Tango Diva : Travel Stories for Women, by Women

December 18th, 2013
Skeet-ing Through Life

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by Cynthia English

Some things in life come around again and again. And at times, at different stages of life, those ‘things’ look completely different. You change, life circumstances change, things change.

Things change. Sometimes those ‘things’ become ‘chic’; sometimes, ‘classic’; sometimes they remain both ‘chic’ and ‘classic’… basics that prevail.

And so it is over the years for me with skeet and clay shooting. A ‘basic’ among my male friends over the years. A sport shared and passed from father to son. Tradition. Life markers for me.

The first time I held a shotgun in my hands, I was on a boat off Catalina Island. The skeet were flying fast and high. They’d “pull”, the disc would release, I’d pull the trigger, the shot would ring out and the discs would either splinter and fall into the ocean or (most often) just fall into the ocean with a slick slice into the water. Bored easily, after watching the disc fly up and out from the same place over and over and over, (and being, quite truthfully, a poor shot, hence, littering the sea with round clay pigeon debris) I finally realized the best thing for me to do on a boat off Catalina is to enjoy friends, the sun and the seals bobbing alongside an occasional dolphin with the beauty of the island as the backdrop. While admiring bathing suit fashion. Period.

Years later, skeet shooting was on the weekend agenda at Ackergill Tower in the Scottish Highlands. Essence of romance radiated from the animate and inanimate. Every room was strewn with glossy hi-def photos of models decked out in fitted red or plaid hunting jackets, velvet trim, tight pants and shiny black riding boots astride horses or propped against a Range Rover. Opulent picnics, horses grazing, the scenic Tower in the background and the ocean crashing against rocky crags. It was exciting, sexy and easy to imagine oneself in the 18th century with the Laird of the Land, skeet shooting, whilst the bagpiper played, just ‘round the bend from the Queen Mum’s castle. Back in the 21st century, we donned our wellies and waxed jackets, made our way to the stand, greeted the Master Shot, then awaited our turn for the pull of the trap. And another pull and another pull and…the black clay disc flew up through the air same height, same angle, same same…the clays rose, fell, some splintered, most not.

Bored again, but the Fashion, the romance…

Fast forward. A very handsome “expert shot” invited me to shoot clays. Enamored, would I dare to say no? Of course not! I wouldn’t/couldn’t be bored watching him shoot.

We drove out into the countryside to Fuquay, somewhere near Raleigh and Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Mr ‘expert shot’ looked positively regal in his green hunting jacket with suede trim, the hunting vest with the shell pockets, khaki pants, suede boots and carved silver belt buckle…I was excited and intrigued by the fashion of the sport, the beautifully carved gun handles, the luxurious leather cases and as I listened attentively to his tales of shooting expeditions in exotic realms, my interests peeked. Perhaps there was more to this skeet shooting. Perhaps, my amour would invite me to join him in Argentina, then perhaps in the UK at Blenheim.

We parked aside a sign announcing “Drake Landing” and my mind was off again in an imaginary 18th century jaunt with my suitor.

I was introduced to Mr Earl McLean, a North Carolina and USA Shotgun Champion and Sporting Clay expert. A gift. He was my instructor.

We loaded up a golf cart with a 28g Benelli Legend, the stock and forend in walnut and the receiver plate carved with dogs and flowers, shell boxes, the auto box and ear plugs then rode down a knoll into the woods. As Mr. McLean drove, he commanded I shift focus from fashion to shotgun parts: the stock, the receiver, the forend, the barrel. The crafters: Beretta, Perazzi, Benelli, Remington, Browning, Mossberg, Purdey, Holland & Holland, Ithica, Blaser and Connecticut Shotgun. Gauge sizes: 28,16,12,10,410, the higher the number, the smaller the barrel, the smaller the pellets–less power, less recoil. Single barrel, double barrel. Short, long. Details. Bursts of gunfire rang out near and far. Details.

