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 this year’s annual Colorado Parks and Wildlife Hotchkiss Shoot competition proves otherwise.
When it comes time to shoot under pressure, even the best marksman might miss their target, but it’s a necessary skill to master in the daily duties of the state’s wildlife officers. In order to hone that skill, officers compete in an annual shooting competition in Hotchkiss, and this year, Grand County’s Sralla took home the top prize.
“It’s pretty exciting,” said Sralla, who has worked in the Kremmling office since 2013.
Sralla competed against 78 officers from around the Western Slope in a three-round competition, where she was judged on the number of targets she hit and the amount of time it took her to finish the round. Ultimately, she earned the number one honor by being the only officer to hit all 23 targets in the competition.
“My whole goal when I shot was I wanted to go out there and get hits, I want to hit the targets, because if I get into a rush then all I do is miss really fast,” she said with a laugh. “I just had a good day on a day that counted.”
While the honor itself would have been more than enough for Sralla, she also came to find out that she is the first female officer to ever receive first place overall in the competition. Since the win, she has received congratulations from officers all over the state.
“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 a single chance to shoot 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 that participants had to shoot from varying positions and distances.
The idea is to help officers create muscle memory when it comes to being in an unpredictable or high-pressure situation, so that no matter what’s happening the officer 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 had competed in the Hotchkiss Shoot before and didn’t do as well as she had hoped, this year’s accomplishment is 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, she feels lucky not just as a participant in the competition, but also to get 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 special experiences on the job, Sralla deeply appreciates her role in managing the state’s species so that everyone can enjoy them for a long time to come.
“Not only for the sportsmen, but for the people of Colorado and people who travel from literally all over the world to enjoy an experience, our agency is the most responsible for making that happen and for creating opportunities for people to know that that experience is there for them,” she said.
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