I Officially Want to Buy a Gun

Casa de Campo's Shooting Club

A sport of action, movement, impeccable timing and control, and mental and physical demand, sport shooting sounds like the ideal bucket list item for me yet it never made the list until this year. When I heard about the 200 stations featuring trap, skeet, and sporting clays along with pigeon ring and a new bird preserve, the Case de Campo Shooting Center was the perfect match for Bucket List Publications. Even for a novice shooter like me, they have endless options.

This morning at 8:50 am we embarked on a Shooting Safari in the Dominican jungle at Casa de Campo’s professional 245-acre Shooting Club. I really didn’t know what to expect when I arrived. I’d never even held a gun before, except for when playing Nintendo Duck Hunt. I’d guessed that it wouldn’t be that different and, heck, I was really good at Duck Hunt so by default I’d be good at the real thing, right? (Obviously, I’m not being serious in case you didn’t catch that.)

When the instructor gave us safety rules, I listened with such intensity that I think my mouth was actually hanging open. I was nervous and anxious and scared all at the same time yet when he asked who wanted to go first I jumped up like my pants were on fire.

Casa de Campo Shooting Club

We were given our vests and shells and I followed my instructor, Eugene, off to the first station where trap stands projected clay targets away from us as shooters to stimulate a bird in flight, fleeing from a predator.

Eugene opened the gun and I placed two shells inside. The thought of a loaded gun that I was about to fire got my heart pumping a little faster and it wasn’t even in my hands yet. It was intense. I was sweating. I wanted to relax and enjoy it but I wanted to focus and really hear what he was telling me too. I was conflicted.

Casa de Campo's Shooting Club

He told me that he was going to help me the first time by telling me when to pull the trigger. Rather than focusing on the discs, I thought I’d focus solely on his voice. (That was dumb and my first lesson of the day.)

When I heard the word “pull”, I mindlessly shot in the direction I was told to shoot… but he was saying “pull” for the discs to be fired rather than for me to pull the trigger. What was I shooting at? Well, the air apparently because the disc hadn’t even made it out of the device before my shells were out into the air. I had already made a fool of myself and I didn’t even aim the gun yet.

Rather than laughing at me, which is what I would have done to anyone in the same situation, Eugene just smiled and said, “You need to wait until I tell you to shoot.”

Clearly, this wasn’t as simple as Duck Hunt. I did fall into a stride quickly though and I was nailing target after target in no time. I was so overwhelming proud and excited that I was beaming in between shots. I wanted to stay all day. Why had I waited so long to do this? I repeatedly fired at the 4 inch clay disc launched at speeds of up to 41 mph and hit it! Success!

Next up was sporting clays that provided a realistic hunting simulation of rabbits. All clays moved at different heights and speeds to test our range of skill. As the “rabbits” hopped across the field, I fired again and again. This experience was less successful but still exhilarating. I may have hit two or three “bunnies” before my turn was up.

Casa de Campo's Shooting Club

Unfortunately, I must not have been positioning the gun properly on my shoulder and when I arrived back to the resort, and the adrenaline of firing a gun wore off, my arm started to pain. I took my shirt off to have a look and it was already black, red, and blue. I’m going to be hurting tomorrow. This leads to lesson number two: do not position the gun on your collarbone. Instead, place it against the muscle away from the bone. I dread the thought of waking up tomorrow to a swollen and bruised clavicle. It’s not going to be comfortable.

Casa de Campo's Shooting Club

Although bruised and tender, I had a “blast”! Eugene was fantastic. His calming demeanor helped me relax when I was tense. His knowledge of the sport, with over 20 years experience at Casa de Campo, was impressive. He explained things like a natural teacher and gave me the confidence needed to experience success. There were other instructors but even when we switched stations, I wanted to be with Eugene.

While I have zero desire to shoot actually animals, I’ll be finding a shooting range in North Carolina when I return home. I was full of energy and excitement during the entire experience. That’s probably why I didn’t even realize that my arm was hurting until I got back to the room. My adrenaline was pumping and the pain was blocked by the awesomeness of Casa de Campo’s Shooting Club.

