Women of Calibre: Zoe Keith

At the Victorian State Titles at Bendigo Pistol Club earlier this year, I caught up with teenage shooting sensation Zoe Keith (aka Miss Lead) about her shooting career so far. Zoe went on to win the Cowgirl category, and was also the overall Victorian women’s state champion in that event.

Photo courtesy of Mark Rogers (Hound Dog Studios)

Photo courtesy of Mark Rogers (Hound Dog Studios)

How long have you been shooting?

Since I was 12 – my first shoot was the Winter Round-up in 2011. I was shooting as a Buckarette, which is the junior category for girls.

Who else in your family shoots?

Everyone except my mum, but she does have a firearm licence. My dad, he’s been shooting for 20 years in this discipline, he’s probably one of the oldest cowboys, and my oldest brother, the Tall Texan, he’s a very very fast shooter, very accurate. And then I’ve got my younger brother here, he’s very fast too. Obviously in my family, we have a reputation to live up to! Also my partner, this is his first shoot. Mum comes along and watches and supports, takes photos.

The junior categories allow you to shoot .22 calibre, don’t they?

Yes I think so but I jumped straight into shooting .38, I got my SASS Vaqueros given to me as a birthday present when I turned 12, so I’ve been shooting with them since then. They’re the most reliable guns I’ve owned.

So you travel around a fair bit for shooting?

Yes, we went up to the Nationals after I’d been shooting for a year and a bit. We regularly travel to South Australia and NSW… we travel around to our local Victorian shoots.

Which is your favourite range?

I’ve got a couple of favourites. My favourite in Victoria would have to be the Warragul-Drouin Pistol Club. It’s fantastic, it’s beautiful, at any time of year. In NSW, it’s probably the Cowra shoot – it’s so green there. They’ve made the most of the range, they’ve got great facades.

My dad, who is a regular shooter built his own range at our farm. So we have a legal, registered Cowboy range. Cos I’m doing year 12 at the moment, it’s really good having that range out in the backyard, so if I’m sick of studying I can just say “Dad, can you take me down to the range, I want to have a shot!”

Are you planning to travel internationally, and take in the End of Trail (SASS Internationals) and Tran-Trasman Duel?

Oh yeah. I’ll definitely finish Year 12 first, and am considering going over next year. I’m in contact with some American shooters, I have a few friends who live in Arizona who have already offered to lend me their guns… that’s fantastic, I would love to have that opportunity to go over and see how they in shoot in America.

Zoe preparing to shoot a stage, with her dad Judge Ruger

Zoe preparing to shoot a stage, with her dad Judge Ruger

Is that why you were drawn to Single Action shooting, because it’s so inclusive and supportive?

It’s probably one of the most friendly disciplines. Everyone is so polite to each other, we all do our fair share of work – picking up brass, spotting, regardless of the weather, everyone’s always out there helping out. It’s just so much fun. I love dressing up, that’s one of my favourite parts as well.

Would you say that this discipline is very woman friendly?

Oh definitely. Everyone is treated like equals. There’s never any discrimination. Being one of the top shooters, I always get lots of males come up and say “Congratulations, you shot that stage fantastically, you’ve inspired my wife, my daughter… that always make me feel really good.”

The organisers of this event said to me that only five years ago, they had maybe four women turn up to this annual shoot. We’re really catching up to the boys now though!

Yeah, five years ago, it would be rare to see a female shooter. There weren’t many females shooting when I started. I had very little inspiration to look up. When I was 12 years I was a tiny, skinny little girl, holding up a big shotgun, it was really hard. I met a female shooter, Pearl Starr, and she used to say “Now, I know your dad’s taught you this way, but I’ll show you a better way, from a female perspective.” The more females that start shooting, the more we’ll have in the future. The wives will come along, the dads will go home and show their daughters videos of matches. It’s like, if that group of female shooters can do it, then why can’t I?

Indeed! Best of luck in your studies and your shooting this year Zoe.

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