Straight shooter: Kremmling wildlife manager becomes first female to win CPW shooting competition
District Wildlife Manager Rachel Sralla doesn’t consider herself a sharpshooter, but her performance at Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s annual shooting competition in Hotchkiss proves otherwise.
When it comes to shooting under pressure, even the best marksman might miss their target, but it’s a necessary skill for the state’s wildlife officers. To hone that skill, officers compete in an annual Hotchkiss Shoot, and Grand County’s Sralla took home the top prize this year.
“It’s pretty exciting,” she said.
Sralla has worked in the Kremmling office since 2013. She competed against 78 officers from around the Western Slope in the three-round competition, in which she was judged on the number of targets she hit and how long it took her to finish the round.
Ultimately, Sralla was the only officer to hit all 23 targets.
“My whole goal when I shot was I wanted to go out there and get hits,” she said with a laugh. “I want to hit the targets because if I get into a rush, then all I do is miss really fast. I just had a good day on a day that counted.”
The honor was more than enough for Sralla by itself, but she also became the first female officer to win the contest and has received congratulations from officers all over the state since the competition.
“It’s exciting to have that distinction, but to be honored by my peers and be congratulated genuinely has been the coolest part,” she said. “They’re so proud of me that it makes me excited for myself.”
In order to place, Sralla got one chance to complete three different courses in front of an audience of her peers. The handgun course used moving targets; the shotgun course was mainly clay targets; and the rifle course featured stationary targets at varying positions and distances.
The idea is to help officers create muscle memory so when they’re in unpredictable or high-pressure situations, they can rely on their training.
“I think the biggest thing is being able to perform under pressure because that’s the most real part of (the competition),” Sralla said. “It’s a skill that requires you to physically have a lot of command over your body.”
For Sralla, who has competed in the Hotchkiss Shoot before and not done as well as she had hoped, this year’s accomplishment was both personal and professional.
“It’s a huge marker of how far I’ve come because this was a challenge for me, but it shows that the time that I put in … to just try to be better and be good at what I do as an officer is not wasted,” she said.
Ultimately, Sralla feels lucky to spend her days as a wildlife manager doing and seeing things that many others won’t ever get the opportunity to do. Because of her experiences on the job, she appreciates her role in managing the state’s species so everyone can enjoy them for a long time to come.
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