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In Character with Julie Houghtling

A conversation with an interesting Portlander
by: Christopher Onstott Julie Houghtling has a great sense of humor. Still, you wouldn’t want to get on her bad side – or down range of her, for that matter. Houghtling owns and manages The Place To Shoot at Delta Park.

Ask anybody who knows her - Julie Houghtling is a straight shooter. Twenty years working at The Place To Shoot, an indoor handgun range at Delta Park, has provided owner/manager Houghtling plenty of loyal customers and a reputation that she's not to be messed with.

Portland Tribune: You didn't start here because of an interest in guns, right?

Julie Houghtling: One of my fears when we started this was I thought, 'Great, I'm going to have to talk to GI Joe every day.' It's not like that. It's business people, it's retired people and lots of women.

Tribune: And celebrities?

Houghtling: One gentleman who just came in was Greg Oden. He was so funny. He had to duck down to fit in the (shooting) booth.

Tribune: Do you follow basketball?

Houghtling: I don't.

Tribune: Well, he's not known as a great shooter.

Houghtling: He did very well here. Maybe his sport is shooting. But his girlfriend did outshoot him.

Tribune: What's the most ridiculous thing you've heard here?

Houghtling: A lady came in and she said she wanted to shoot. And she asked, 'Are these real guns?' We said, 'Yes, they shoot live rounds.' And she said, 'Oh, no, I don't want that. I just want a wounding gun.'

Tribune: Did you ask her why?

Houghtling: No. We discouraged her from shooting.

We have women call up all the time asking if their husbands have been here. A long time ago we used to have a woman come in and she would bring in different guys with her. We always assumed she liked to introduce different people to the sport and she liked different guys.

One day she came in and introduced her husband to us. She had been with all those other guys here on dates. She would be in the parking lot kissing them.

Tribune: Well, maybe she'd just gotten married.

Houghtling: No. She was very quick to make the point before we could say anything, 'I'd like you to meet my husband.'

Tribune: Do people ever want to put up their own targets instead of those you supply?

Houghtling: We had the Secret Service call us. Unbeknownst to us, a customer had put up a target of a political figure and another customer called the Secret Service. We got yelled at and we didn't even know it.

Tribune: Because it was the Secret Service I'm guessing the target wasn't, say, a state legislator or somebody running for school board.

Houghtling: I assume it was a president, but it was years ago so I don't even know which president.

Tribune: You a good shot?

Houghtling: Yes I am.

Tribune: How good?

Houghtling: I've had customers see me shoot and through the years I've become in their minds better than I probably am. Old customers say, 'Oh, don't shoot against Julie. She's really good.' You'll hear old-time customers say, 'Just don't make her mad.'

Tribune: Who else comes to shoot?

Houghtling: We have tons of bachelor parties. I use the .454 Casull as the grand finale for bachelor parties. It's a bear gun, so it has a huge recoil. I had two moms and four girls come in and they had all gotten pedicures and manicures and they wanted to do something special for the girls before they went to college. They all came in and shot. The mom wanted them to feel confident before they went off to school.

As a grand finale I gave them the bear gun and all of these skinny little tiny girls each shot it, which, at the bachelor parties, some of the guys won't shoot. The mom put each shot right where we told her. She treated it like nothing. It was amazing to me.

We had a couple that came here on their very first date and now they have two children that have got to be 7 and 5.

Tribune: Makes you wonder where they went on their second date.

Last question. I've got to ask what happened to your hand.

Houghtling: I was born without it.

Tribune: But customers must wonder if it was a shooting accident.

Houghtling: I've had less than half a dozen people ask that. I don't know if it's because they're afraid to ask.

Tribune: Well, given your reputation, 'Don't make Julie mad,' that's possible.