Thirteen-year-old Jessica Wahlert of Oral holds her family’s 6mm GT long-range rifle which she used to hit a six-inch target at 1,000 yards during a fundraiser shoot benefitting the Wildland Firefighter Foundation.
By Brett Nachtigall
ORAL – Thirteen-year-old Jessica Wahlert of Oral has been shooting rimfire rifles with her dad Ed since she was five years old.
“I think it’s a good skill to have,” she said recently. “In the old days, that’s how they were able to provide their food. It can be used for self-defense, and it’s just fun.”
While first learning to shoot with a .22, she has since progressed into other firearms including more powerful centerfire rifles, but she now also spends a lot of time shooting traditional archery with a recurve bow as well.
Last month, at a competitive rifle shoot which served as a fundraiser for the Wildland Firefighter Foundation (WFF), Jessica demonstrated her skill with a centerfire rifle and accomplished something that had never been done before in the eight-year history of the event – she hit a six-inch target at 1,000 yards.
Since 2016, at competitive shoots throughout the country, the WFF works in conjunction with various shooting clubs to host “Shoot For Loot” competitions, where participants enter a contest for $50 which gets them one attempt at the long-range shot. If they hit it, they are then automatically entered into the final stage of a drawing to win a custom .338 Lapua long-range rifle valued at $8,000, or one of four other hand guns. In addition, several other prizes are also available at each individual event.
Jessica said she recalls watching some of the other participants taking a crack at the long-range shot, but all failing. They were all men with many more years experience shooting than she had, but still, she wanted to see how well she would do, even though she didn’t think she would hit it either.
But after her dad paid her entry fee and said it was OK to make an attempt with their family’s recently customized 6mm GT long-range rifle, she recalls lining up on the steel target and everything just getting real quiet.
“I just got in the zone,” Jessica said, as she described getting steady, squeezing the trigger and watching the vapor trail of her bullet through her scope as it made its way to its mark.
While shooting at a distance that far away, you will see the steel target getting hit before you will hear it. And as the bullet’s vapor trail made its way across the rolling landscape, her dad Ed recalled telling another competitor nearby that it looked like it was going to be a hit.
After the steel target swung backwards from getting hit, and the familiar sound of a “clink” resonated back to everyone watching, loud cheers of excitement and congratulations followed immediately for the young markswoman.
“There was quite an eruption afterwards,” her dad Ed recalled.
Aside from now having her name in an upcoming drawing for some high-end firearms as part of the WFF raffle, Jessica also got her choice of some other very nice prizes provided by the sponsors of the event.
“For me though, it wasn’t about getting to choose whatever I wanted from the prize table. The best thing about it was seeing my dad smile from ear to ear,” said Jessica, as she looked over at her proud dad, who was still beaming with pride about her accomplishment.
Ed Wahlert has been a local, Fall River County shooting enthusiast for many years and hosts monthly shoots at his property south of Oral, on the third Sunday of every month. Last month’s shoot on Oct. 23 was the first event held in conjunction with the Wildland Firefighters Foundation, which came about through Aaren Nellen, another Fall River County shooting enthusiast who also represents the WFF.
The shoot on Oct. 23 was attended by a total of 33 participants, many of whom were first-time shooters. The day included .22 precision rifle competitions as well as centerfire shoots in the afternoon. A “poker run” style contest was also held in which shooters drew cards after hitting targets with the best poker hand taking home 80 percent of the proceeds, with the other 20 percent going to the WFF.
In addition, Nellen said the WFF annually sells 700 raffle tickets as a nationwide fundraiser, which is how most people enter the drawing to be one of the five finalists for one of the five guns. The 1,000 yard “Shoot For Loot” is offered as a novelty for those interested in trying to by-pass the drawing and then having a five in six chance at one of the guns.
Since the 1,000 yard shot was added as part of the larger fundraising effort around the country, a total of 53 individuals have attempted it, but young Jessica Wahlert is the very first person to ever hit the target and now be in line to win one of the firearms.
Nellen said the drawing is expected to take place later this month.