The blog has been quiet for a while as I keep busy with work and trying to get better at sporting clays. If you read the last post, you know that about a year ago I started shooting sporting clays. It’s basically golf with a shotgun. The challenge is that no course, or even targets at a particular station, is the same moment to moment. Wind, lighting and the shooter’s state of mind all influence the shot plan and execution. As such, the learning curve is pretty steep and that is probably why I’ve been so engrossed by the sport. I enjoy learning new skills and learning how to learn new skills, if that makes any sense.
I haven’t been posting my adventures in the woods because, unlike cycling, you don’t see many people with their cameras out at a sporting clays tournament. When I bike, I always have my eyes open to find the next picture, and have my camera or phone handy to capture the moment. When I shoot, on the other hand, my eyes and mind are focused on one thing and one thing only: where the clay target is coming from and going to. I’m not thinking about making pictures. I’m also aware that not everyone on the course with me wants their image captured or shared. There’s an element of privacy to be respected because some people do not want the whole world to know they shoot.
I’ve been reluctant to make and share images for the last reason mentioned. I don’t want to “out” someone as a shotgunner who wants that kept private. There is, you see, a social stigma to being “a shooter” that makes some uncomfortable. I get it. Before last year, I could not understand why people owned guns other than to hunt game. To be honest, I thought gun owners were something of a fringe group mostly because of the way they are portrayed by the media often in response to some horrendous incident. Now I shoot and see things from a different perspective.
Pictured above is the main lodge at Ten Mile River Preserve in Dover Plains, NY. It is one of the most bucolic places I’ve ever been in the great state of New York. You get to it by driving 90 minutes from the city, the last 20 on a single lane dirt road. It would be a great road to cycle on but, in a car, you wonder if your GPS has led you astray. You drive through the woods, then out of nowhere there is a clearing and you see this giant valley and the lodge sitting in the middle of it. You wonder, “How the hell did they build this here!”
Scattered around the preserve are various shooting venues, including this 5 stand site.
Yes, the field is that big. I wasn’t being lazy with my camera.
I spent the day here yesterday trying to smash clay targets with BBs fired from my shotgun. I didn’t do so well. Remember the learning curve. But I spent the day in a place that I didn’t know about this time last year, with like-minded perfectly sane people. The sporting clays community is friendly and welcoming, though few outsiders even know that such a community exists. I have been lucky enough to join the community and visit places like TMRP and countless other courses tucked away in NY, CT and NJ.
People ask me why I like going out to shoot, particularly since I’m not all that good yet. It’s because it is a journey. Part of the journey is developing the skill to shoot well and consistently. Part of the journey is represented by these pictures: being outside in the wonder of nature for a few hours. Hiking (I’m cheap so I don’t rent a golf cart!), seeing the sights and breathing the fresh air.
My journey has taught me that my preconceived notion of gun owners was wrong. They are not “nuts” or radicals, at least not the people in the woods shooting at clay birds. They are professionals, parents, spouses, upright citizens who enjoy being outside and pursuing a sport that happens to involve a firearm. They realized that the sport takes them to places that others don’t get to see.