The first target out of the trap house for me was just the slightest angle off of dead-straight-away, always a dangerous target and easy to misjudge. I swung up my 12-gauge single-barrel trap gun, just touched the bottom of the departing clay with my front bead, and slapped the trigger. The bird sailed on untouched as the scorer behind me called out, lost.
My heart dropped. Trap is a game of very small numbers and fierce competition. Just one or two misses out of a hundred targets is often all that separates the winners from the rest. With a first target miss, I was already behind in this year’s Paralyzed Veterans of America Annual Trapshoot at the Carney Rod and Gun Club in northern Baltimore.
Bluefish are the big news this week on the Chesapeake, with a number of nice-sized choppers being caught on both sides of the Bay all the way up to the Bridge. Early arriving this year, the voracious feeders are a welcome alternative to rockfish, which have recently turned fickle.
A Sport as old As the Nation
The shotgun shooting game of trap was invented in the late 1700s, making it virtually as old as the United States. A mechanical throwing device, called a trap, is housed 16 yards down-range from shooters inside a small, shot-proof, low-profile trap house. The device hurls four-and-a-half-inch domed clay discs, called clay pigeons, away from the shooters at a speed of about 42 mph.
Shooters call for the targets by yelling pull, and the clays are released electronically. They fly out of the trap house upward at an angle of about 30 degrees, traveling some 50 yards downrange — if they remain unhit.
The trap machines are mounted on a constantly oscillating base, so when a pigeon is launched within its prescribed arc downrange, it is always an unpredictable target. Five shooting stations are set in an arc equidistant behind the trap house. Shooters get five targets from each station for a total of 25 targets a round.
Back in the Game
My younger brother Tim Doyle has been confined to a wheelchair since receiving a severe spinal injury from a North Vietnamese mortar shell back in 1969 as a Marine combat infantryman. He has traveled to this shoot from his home in Erie, Pennsylvania, for the past decade.
The Carney Rod and Gun Club is worth the trip. Established in 1944, it is a classic trap club with a large pavilion for shooters to gather, a lovely indoor dining area, kitchen, club offices and a particularly comfortable area dedicated to consuming adult beverages (but only after the shooting is over). The club maintains five trap ranges and is open to the public on Sundays (410-668-1019).
Like me, our youngest brother, Bill Doyle, lives in Annapolis. He and I and our families and a few close friends have joined Tim for the past eight years, making the shoot an impromptu family reunion.
On their turns, both brothers smoked their birds. So did my son JP. Our honorary uncle, Randy Steck, smashed his bird. Then it was back to me.
A hard-angle bird rocketed off to my right, and I hurried to catch up to it, hitting the trigger as my barrel finally passed. The clay blossomed into a chrysanthemum of shattered pieces, and I relaxed. Finally I was in the game.
I bounced back from my first-shot miss for a first-place finish among class-A shooters for 16-yard targets. Tim secured first place overall in his class.
Then we joined in a hearty banquet of freshly barbecued beef and chicken and lots of libations to celebrate victories and soothe egos.
It’s a ritual I wouldn’t miss, even if the rockfish were biting.