Why Skeet Bugs Me. Or Not?

Skeet is not a game to me.

I don’t keep score. I ignore many of the rules and conventions. And I like to blaze through a round fast. Really fast. All I’m doing is trying to stay sharp for wingshooting. I don’t particularly want to be an expert at shooting inanimate clay disks.

 But every once in a while, I join this group of guys – mostly retired veterans – who meet to shoot skeet by the rules every Sunday morning at our local skeet range. I did this a couple weekends ago, and here’s how it went:

First, we sat at the picnic table under the shade tree for a good 15 or 20 minutes, ostensibly waiting for any stragglers to show up, but in truth, we were mostly jawing, about stray cats pooping in our yards, the weak dove season we’d had, the fact that the skeet range’s token cottontail had disappeared – likely in the mouth of a coyote.

Eventually someone said, “Hey, let’s shoot,” and we got serious. We dropped tokens into the machine, grabbed the skeet release thingie on its long cord, and headed over to station one.

Now, here’s what I know about skeet: Shoot high house. Shoot low house. Shoot doubles. I shoot doubles all the way around because I like the challenge, though I know that’s not standard.

But some of the four guys in front of me got do-overs. I didn’t understand why.

My turn came and I whiffed on three of the four shots, which is really embarrassing because I usually start off flawlessly. The guys told me to re-do one of the shots, but just one. I was confused, but I did what they said. Eventually I figured out that everyone can have one do-over in each round, which is why one token gets you 26 clays, not 25.

When I was done, Jim, one of the instructors in the group (oh yeah, did I mention I was shooting with a bunch of instructors?) – counseled me on what to do on that shot. At high volume, of course because he was wearing his molded earplugs.

“I know, I know,” I told him.

At the next station, I missed some more. Jim approached me again and I waved him off. I know what I need to do when I’m shooting like crap: Shake it off. Don’t obsess on it. Being lectured – even with the best of intentions – just kinda drags me down.

OK, let’s be honest: I especially hate missing when I’m the only female in the group, and I don’t want anything to prolong the focus on my poor shooting.

At the third station, I shot better on high and low, but when I loaded up for doubles, the entire group protested. Oh yeah, these guys shoot skeet the game – doubles only at one, two, six and seven.

I stepped back and everyone started hollering at me again. “Unload unload!” Good lord, I couldn’t do anything right.

This time Jim wouldn’t let me shake him off. It turned out he wasn’t going to lecture me on my shooting, or even my faux pas, but rather some bizarre ritual that I totally didn’t get.

“When you’re second to last, you need to stay behind the last shooter.”

“Why?” I said, genuinely puzzled.

“Because otherwise he’d be alone.”

“Why does that matter?”

“Because he needs someone there.”

“Why?”

I could tell Jim was trying to decide whether I was deaf or stupid. Meanwhile, I was trying to figure out why all these guys needed someone standing very close to them when they shot. What were they – my cats, always wanting me to hover over them while they eat? Personally, I like my space.

Jim eventually grew tired of my two-year-old string of why-why-why and gave up on me.

As the group continued moving from station to station, I started to relax and shoot better. Gradually I began participating in their rituals.

I dutifully stood behind the last shooter at each station. I joined everyone in giving a shooter a fist bump for perfect shooting, hooking pinky fingers for hits and misses, and thumping their heads for really bad shooting.

When I shot badly, I just went straight to Jim and bowed my head to make it easy for him. We’d all laugh.

We shot that one round, took a break, shot another round and good Lord, it was noon already.

Wow. It had taken us two hours to shoot two rounds. When I go alone and use the voice-activated system, I blaze through three rounds in 20 to 30 minutes. I’m busy. I have stuff to do.

But even as I lamented the loss of two hours on a day when I had a particularly lengthy to-do list, I started to realize something: This form of skeet, with all its baffling rituals, was actually better preparation for duck hunting than I’d realized.

When I’m in the marsh, I would NEVER blaze through three boxes of shells in half an hour. In fact, I generally wouldn’t even tear through one box of shells in two hours, except maybe when hunting divers. So the elongated shooting here was much better practice for the actual pace of duck hunting.

And the relaxed combination of sporadic jabber, rituals, rewards and good-humored penalties reminded me a lot of a good day in the marsh.

I doubt that I will ever become a huge fan of skeet the game. I continually resist invitations to join skeet leagues. I can’t afford to become obsessed with keeping score in a predictable game when my goal is to shoot birds that are far more wily than orange clay disks.

But I know better now than to dismiss skeet the game. It has a lot more to offer than I thought.

And besides, God bless ‘em, my guys don’t keep score.

Holly A. Heyser is a hunter, forager, writer, food photographer and college journalism lecturer. She writes a blog about hunting at http://norcalcazadora.blogspot.com.and shoots food photos for boyfriend Hank Shaw, who writes a blog about wild food at http://honest-food.net.

Last modified on Saturday, 01 October 2011 07:19
Holly A. Heyser

Holly A. Heyser is a hunter, forager, writer, food photographer and college journalism lecturer. She writes a blog about hunting at http://norcalcazadora.blogspot.com.and shoots food photos for boyfriend Hank Shaw, who writes a blog about wild food at http://honest-food.net.

Website: norcalcazadora.blogspot.com
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