Volume XVII, Issue 16 - April 16 - April 22, 2009

I have been a wing-shooting devotee for many years and felt confident in my abilities. But this time my performance would became a question of nerves — and not in any way I had anticipated.

Shooting with the Boys

Upland hunting with clay pigeons

I fired at the first orange clay bird rocketing through the woods in front of me and missed cleanly. At the sound of my shot, another clay was released, and again I swung the barrels of my 20-gauge Superposed to that target and fired. Another miss.

Exhaling, I ejected the two empties, loaded the gun and proceeded to miss the next target coming from the opposite side as well. But shooting was going great.

I was at the Prince George’s County Sporting Clays course (301-577-7178; Google PG County trap) at the invitation of my oldest son, JP. He and his charming girlfriend, Jackie Huber, were taking a break from Baltimore city life at the gun club.

Jackie, a country girl, had been taught to shoot at an early age by her grandfather. I had schooled JP as soon as he could hold a shotgun. Neither had shot much in the past few years, but each was boasting that they could outdo the other. A small wager had been placed on the outcome.

The shooting party also included my youngest son, Robert. He had accompanied me occasionally to an Annapolis skeet club and had developed a pretty decent eye. I have been a wing-shooting devotee for many years and felt confident in my abilities. But this time my performance would became a question of nerves — and not in any way I had anticipated.

The Path to Disaster

Sporting clays are meant to replicate the upland-hunting scenario. To this end, each shooting position is located along a meandering path of almost a mile in the forest surrounding the gun club.

The clay pigeon targets are thrown from electronically triggered traps hidden at each position. Some go away from the shooter or cross in front, others come from behind, and still others go toward you, sometimes one at a time, sometimes two. Up to 22 stations challenge the shooter.

I came out of the clubhouse to find each of my two sons driving one of the golf carts available to relieve shooters of the burden of a long walk with guns and ammunition.

What contested my composure was riding as passenger with Robert, who had recently gotten his learner’s permit and insisted on displaying his newly acquired skills. He was also intent on keeping up with his eldest brother.

With their firearms and shot shells, JP and Jackie motored down the narrow, twisting, tree-lined path toward the distant first stage of the course. Robert and I followed.

Desperately clutching our two guns, I tried to maintain my seat as Robert careened down the convoluted path, chasing JP. I muttered over and over, sometimes rather loudly, slow down dammit, slow down! That was unless I was otherwise screaming watch out: the tree. By the time we got to Station One, I was almost disassembled. The boys were grinning. Perhaps I was over-reacting.

I managed to calm myself for the first series of targets, which, fortunately, were relatively easy. But that was the end. With another unnerving cart scramble to the next station, I fell apart. As I missed right and left hand birds with equal ease, my count of lost targets went into double digits.

At first I was dejected. Then I noticed that the boys were much more relaxed with their shooting than usual when I shot with them. What’s more, they were having a great time. The bantering was especially good-humored as the boys took pains to include me in lost-target ridicule.

At the end of the course, we returned our carts to their place near the clubhouse without a single collision or overturn. I was relieved and had enjoyed myself immensely. Maybe I had been a little overly critical of Bob’s driving.

We voted that JP and Jackie had tied since they both hit about half their targets. Any effort at exact scorekeeping evaporated early in the competition. I refused to estimate my own misses, but inwardly I resolved that the next time we met to shoot, I would not be tempted to play instructor no matter how good my score was. And I was not getting into any golf cart again with those guys.

Fish Are Biting

The white perch run should be in full swing by now, but I haven’t heard of any hot bites as yet. Big rockfish in good numbers are still being caught and released at Sandy Point and Matapeake State Parks on bloodworms. Most anglers are in waiting and prepping their gear for the opening of trophy rockfish season April 19.

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