36 thoughts on “I Officially Want to Buy a Gun

  1. Reminds me of the one and only time a buddy ever invited me hunting. The only thing I got to shoot all day was a tin can for practice, but the recoil left my shoulder in agony and useless for days after. TV and movies make it look so easy!


  2. Yeah! (I know you meant to say “shells” instead of “bullets” as you were shooting a shotgun) 🙂
    There really isn’t another feeling like that of shooting a gun. Hold that stock tight against your shoulder so it doesn’t have room to bang into your shoulder. So much fun. I carry a gun for protection against bear and cougars as I work alone in the woods. But sometimes I just have to take that sucker out and blast some caps!!
    Enjoy your posts, even if I don’t comment often. It is so cool to see where you go!


      • No, never had to shoot one. I was prepared to when I worked in Alaska – I was working among very large, aggressive grizzlies, but I didn’t run into them on the ground. A couple of weeks ago, I had to fire my pistol to get a black bear to move away. But I just shot up in the air to scare him. Hopefully, I will never have to shoot one, because that would mean I had been attacked!


  3. FANTASTIC!!!! I love to see another woman shooting, especially skeet. My dad and I used to bird hunt together and friends of ours had a hunting preserve with a tournament-level skeet range. Needless to say, I’ve shot a few discs in my day. Nowadays, we shoot handguns and target rifles. (Well, I can’t shoot right now because of my pregnancy, but I’m dying to get back to the target range!!!!) You’re going to have a great looking bruise in the morning …. no worries, it represents the fun you had! Also, if you decide to do it again, use a more athletic stance, weight shifted forward a bit to your left foot with a slight bend in your knee. Have fun! Keep your powder dry! Shoot straight!


    • I think my biggest problem was that I kept worrying about the gun against my face. It was an instinct I guess but every time I pulled my face off of the gun, I noticed the difference in how hard it pushed against my shoulder. It all takes practice; I’ll try again soon 🙂

      Where did you grow up? It’s very interesting that you would go bird hunting with your dad.

      Have you ever been to the Dominican? The shooting facilities at Casa de Campo are unbelievable. You’d love it here.


      • I was born and raised in the western hills of Kentucky — the daughter of a coal miner and fourth generation farmers. My dad began hunting as a young kid with his grandfather and also raised bird dogs, even competing in field trails around the Southeast. I’m comfortable around guns, but I definitely respect them. You should definitely go again, it’ll get easier I promise! With the target rifles, some are incredibly loud and powerful, overwhelmingly intimidating! But it gets easier and you stop resisting the “kick” and leave your face against the gun for accuracy. You’ll get there, keep practicing! If you’re ever in Kentucky or Texas (where I live now), I can hook you up. We’ll go shoot together!!!!!

        I’ve not been to the Dominican, but I’ve been to Haiti twice —- does that count?! LOL Your post and experience has me missing the range so much. As I’m six months pregnant, it’s just not smart (or healthy or responsible) for me to be out there among the noise. But I’ll get back out there soon enough, one of these days!!!!!!


  4. Glad you had fun! However shooting… well anything will never make my bucket list unless it’s a water gun. Guns freak me out too much. I even back away when I see a cop with their guns. So I will admire from… very far away!


  5. Sorry to hear about your shoulder… I would have expected the instructors to make sure you were holding it securely against your shoulder to limit the damage from the recoil. But, in a long day, it may have gotten sore anyway. That’s a lot of abuse for your arm to take even when holding it properly.
    I’m so glad to hear that you had a great time and are looking forward to going again. I think we need more people to go out, hold a gun for themselves and experience the act of firing one. Learn to respect it, learn what it is all about, and in so doing take away the fear of the unknown and the judgment based solely on what is being conveyed over media… both the glorification in movies and the vilification in the news.


