After her first lesson, Paula Moore’s shooting instructor asked what her goal was. She replied, “I want to win the Ladies Gold Medal at Fitasc.” Pronounced Fee-task, it’s an acronym for the international version of American sporting clays—the world’s most difficult and respected clay target shooting competition. “Well then,” he said, “we have a lot of work to do.”
Fast forward 20 years and plenty of practice later: Moore is now a nine-time National Sporting Clay Association’s All-American, a five-time member of NSCA’s Team USA, and a three-time World Side-by-Side champion. Lucky for Hudson Valley residents looking to take up the sport, she’s also the chief shooting instructor at Orvis Sandanona in Millbrook—the first woman in Orvis’ 165-year history to hold the job. Sandanona, which looks like it was plucked out of the English countryside, is the oldest licensed shotgun shooting club in the country and widely considered one of the best.
Friendly, easygoing, and surprisingly humble given her accomplishments, Moore is also fiercely competitive. Originally an equestrian, she tagged along one day when her husband, Preston, went shooting. “I’m not a good spectator so I tried it—and was hooked immediately.” Preston thought it would be less expensive than horses and “boy, was he wrong,” she laughs. Competitions have taken her all around the United States and throughout Europe.
Moore was my instructor for my first lesson at Sandanona in July and she was empathetic, encouraging, and enthusiastic. “I’ll jump through hoops of fire to make you better,” she told me, and I believed her. “You crushed it!” she cheered as I obliterated my first target, and suddenly visions of winning the Ladies Gold at Fitasc started dancing in my head.
When I asked what she loves about shooting, Moore’s face lit up. “You’re competing against yourself. It’s a very individualized game and it’s fun!” It’s also gender-neutral and you can compete forever—or as long as you can hold a gun.
While Orvis hosts many corporate and charity events, Moore hopes to bring more competitive shooters to the club. She also likes to introduce the sport to kids (who must be at least 12 years old to shoot) because they don’t have any ego. “They do it because they have a great time.”