Preston Hollow is home to countless charitable organizations, exclusive clubs and see-and-be-seen events. Hardly surprising, since it’s one of the most affluent areas of
But it’s also home to a group that might come as a surprise to many residents.
That’s right, Texas Women’s Shooting Sports is based in Preston Hollow. And though its 330 members — or DIVAS, as they call themselves — hail from around the around the world, many of them live right here.
Can it be that our area, known for its enormous houses, well-manicured lawns and even better manicured women, is secretly filled with Annie Oakley-types packing heat?
Au contraire, say the DIVAS. Many of them are well educated and well heeled. They just happen to love shooting guns, they say, and they’re not ashamed to talk about it.
Here are three of their stories:
Lisa Sakowski hardly fits the backwoods stereotype of firearm enthusiasts. Having never held a gun until a year ago, she learned to shoot for a rather unusual reason.
“It all started because my boyfriend refused to take up belly dancing,” she says.
“He hunts,” Sakowski says, “and I thought: If we’re ever gonna do something together, I’ll just have to learn to shoot. And I wanted to know why all these guys thought it was so fun.”
An afternoon at the Elm Fork Shooting Park was the first step toward.
“I started with an inappropriate, ill-fitting gun to shoot trap,” she says. “The owner saw me and felt sorry for me, I guess. He loaned me a better gun to try, and he gave me a name and number for the Divas.”
She called them up, checked out their Web site, and attended one of their shooting clinics. In less than a year, she was packing her own shells, shooting clays and even placed in a shooting tournament.
“I’m telling you, I’m into this,” she says proudly.
Sakowski says she now understands what all the fuss was about.
“It’s instant gratification, and it’s challenging,” she says. “And it’s so different from the other things I do.”
She says she likes being a part of the DIVAS because “there are so few women who really want to shoot and get better.” And, she says, “they’re a great group of women.”
With two young sons at home, Sakowski says she keeps a lock on her gun.
“They’ve got the fear of God in them if they ever touch it,” she says. “But they really don’t make a big deal about it. They’re not that intrigued with it.”
One thing she’s not intrigued with, she says, that other DIVAS are, is hunting. And though she might pack a pistol, her reasons for not hunting are rather girlish.
“It’s just not something I’d want to get dressed up to do. You’ve got the weather to deal with, and you’re always dirty,” she says. “And fooling around with those shells, your nails always look crummy. That’s my biggest complaint, how it tears up your nails. And I must say, belly dancing’s better exercise.”
Kathiann DeCleva, on the other hand, isn’t afraid to take aim at big game.
“I grew up around tennis courts and country clubs,” she says. “I thought anything having to do with guns was crazy. The sight of them really flipped me out.”
That all changed when she attended the Texas Parks and Wildlife’s “Becoming an Outdoors-Woman” program.
“They teach you all kinds of things about the outdoors, and they have an introduction to firearms and hunting,” she says. “I just did it to be crazy, something to tell my mother. And my husband is a hunter, so I guess in the back of my mind I wanted to understand what he saw in it.”
DeCleva had such a good time, she soon signed up for private shooting lessons. Before long, she was hooked.
She joined the Divas to meet other women who enjoyed shooting and hunting.
“The Divas are just a fun bunch of women,” she says. “It’s a real diverse group of gals, and there’s a true camaraderie and warmth.”
And though her husband was willing to teach her about shooting, she says learning among women was easier.
“Anytime he would try to teach me something, we’d end up in an argument,” she says. “He’d get frustrated, and I’d kind of glaze over and start thinking about my grocery list.”
DeCleva has hunted all over the world, collecting 23 trophies from her trips. Two more are on the way from her latest excursion — bear hunting on Vancouver Island — where she killed two black bears (one of them the biggest bear of the year for that territory). She’s having one made into a rug, and the other will be a full body mount.
“It was very, very exciting. In fact, I can’t believe that anything will be that much fun again.”
Still, she says she does have mixed feelings about shooting animals.
“When I pull the trigger and see an animal die, that’s disturbing,” she says. “I have a mixed sense of sadness and elation with a good shot. I’m always kind of pushing myself emotionally to do this. And being a real part of the food chain is kind of like a Zen thing.”
In between trips, DeCleva shoots skeet and dove hunts with her husband.
“It’s been great for my marriage,” she says. “It’s fun, exciting, emotional, and we can do this forever.”
She hopes that eventually the whole family can hunt together. In fact, she’s already bought her seven-year-old daughter her first gun: a pink .22-caliber.
“I saw it in the store, and I had to get it,” she says. “At this age, she can’t touch it by herself, but we take her to the farm and help her shoot it. I really hope I can do this with my girls one day.”
Janae Chamblee, one of the group’s earliest members, learned to shoot about four years ago. She says she was scared of guns at the time, but wanted to learn more about them.
“I wanted to have a hobby,” she says. “A girlfriend and I had been talking about finding something fun to do instead of just having lunch and meeting all the time. So we signed up for lessons.”
A few months later, Chamblee attended a women’s shooting event hosted by Beretta Gallery in Highland Park Village, where she bought her first gun. That evening, as several women met to have drinks, they tossed around the idea of forming a local group. Not long after, Texas Women’s Shooting Sports was born.
Chamblee, a CPA with her own mergers and acquisitions company, says being a DIVA has two benefits: learning to shoot better and making new friends.
“I like being around other women who shoot,” she says. “It’s easier to learn from them. And it’s a great camaraderie.”
Though she occasionally goes dove hunting, she says she mostly enjoys shooting sporting clays. Her trips to the gun club, it seems, are “roughing it” enough for her.
“I’m not the type of person to camp out,” she says. “I shoot at the Dallas Gun Club, and when you’re there, you feel like you’re out in the outdoors. They have many acres, and it’s really beautiful out there.”
Chamblee says she has seen all types of women discover the fun and challenge of shooting.
“Women’s shooting sports have really taken off in the last few years,” she says. “There’s a big group of women in their 30s, 40s and 50s in the group. And there’s a good mix of single and married women.”
Why does she think women are drawn to the sport?
“Most women I know are devoting time to hobbies these days,” she says. “And shooting is a great stress reliever, because it takes total concentration and focus. Your mind is so absorbed in what you’re doing, you forget about what else is going on.”
Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Preston Hollow.