children.”
One of the things Bailey and Loudenslager strive for at Eagle’s Nest is excellence, keeping the grounds and clubhouse in immaculate condition both inside and out. “We’ve been to many shooting venues around the country, so we know what works and what doesn’t,” said Christina. “It’s just more fun to shoot on a range that’s clean and well kept, so we made that one of our priorities. We want our ranges so attractive they resemble a park.”
Loudenslager said that the most difficult part of her job is time management, especially during the warm-weather months when the range is busiest. “Every day is different,” she said. “For instance, we may have a dozen or more shooters arrive all at once, so I then have to drop what I’m doing and assist them and I can’t get to the projects I had planned for the day. I’ve learned that a range manager has to prioritize and be flexible to get it all done.”
On the other hand, one of the things Loudenslager enjoys most about her job is working with people, other shooters. And, of course, another benefit is the opportunity to practice her own shooting and be coached by Bailey. By the way, Bailey just happened to win the 2018 American FITASC National Championship last summer in Oklahoma, breaking an incredible 191 of 200 targets.
“But Dan and I don’t get to shoot as much as you might think,” Christina said. “Our club members come first, so when someone drives in the front gate our practice time is over. That’s why we come in early or stay late—to shoot when no one else is around—to get the practice we need before an upcoming competition.”
When Bailey and Loudenslager do find time to practice, once or twice per week on average, they shoot as many as a case or more of shells between them. They both shoot 12-gauge, Italian-made, over/under Zoli shotguns.
Christina ended by mentioning that people skills are extremely important for a range manager. And that even though most of the participants in the shooting sports are men, she doesn’t find it difficult or awkward constantly working with guys.
“I had the advantage of growing up not only with a father but three brothers, as well, so I’m comfortable around guys,” she said. “In the clay-target sports about 95 percent of shooters are men and about 80 percent are twice my age, the age of my father or grandfather. So that’s how I try to relate to them and it seems to work.”
“Christina’s approach to her job may be working too well,” Bailey joked. “If she ever leaves Eagle’s Nest Sporting Grounds probably two-thirds of our members would follow her.”
Loudenslager has a long list of impressive shotgunning competition wins under her belt. How good a shot is she? Suffice to say that she is a four-time Lady All-American FITASC Team member and three-time Lady All-American Sporting Clay Team member. In other words, don’t bet against her.