Lock, Stock, and a F***ed Shoulder

Many moons ago, when I lived in the native land of the Vikings, Denmark, I had the awesome opportunity to try out my abilities at trap shooting.  It involves big guns, aka shotguns, and the sole purpose is to shoot fast flying clay pigeons (birds) flying away from you.

Disclaimer – Vikings did not have or use guns.  We prefer a more up close and personal way of inflicting pain, using a battleax or sword.

I was in my mid-twenties, shooting guns in a filed with a bunch of other guys.  Afterward, we had some beers, cigarettes, and talked about the evening’s competition.  It was a different experience, but awesome.  I spent the next several months going once a week, and my aim got slightly better, and I would hit more targets.

When I left Denmark in the mid-90s, I said goodbye to that sport, and never really got an opportunity to rekindle my love for this sport, until I recently got invited to a skeet shooting outing with one of the vendors through my job.

IMG_7170This time it was not trap shooting, but sporting clay shooting.  To be honest, I didn’t really know the difference but googled it.  Trap and skeet are very similar, where clays are flung from fixed positions.

Sport clay shooting is much more fun and advanced – in my view.  They have a specific course, similar to golf, where you walk to different setups and the clays are sent across your viewpoint from different angles, heights, directions, and colors.

We meet at this amazing place called Orvis Sandanona, little over an hour north of NYC, set in beautiful surroundings, and it actually resembled a nice golf country club.  However, as you got nearer, you quickly noticed the difference.

Instead of golf boogies with clubs, you had small trolleys and carts with gun racks.  Instead of a rack to wash your clubs, there was a table where you could clean and oil your shotgun.

The pro shop was full of outdoor gear such as guns, clothing, flyfishing rods, etc.  It was an amazing place and super friendly people.

We got divided into teams, assigned a trapper, guns, ammo, and a cart, and set off into the wooded area.

There were perhaps 15-20 different shooting stations, each with various levels of complexity, and each required a different level of concentration.  At one moment a clay would fly from behind, then left, then right, then ‘run’ across the ground, then fly fast towards and over, then in pairs (left, right, or together) at the same time.  It was pretty easy to miss, and you easily burn through several boxes of ammo.

As the shooter, you are standing on a podium, overlooking the area where the clays will pass, and you need to focus.  The ground was littered with smashed orange clay pieces, and the trees had been stripped naked by all the pellets from thousands of shells being fired towards them.

You could hear loud shots from other shooters on the course, and it was hard to believe that there would be any wildlife brave enough to wonder into this area.  Yet, we spotted a couple of deers and birds, bravely giving us shooters a smirk as they ate the berries.

It is important that you press the hilt of the gun against your shoulder firmly, to avoid getting bruised, and to reduce the recoil.  You need to hold the gun with a good grip, aim, and then shout ‘pull’.

Once you shout ‘pull’, the trapper will release the clays, and you frantically try to aim and smash the clays with a well-placed spray of pellets.

It sounds bloody easy, but it is damn hard.  You need to calculate the speed, direction, and angle, and then placed you aim accordingly.  You do not aim directly at the clay, but normally a little in front of it.

After the first ten shells were fired, my batting average was going up.  I was pretty amazed that I had not forgotten it all, and really enjoyed the tension, smell, and sounds from the gun.

Before you correct me, yes, I had forgotten to out on my protective glasses for this shot!

We shot 70 shells each, and I ended up with 42 hits.  Not a world-class result, but I was very happy with the outcome.


That said, my shoulder had obviously forgotten everything about the pain of the recoil, and was slowly being beaten into submission by the gun.  A couple of times I did not press it back firmly, and the gun punished me by smacking my shoulder hard.

After the 70 shots, I have to admit my shoulder was pretty f***ed up.  No gardening would be possible this weekend, which might not be a bad thing since we were expecting mid 90F.

The teams met afterward at the clubhouse, had a very nice lunch while telling stories.  It was a great morning/afternoon, and I definitely want to go back to try again.

I can highly recommend visiting this place.  It’s perhaps a little expensive, but worthwhile and loads of fun.

Safety around guns is essential.  Make sure you listen and follow all the directions the instructors give you and don’t try to be smart.  It is easy to lose a toe or foot if you do not observe safety.

I’m not too sure when my shoulder will forgive me and when the bruising will go away.  It takes longer the older we get, but it can also get you some extra love from your wife as she sees your bruise and may hand you and extra beer.

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