Friday, March 18, 2011

Shoot Those Pigeons Down Girl!

During the spring I shoot trap once a week with the only all women’s team at the Juneau Gun Club. There are two things that I always have to explain when I say the above sentence:
  1. Trap Shooting – Trap is a competitive clay pigeon (those orange clay discs) shooting sport. You shoot in a group of five people first at 16 yards and then at 20 yards from the pigeon house (the location where the clays are shot from). There are five shooting stations, each at slightly different angles. For each distance each person shoots a total of 25 shots. The shots are taken one at a time until each person has shot five times at the station they’re standing at, then everyone rotates. Once everyone has shot five shots at each of the five stations, the whole group moves over to the next distance.
  2. A diagram of the set-up stolen from
  3. The Juneau Gun Club – this is a private shooting club which has a club house and the set-ups for trap. If you’re a member you can buy cheap shells, shoot, borrow guns, and drink coffee. They run the league after work during the winter, so they also run floodlights for the shooters.
The team I shoot with started three years ago with a group of gals who had never shot trap, and in some cases, never shot a shotgun. That’s still true this year as the team is made up of whoever we can find who might be interested. It’s a no pressure team, which is great, and I’m sure we’re the only team that shoots out there that thinks that getting one pigeon out of fifty is great.
The majority of the folks we shoot against are white, early to late middle aged men. Many of these men have special shooting jackets and shotguns that are only used for trap and cost thousands of dollars. The first year our team shot, they didn’t quite know what to do with us. Now, three years in, it feels like we’re an accepted part of the club, if a totally bizarre part. It’s probably because we giggle.

In general I shoot around 18 or 19 out of 50 pigeons. Last night I had my best night of shooting and got 26.

Trap shooting feels a lot like you’re in a live video game. When you have a great shot, the pigeon explodes in a satisfying neon orange firework, the shards dispersing over a huge patch of snow.
For our team, it’s all about personal goals. Last year my personal goal was to shoot at least one pigeon at each of the ten stations. This year my goal is to shoot at least two pigeons at each of the ten stations. I came close last night, but have not yet achieved this year’s goal.

But the result of having these goals is a complex series of mental summersaults I go through.

The interior narration:

Sweet! Got one. I love getting the first pigeon! Okay. That’s great. Pressure’s off. It would be great to get another one, but if you don’t that’s okay. You already got one. So to meet your goal all you have to do is get one more. But if you don’t, that’s okay. Okay. Stop thinking. Stop thinking. Breathe. Shoot. Dang it. That’s okay. You still have three more shots at this station. Three more chances. But if you don’t get any, it’s okay, you already got one, which is good.
The gals from the trap team who shot last night.

And on and on.
During the league, each team has two work nights. On those nights our team doesn’t shoot, but fills up the pigeon houses when they run out of pigeons and scores other teams while they shoot. Scoring the other teams is usually a bit of a shock. They shoot so quickly! They shoot so many pigeons!  The best shooters shoot 48 or 49 out of 50.  It’s clear that the mental game these shooters play is very different from mine. Their expectation is that the pigeon will always explode and when it doesn’t they tighten their jaws and stare up at the night sky.

1 comment:

  1. I shot clay pigeons at the Gun Club in Beloit once and marvelled at and touted around my bruised shoulder. I loved it. Thanks for sharing this, makes me want to do it again. If I were there with you- I am sure I'd make your 26 hits looks even more impressive. :)