For my first shot, Mr McLean guided me to a perfect hit. Weight forward, gun mount – the dance of the shot – the stock kisses then hugs the cheek, the barrel moving in tandem with the clay, eyes, mind and body focused on the moving target, a pull of the trigger, a slight recoil, the focus, the impact, the fracture and explosion of clay into a puff of smoke.  Yesterday’s stress morphed into today’s ‘smoked’ clay – lustful therapy. From that moment, I was hooked. Hit or miss, it was an empowering feeling to be in complete control. Focus required.

Details moved to descriptive targets that mimic bouncing rabbits, incoming mallards, and other typical hunting game. I was instructed in the stance, how to hold the shotgun and how to line up the shot. “Watch the trap, catch the angle of the clay, stay just 2 seconds ahead of it with your barrel, pull the trigger with both of your eyes wide open.” I did as he said. ‘Eyes open‘ the challenge.

When Earl said, “round up your gear, we’re off to Stand 6”, I had no idea what he meant. “Sporting Clays” is a course, he related, much like golf, filled with different “stands”. Each stand plotted to entertain and sharpen the shooter with varied terrain: ponds, drop-offs, bridges and ditches; sequeled traps: high flying clays, rolling clays, sharp left, sharp right, overhead, faster, slower–I was in love. So much diversity! Such fun trying to hit the target, a certain skill level required if one is carrying a score card with friends and camaraderie chosen, not required! “And…“, he added, “…with instruction, women can become finer shots than men.”

People shoot skeet and clays, trap and sporting all over the world.  Hunting doesn’t interest me, but be assured, I will find the skeet master in different ports of call as I continue to discover and re.discover places and things even as life circumstances change–imagine the culturally diverse Fashion I just might discover and who knows, perhaps even romance–

I became absolutely hooked on Sporting Clays. A special thank you for Drake Landing’s team, especially Earl, Jess and Lee. And, owners Linda and Dan Andrews who had the foresight to add a quality sport to their farm. In fact, they’re building another course with 13 more stands–upping the ante on sharing time in the great outdoors away from smartphones and television–I’m looking forward to conquering new heights and new tricky angles and just maybe I will be ready to try shooting midi’s and mini’s vs standards.

DRAKE LANDING AT ANDREWS FARM: SPORTING CLAYS, PISTOL PIT, DUCK HUNTING, UPLAND HUNTING, DOVE HUNTING, DEER HUNTING, 3-D ARCHERY, CORPORATE & TEAM BUILDING EVENTS

3146 Chalybeate Springs Road Fuquay-Varina, NC 27526 919.552.9455

 

4 thoughts on “Skeet-ing Through Life

  1. Great article! I’ve known Earl McClean for many years and I know his passion for the sport. You will not speak of skeet shooting around Earl without being enamered with his knowledge and love of the game. If you’re looking for a trainer, he’s your guy. I’m now in So. Texas and sure miss those times.

    • Terry, thank you~ And thank you for taking time to write. I most certainly agree…Earl nurtured my passion within! Hope you soon find some wonderful fellow skeet shooters in So. Texas! Warm regards, Cynthia

  2. Oh my Cynthia, we are certainly into the realms of romance and appreciation of all that enhances the essence of ourselves to dance with the magic as it captures our imagination and takes us to places only our hearts can endure with the enchantment of the mystery.
    I am emailing with a Scottish man that once played bagpipes and he now has some bad fingers and sold his pipes. His daughter is trying to find a photo of him in his Kilte and of course he will be much younger, but a fine looking man he is, AYE……..
    The bliss of our imaginations is so amazing and to be able to partake of the moments that are gifts from our deepest knowing of touching another beloved………….
    Alas, we are fortunate to share this presence of what it means to be a lover of the ALL

    Thank you for sharing, Certainly relate to the undying feminine of our everlasting being, Age doesn’t take the memories away from many things…………..

    Dianne

  3. Dear Dianne, I so look forward to the photograph of your Scottish gentleman in the his kilte! Thank you for enjoying this article and I do so apologize for the much delayed response! Kindest regards,
    Cynthia
    @globalscribes

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