Awards Julie Bryson has won over the years. (Special to The News)

Awards Julie Bryson has won over the years. (Special to The News)

Maple Ridge coach shooting to keep her sport alive

Julie Bryson says not many clubs left for target sports

Julie Bryson is concerned about the future of target sports in British Columbia.

The coach and target sports athlete who calls Maple Ridge home says clubs have been closing down across the Lower Mainland.

Target sports are shooting sports including, air rifle, air pistol, .22 calibre and archery.

“When I grew up there was one in West Vancouver – it’s gone; one in North Vancouver – it’s gone; two in Burnaby went, then the New Westminster one, which is now gone,” said Bryson.

Now, she said, there is one club left in Port Coquitlam and they may only have two years left on their lease. And another club in Langley.

Bryson doesn’t coach in Maple Ridge because, she said, neither the Thompson Mountain Sportsmen Association nor the Pitt Meadows Gun Club have the facilities that she requires to coach athletes in .22 calibre and air rifle target shooting.

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She now teaches her beloved sport at the Richmond Rod and Gun Club.

Bryson first got into the sport around 30 years ago. Her first sport of choice was show jumping horses. When she gave up show jumping her nieces and nephews, who lived in New Westminster, convinced her to join them at the range.

“So I went shooting with them and I got hooked,” she said.

“I liked the mindset of it. It’s you and the gun and a piece of paper,” said Bryson who is currently the BC Target Sports rifle director.

With air rifle, she said, students are shooting at something smaller than the head of pin from about 18 metres away. For .22 calibre indoor, the target is about the size of the end of an eraser.

Bryson learned under the coach who was teaching out of Sapperton at the time and after three years she began competing in the sport.

“And I started winning.”

The first competition she ever won was at the Sapperton Fish and Game Club where they held a yearly women’s competition. In 2006, 2007, 2015 and 2016 she received the Ladies Marksman award at the club.

Bryson would also end up capturing four bronze medals in province-wide competitions, and in 2005 she took home the bronze at the national championships.

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Bryson started coaching in 2011, and now has two students under her leadership – one of which has been chosen by Team Canada to go to the Pan Am Games in Peru, hopefully this fall, depending on the COVID-19 pandemic. Bryson is hoping this will pave his road to the Olympics.

There’s no age limit on the sport, she said, other than being able to hold a gun. Participants range from 9-years to 99-years-old, she noted.

Historically, though gender equality has been an issue.

When Bryson started out, in a .22 calibre match, women only shot at 40 targets while men shot at 60. And, as recently as 2016, Bryson remembers a senior female athlete who was denied a championship because of her gender.

However the rules have changed men and women are now treated equally.

What Bryson loves most about the sport is the solitude.

“You are in your own head, you are in your own space. You learn a lot about yourself, self control,” noted Bryson, who, has her sight set on coaching for Canada.

Ultimately, though, she wants to keep the sport alive.

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Julie Bryson. (Special to The News)

Julie Bryson. (Special to The News)