Lean to the right and get snake-eyed

I recently had the distinct pleasure of introducing a new member to the loyal and benevolent order of trapshooters.

She’ll probably never speak to me again…

Perhaps I should explain.

(Sure, why not?)

For the uninitiated, trapshooting is a challenging sport requiring skill, coordination, a high degree of intelligence and top physical conditioning during which the shooter cheerfully blasts little orange discs out of the sky with a shotgun.

It is, in four words, everything that golf isn’t.

A few weekends ago, a young woman of my acquaintance – obviously stricken with an incurable case of hero worship – approached my desk and breathed “Oh, I would so like to blast little orange discs out of the sky and make America a better place for everyone.”

Hey, how can you argue with that?

A short time later, I transported my wide-eyed trapshooter-to-be to the strategically unimportant Yolo Sportsmen’s Association trap range, handed her a 12-gauge shotgun and told her not to kill anyone.

(This is, essentially, a training technique based on the same principle as that of tossing children into the Rogue River rapids to teach them how to swim).

Nobody was killed, but the novice trapshooter’s stance, breathing, timing, armament, balance, sequencing (whatever that is) and posture drew immediate comment from a dozen veteran trapshooters who’d been standing around talking to a dog.

Trapshooters are always ready to lend plenty of advice to a newcomer and that afternoon was no exception.

“Keep both eyes open,” one advised.

“Close one eye – probably the left – but if that doesn’t work, try the right,” another advised.

“If you’re shooting from your right shoulder, lead with your left foot and kind of lean in to the trap house,” a third suggested.”

Naaaaaa, lead with your right foot for your right shoulder and get your cheek right down on the butt, then pivot! Pivot!” another recommended.

Yet another oldtimer approached me and suggested in all seriousness that I should “Tell her to stick her backside out more.”

Sure, pal. Then everyone can watch me get beaten senseless with my own shotgun.

That should be amusing and informative…

While my trapshooting student was still hopping on one foot, leaning to the right and bending to the left, her self-appointed advisers also began recommending more and better equipment and accessories.

“Why are you using a 12-gauge? That hurts. You don’t want to get hurt. You want to shoot things and have fun. You need a 20-gauge,” one woman advised.

“Or a .410 pump,” suggested another.

“I used to have a .410 pump,” suggested another.

“Or get both, that way you can decide for yourself.”

And then the focus somehow shifted in my direction.

“Why did you give her a 12-gauge? That was mean. And stupid. You shouldn’t start somebody off with a 12-gauge. You should be ashamed,” scolded one woman.

“You should go right out and get her a 20-gauge and tell her you’re sorry!”

Uh-huh…I managed a dignified retreat and wandered off to talk to the dog.

Originally published October 19, 2003