Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Sporting Clays!!

Sporting Clays with the 4-H-ers and my New ETHOS.
 OR - 200 rounds of 12 ga so far, and I'm not sore.

Those of you who have been regular readers since the beginning may recall that I've had a grand total of two ( or maybe three?) skeet lessons back when I first bought my 3-Gun shotgun a few years ago. That's been pretty much the sum total of my "sporting" shotgun experience up until now.

When I won my new Benelli ETHOS at the silent auction in January, I decided that this was my incentive to change that situation. It was a long winter of waiting since then, but I've finally been able to break the gun (and myself) in. 

About 3 weeks ago, I attended my first "sporting clays" event at my home club. I put that in quotes because it was a very informal affair done with portable throwers, which allowed me to get my feet wet in a casual fashion. As the fellow who coordinates these matches told me - "We keep score more out of a sense of obligation than anything." LOL! It was just the ticket for me though, and It allowed me to get some first shots out of the ETHOS without any expectations.

In the 3 weeks since that time, I hadn't so much as touched the gun except to move it around in the gun safe to get to something else. I also never got around to cleaning it after that first 100 rounds.

This past weekend, I got a new opportunity. There was a fundraiser sporting clays match to help send our 4H State Champion Shotgun Team to Nationals in Nebraska this summer. The coaches for this group of young people also happened to be the coaches who gave me those skeet lessons a few years ago. The invitation sounded like FUN to me, so I signed up. As an aside, I should also mention that my youngest child graduated from high school on Saturday, and she and her gang of friends promptly left for a week at Myrtle Beach the very same day. This match was going to be Sunday, and I thus jumped at the opportunity to not sit at home and wallow in my empty-nestedness. ( Is that a word? - LOL)

I had a GREAT time! The facility was called Hunting Hills in Dilliner, PA.  The scenery was lovely and I'll bet in autumn it is even more impressive. I got the biggest kick out of how they labeled the restrooms in the clubhouse - "Pointers" and "Setters". It actually took me a second or so to figure that out, and then I had to get a photo. ( I know, I'm easily entertained)

There were 43 shooters, only two of whom were women (Christine the coach, and myself). I'm fairly used to that by now, but I "feel" it more when I'm in a new location where nobody knows me. There were other friendly and wonderful women there to run things, but for whatever reason, they didn't shoot. The $100 registration fee covered 100 clays at 17 stations, and a yummy ribs and chicken dinner afterward. Proceeds benefitted the 4-H kids' trip to Nationals - as did the 50/50 drawing and the shotgun raffle.

I had a very friendly squad of gentlemen to shoot with. They didn't know me from Adam ( or more precisely, Eve), because I was switched and dropped into their group at the last minute when 4 other folks didn't show up. These gentlemen had arrived at the station ahead of me due to their motorized cart. To their credit, when I rolled up to Station 4, sweaty and winded, in my home-sewed IDPA vest, and dragging my foldable wagon behind me, they didn't really bat an eye. ( or if they did, it was politely behind my back - LOL) 

For subsequent stations (oh yeah - and it's a "station", not a stage or a bay - gotta learn new terminology) they offered me a ride. My pride being what it is, I dutifully declined. But after awhile they wore me down (or maybe it was the "hills" at Hunting Hills that  wore me down!)  I wish I had video of that cart tootling down the path, with me in the rear-facing seat, towing my WalMart red wagon behind :-D I got a little worried at one point when they asked me what the speed-rating was for the tires on the wagon - LOL!

This was a whole new kind of shooting experience for me. Each station had clays thrown in a different way. Some were "true pairs", and some were "report pairs" (the second clay is thrown at the sound of the gun on the first clay). Some criss-crossed direction, and some followed parallel paths. Some started very high and fast, and some were lower and dropped into the trees. Some were even thrown from a raised platform above and behind you, so that they came in over your head almost unseen until the last minute. It was an exciting challenge, and my group was very encouraging of my efforts.

I joked with my squadmates (do you even call it a "squad" in sporting clays??) that my 3-gun targets almost always stand still and just let me shoot them  - I'm not used to these targets that fly over your head and try to get away!  I did hit at least one clay on every station (I think), and I even hit one of the "rabbits". THAT was decidedly weird - shooting at a target that is rolling and bouncing along the ground is a concept so foreign to me, that I almost said "You want me to do WHAT?" :-D

For obvious reasons, I didn't "win" anything that day except a fun time and a new experience. But honestly, for going into the event with my only goal being a score greater than zero, I don't think I did terribly. I'm still very much a newb at the sporting-type shotgun sports, so a 32 out of 100 is something I'm pretty proud of. 

I continue to learn something new every time I go shooting. Thank you to all of the organizers and helpers at this event, and thank you to the folks at Hunting Hills! I'll be back!

Good Luck and Best Wishes to the WV 4H Shotgun Team - we're proud of you!

If you are local, and want to make a donation toward their trip, please contact the WVU Monongalia County Extension Office!

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