  6. It’s good to read about someone who can see beyond the usual ban all guns and rifles ideology that most people blindly follow out of ignorance or blind fear and see the lure of perfecting a very real skill and respecting the weapon for what it is. Shooting is amazing, I love it, always have done (as well as a variety of other weapons arts including Kendo, fencing and archery) and I’m happy that you enjoyed it too.

    Don’t be put off by those little bruises, they’ll soon heal, and you will soon get practiced and experienced enough to control the weapon (tight against your shoulder, limit the recoil) and your stance. It takes time and practice. So make sure you get back out there soon! ;D


  7. Loved your post!! Sounds like you had fun. I could see how this would be so exciting and wouldn’t notice the bruise until later. Luckily it will go away soon and I’m sure you’ll be back for more 🙂 Have a wonderful weekend!! ~Sophia


  8. Great post, and as stated above, even us seasoned shooters will be sore after a long day, even holding the gun tight to your shoulder, like anything else, if you haven’t done it in a while (or ever), you are using muscles that don’t normally get used that often.

    Glad you had fun and I look forward to reading about the next time you go out. If you can find an indoor range back home, try taking a hand gun course, I think you will enjoy it as well.


  9. Like everyone else has said- stock VERY tight to the shoulder. If you decide to purchase your own gun, you can buy a smaller gauge shotgun, as well. If it bruised you that badly, I would guess it was a 12 gauge? I shoot a 12 gauge for gun deer season where I live, and it hurts every time, to where I developed a bad habit of flinching when pulling the trigger. I’ve corrected that by buying a smaller gun- a youth-sized Mossberg 20 gauge for bird hunting. I spent a couple hours shooting clays over the summer, and my shoulder didn’t feel like I’d taken a meat tenderizer to it.


  10. A .22 rifle is a much better gun for starters. It is significantly lighter and easier to handle. If you want to handle a shotgun, it helps to be overweight or strong. In regards to handguns for first-time owners, I would recommend the Springfield XD Subcompact 9mm.

    I will advise you to start small and work your way up. However, I do commend you for your courage for starting off with a shotgun.

    If you need any further advice, I would be happy to help. 🙂


  11. So fun, isn’t it? But yeah, those shotguns have certainly got some kick. Takes some getting used to. I go shooting for sport as well, no animals hunted. Besides, hunting animals takes more than just good shooting skills. I think targets are good enough for me at this point. I agree with wholesomehomes that a 9mm is a good starting point. It’s good for self-defense, too. Although my friend swears by her 45, I prefer the 9mm. Who knows, my tastes my change.

    But yeah, if you hold the stock right you won’t have bruising and if you do it often enough, you won’t be sore. Have fun! 🙂


  12. Very cool! I shot my first gun this summer in Vietnam at the tourist site at the Cuchi Tunnels. I’d like to go clay shooting someday soon!


  13. If you decide to engage in more shooting as a hobby they also have vests you can buy with extra padding for your shoulders. I’ve been shooting for years (rifle and pistols mostly) but our shotgun always bruises me regardless of what I do.


  14. This reminds me of when I took my daughter to the shooting range for the first time, just several weeks ago. My father in-law and I took my 18 year old daughter to the range for the first time. She was very excited and nervous. So we started off with a .22 handgun, after hitting the target center mass through the clip. She went up to a .25 caliber, with the same result. We gave her a .32 caliber at this point she was having a great time and I was having a great time watching her. When we left she said she couldn’t wait to come back., she also took her targets home with her to put in her bedroom.


  15. You’ve just earned more points with me! I like it when women like to shoot and feel comfortable around firearms. I’m not a hunter either but practicing for self defense and recreation are two very important reasons to shoot. If I ever have daughters someday, I’m taking them out shooting! 🙂


  16. cool! my dad opened one of the first sporting clay ranges in america, and i grew up “pulling” most weekends. he passed away before i learned to shoot, but it’s been on my list for quite some time.


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  19. Excellent post! Sounds like you hand an incredible adventure. Welcome to the shooting sports community! After getting good at skeet and trap you may want to try target shooting with rifles and pistols. Check out the National Shooting Sports Foundation for more info on how to pursue your new sport.


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