Saturday, May 16, 2009

Priceless Memories

A few days ago my dad invited me to his somewhat exclusive gun range for an evening of trap shooting. I say his range is "somewhat exclusive" because there is a limited number of people that are allowed to be members and the only way for someone to become a member is if a current member quits - or dies. Right now it's about a five year wait to become a member, although there were a few WWII-era gentlemen walking around which makes me think the wait time might be coming down. Members are allowed to bring guests who want to shoot or if they are interested in joining the club. Since it takes so long to become a member, no one ever really leaves the gun club. If I were a member, I'd be a little worried about inviting potential members with their weapons to come out and play, when the only way for someone to join is for a current member to die.

I have experience with handguns but have never shot trap before so while we were driving to the range, my dad explained the etiquette of trap shooting. For those who don't know, shooting trap is when you shoot a shotgun (which sprays out hundreds of little BB's) at clay pigeons launched from a shack out in front of you. Clay pigeons look like those discs that people throw at track and field events during the Olympics. Now that I think about it, I'm not sure why they're called "pigeons". Shooting a pigeon with a shotgun is the equivalent of making hot-coco and mixing it with an electric blender. It'll get the job done but you'll be left with a mess and about half as much hot-coco had you just used a spoon from the kitchen drawer. You can shoot a pigeon with a rock from a slingshot and ruin his day, but shooting a pigeon with a 12 gauge shotgun is overkill - literally.

We arrived at the gun club on a beautiful Minnesota evening - a comfortable 65 degrees, no humidity, and no mosquitoes (which are actually the size of pigeons later in the summer). There were a few older gentlemen standing around recollecting the good ol' days when times were simpler. One gentlemen in particular had some good war stories - that's probably because he was on the beaches during the Normandy invasion on D-Day. I could have listened to his stories all day long, but the sun was approaching the horizon and I was anxious to destroy some clay pigeons, which I was about to learn is easier said than done.

My dad gave me a quick checkout on his shotgun (which I hope comes my way when he gives up his spot at the gun club). He told me how he bought this Ithaca shotgun when he was in the 10th grade from the local hardware store. Before he had saved up the $97 he needed to buy it, he'd stop by everyday after school and make sure it was still there, maybe hold it up and "shoot" as he imagined a duck flying over. Talk about good ol' days - no permit to purchase, no worry that he was going to go nuts and try to kill all the kids at school (half of which probably had shotguns too), just a 16 year old boy buying a shotgun. I'm pretty sure if a 10th grade boy walked into his local hardware store today and tried to buy a shotgun, the police would probably show up.

I didn't really think shooting clay pigeons would be that hard - well, I was wrong. Once you yell "Pull!" the pigeon comes flying out of the shack. You only have a split second to acquire the target, track it, get slightly ahead of it, and pull the trigger while still following the target. During each round there are five guys shooting from five different spots. The guy in the first spot starts and after his first shot, the person to his right gets his turn, then the person to his right, and so on. You go through that cycle five times, then everyone rotates to the next spot to the right. After each person has shot five times from the five different spots, that round of shooting is over. For those who didn't major in math, that's 25 shots for each shooter. In my first round, I hit one clay pigeon - ONE!!

My second round went a little better, I think I hit five of those elusive little discs. That being said, my dad was in charge of launching the clay targets and he noticed that I was hitting the targets that veered off to the left more often than not, so he kept firing my clay pigeons that way - gotta love a dad who makes you look good on the range.

Next was my dads turn to shoot. He told me on the drive to the club that he's not very good at trap shooting. I was beginning to doubt that statement when he hit his first five targets. I felt better once he began to miss them as he rotated through each firing position. When he hit the target he'd look over at me and pump his fist with a smile on his face, probably much in the same way he did when he first bought this weapon in the 10th grade. It was then that I realized our evening was more than just a father and son out at the range trying to destroy clay pigeons, it was more than that - it was two friends doing something that they love, spending time together.

45 year old shotgun: $97
3 boxes of shotgun shells: $30
Watching dad act like a 10th grader: Priceless