Sheila Link, 84, sportswoman and firearms writer
Sheila Link, a former college music major and bass player who transformed her life to pursue altogether different passions — firearms and the outdoors — becoming a noted authority on both, died of pneumonia March 30 at her home in Palm Desert, Calif. She was 94.
As a sportswoman, hunter, and raconteur, Ms. Link channeled her enthusiasm into leading gun safety workshops and arduous survival expeditions along with writing books and magazine articles, including a column in Women & Guns magazine.
“Sheila Link’s legacy will be as a direct link between our pioneer foremothers, including Annie Oakley, and modern-day American women gun owners,” Peggy Tartaro, the magazine’s executive editor, wrote in an e-mail.
Ms. Link wrote a column, “Gear ‘N’ Gadgets,” for Women & Guns from the magazine’s inception in the early 1990s until 2003.
She was also a frequent contributor to Outdoor Life, Field & Stream, and Sports Afield magazines; produced a weekly radio program, “Call of the Outdoors,” which was broadcast for nine years beginning in 1974; and was the author of two books, “The Hardy Boys Handbook: Seven Stories of Survival” (1980) and “Women’s Guide to Outdoor Sports” (1984).
Her writing could be detailed and vivid. Reviewing gear for Women & Guns in 2006, she described a rifle this way: “The smooth laminated black stock, with silvery gray and dark-gray striations, complements the brushed stainless bull barrel, trigger guard, lever and sideplates.”
She was the first woman elected to the Outdoor Writers Association of American and was later its president.
In the early 1970s, Ms. Link was enlisted by the National Rifle Association to be a spokeswoman and consultant with the aim of recruiting more women to join the organization and train them in firearms safety and outdoor survival skills. She was an NRA life member since 1973, although her support for the group became more equivocal in later years.
At an early age, she was furtively roaming the California hills and shooting at small game with a neighbor boy’s BB gun and .22-caliber rifle — until, that is, her father, who was not keen on hunting, objected.
She attended the Straubenmuller Textile High School in Manhattan and majored in music at the College of San Mateo in California but did not graduate. She later played with the San Francisco Civic Symphony.
She married Frederic Link, whom she had met in high school, where she learned to play the bass. (She was a lifelong member of the musicians’ union.) Her husband became a high school English and humanities teacher, and he later accompanied her on the drums at local jazz clubs.
Frederic Link preferred spectator sports to hunting, however. “The excitement of trying to hit a bouncing cottontail was unknown to him,” his wife wrote in 1968.
Despite her love of music, it was ultimately overridden by her abiding attachment to the outdoors and her fascination with the power and precision of guns.
After she took her youngest son hunting when he was a teenager, Ms. Link wrote, “the pleasure and enjoyment the outdoors has offered us has led to a deeper, more complete appreciation of all nature.”
In 1973, she was featured on an episode of ABC’s “American Sportsman,” which followed her on a bighorn sheep hunt in British Columbia. She also clambered over New Mexico mountaintops in below-zero temperatures in a grueling Survival Leadership Field Exercise sponsored by the NRA and the Colorado-based Wilderness Institute for Survival.
“Properly understood and used,” Ms. Link avowed in Field & Stream in 1976, “the wilderness can provide us with shelter, food and water — all that’s needed to survive.”
Ms. Link wrote for Women & Guns about a wild boar hunting trip organized at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in 2010 for wounded servicewomen. On the trip, she met an Air Force nurse who was an avid believer in women’s armed self-defense.
“After a violent assault sent her to the emergency room, she filed suit, then got a concealed-carry permit,” she wrote.
She recommended that hunters use a steadying tripod device because “ethical big game hunters, in order to dispatch an animal as swiftly and painlessly as possible, always try to find some sort of rifle rest before taking a shot.”
Her daughter, Teresa, said: “No one else in my family is pro-gun, and in her later years she distanced herself from the NRA because she didn’t approve of the swelling number of ‘gun nuts,’ as opposed to hunters and outdoors people. But she loved shooting, and got a kick out of how many Hollywood actresses came to her classes.”