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.
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.
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.
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.
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.