October 1, 2014
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Mr. Adventure: Shooting the Breeze (and Some Clay Pigeons)

What happened when our writer and Miss Adventure took aim at targets on the move.

Gary Hovland

 

For those of you who care—and that includes any of you reading this while trapped at the doctor’s office—clay pigeons are made of neither clay nor pigeon. That information came as quite a shock to me when Miss Adventure and I recently decided to test our shooting skills after a multi-day viewing marathon of the television series 24 on Netflix.

On the show, super agent Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland), aside from being blessed with remarkable cell phone coverage, is a spectacular shot, which comes in handy when you are constantly being targeted by terrorists and assassins who are on a tight schedule. And though the State of Florida has yet to experience a significant terrorist threat, we Adventures believe that you can never be too careful. So we decided to get our hands on some guns and practice.

The truth is that one of my favorite things about being American is our ability to shoot stuff whenever we want: big stuff, small stuff, home invaders, squirrels, videos of cats, etc. But for some reason, I’ve been lax in taking advantage of this constitutionally protected right. And frankly, I’m embarrassed. After all, people in many parts of the world would give their right arm to bear arms.

On the flipside, Miss Adventure’s least favorite part about being Jamaican is her ability to be shot at. (It turns out Jamaica can be a rough ’hood once you step outside of Sandals.) Nevertheless, we accepted an invitation to spend the day at Gulf Coast Clays at Port of the Islands Gun Club to try our hand at blowing things out of the sky, even though we had virtually no firearm experience between us.

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The gun club is located on 68 beautiful acres just east of Naples off Tamiami Trail East alongside the Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park. All you really need to know is that it is in the middle of nowhere. In fact, when you pull off of the highway and turn onto the dirt road, past the abandoned hotel and condos, you’d be forgiven if you assume they’re filming the sequel to Deliverance nearby. But the truth is, you kinda want a gun club to be in the sticks—it reduces the chances of you winging a grandmother by at least 30 percent. And not even Jack Bauer wants to shoot a grandmother.

As you pull up to the maroon enclave replete with office, clubhouse and outbuildings, you are greeted by the sound of gunfire. If you close your eyes it’s like being transported inside an episode of The Wire. Open your eyes and it’s more like a campground for vegan hunters.

They serve multiple disciplines at the gun club, meaning you can shoot skeet, trap and sporting clays. General manager Brian Featheringham, a retired federal agent (not unlike Jack Bauer), explained that those are, in fact, real things that mean something to people with guns. That was all we needed to know. (That’s really all we ever really need to know; if you’ve got a gun, feel free to tell us your thoughts about anything.) And even if you don’t have your own gun, you can rent one on site and spend the day shooting away.

Our grand tour didn’t require a waiver or contact information for next of kin, so we were pretty optimistic. After all, we got a ride in a golf cart, which is always a win, and we were handed shotguns—featuring the cold blue steel that helped liberate the American West from those pesky buffalo.

As we rode along in the cart, holding a box of loose shotgun shells, we saw a dozen or more men and women packing heat and standing along the markers for trap and skeet. (Hey, that rhymed.) There were other people still milling about after a busy morning. It seems nothing gets the circulation going like the smell of gunpowder. And though we were excited to try all types of shooting, Featheringham wisely drove us out back to the sporting clays course. It was deserted.

Described as golf with guns, sporting clays is currently enjoying shooting’s biggest following—and for good reason. The course really does resemble a golf course, with various “holes.” You tee it up at the constructed stand, yell “Pull!” to whomever is in control of the clay targets, and wait for these things to fly out from wherever. It could be from your left, right, from in front and even overhead and behind you. Sometimes even two at once headed in different directions.

And the aforementioned pigeons, which are really small Frisbee-like disks made of a mixture of crushed limestone and pitch, are surprisingly small and, as Featheringham says, “look like aspirin flying through the air.” And it’s not like they’re hovering. They’re in a hurry to get from one place to another.

“Even if you just nick it, it still counts as a hit,” Featheringham said.

“Uh, good to know,” I replied.

As Miss Adventure and I stood atop our first stand and felt the weight of the shotguns in our hands, it was clear we were in for something special. “They’re heavy,” said Miss Adventure as she watched me struggle to put the earplugs in my ears. (It turns out shotguns are loud and you really need hearing protection, even though you won’t be able to hear anything that anyone says to you from that point on.)

“Weh muh no bak be beh to doh la eels,” Featheringham said.

“What?” I replied.

“Weh muh no bak be beh to doh la eels.”

“OK.”

We were each to get five shots at this stop on the course, and Featheringham was merely trying to explain where the targets would be coming from. He wisely just shot a few off so we knew where to look. They were out in front of us and flew toward us from left to right.

“You need to get the butt of the gun into the pocket of your shoulder,” said Featheringham. “Then put your cheek along the side so you’re staring directly down the barrel. You want to be looking where the gun is going.”

That seemed reasonable. Except for the part about my shoulder pocket. I didn’t seem to have one. And putting our cheeks against a shotgun seemed like a surefire way to risk the gorgeousness that is the Adventures. But I’m a trooper and Featheringham checked my stance and posture and said the magic words, “On your call.”

“Pull!”

In an instant I sighted the flying target and pulled the trigger … Smithereens, my friends. Smithereens. Next up? Same result. In fact, I nailed the first five and eight out of my first 10. I’m what you might call a savant.

For her part, Miss Adventure, who is more model than murderer, was amazingly gifted at yelling “Pull!” From there it was all downhill. The look on her face after she pulled the trigger for the first time and the gun kicked back was a combination of delirium, confusion and abject horror.

“These are heavy,” she said, handing the gun to Featheringham. “I think I’d like to try hand rifles.”

“What?” I replied.

“I’d like to try hand rifles.”

“What in the hell is a…? Do you mean a pistol?”

(By the way, this is what I deal with on a regular basis.)

“Maybe you should just collect clay pigeons. Look, none of yours are broken.”

 

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