Fickle confidence and the shooter whose opinion matters most

I don’t know how it happens. I teach, so I have summers off, but somehow my days of sun-filled freedom succumb to some of the most mundane tasks.

The other day I was staring at my endless to-do list when I was overcome by common sense: Why the hell had I not gone to the shooting range in more than a month?

Let’s see, eff laundry, eff dishes, eff sweeping, eff vacuuming. Double-eff the stupid weeds in the front yard.

I had to seize the moment before drudgery yanked it back. I opened the safe, pulled out my shotgun, grabbed the last three boxes of target shells sitting in my cedar hope chest, checked my shooting-range bag for ear and eye protection and headed for the door.

But only after I wrote “shoot skeet” on my list so I’d have something to cross off when I was done. Hey, I’m an anal retentive obsessive-compulsive Dutch Virgo. Leave me alone.

Fortunately, despite my long absence, the guy at the counter of the shooting range recognized me and smiled when I walked in the door.

“Is the voice-activated thingie available?” I asked. If it weren’t for that awesome little system, I’d probably never get out to the range because I’d always be waiting for a partner who could be as spontaneous as I could.

“For skeet, right?” he responded. “It’s on No. 4.”


I walked out, unsheathed my gun, grabbed the voice controller and headed to Station One, which was – mercifully – in shade. I popped one in the chamber.

“Pull!” I yelled into the microphone.

Nothing flew.


Nothing flew.

I unloaded, and as I walked to the coin box to see if it was stuck on trap mode, I felt in my pocket and realized I’d never dropped a token in the slot. Talk about out of practice!

Laughing at myself, popped my three coins in, went back to Station One, loaded the gun and yelled, “Pull!”

This time I heard the clay being launched right over my head. Gun to cheek, find it, find it, find it, ba…?

Good Lord. I’d safetied.

Oh well, it’s never a bad thing to be thwarted on the range by overzealous safety measures, right?

Now let’s try this again. “Pull!”

On it! Oh shi…

I’d safetied AGAIN. That’s not overzealous caution. That’s just dumb.

I looked around furtively to see if anyone had noticed. No one was close enough to see, but I’d already convinced myself I was an utter moron, and I’m the person whose opinion matters most when it comes to my shooting.

So of course, once I got the clays flying and my safety off at the same time, I proceeded to shoot like crap. My routine is high, low, double on every station through Station Seven, and I was hitting less than half of the clays – unusually bad. This didn’t bode well for dove season.

Then when I got to Station Four, I nailed all of them – high, low and double. I grinned. Nothing like making the tough shots when you’re missing the no-brainers.

On Station Five, I did it again.

“Yes!” I yelled defiantly to the shooting gods.

Then I quickly admonished myself: “Don’t be a cocky bitch!”

That was good for a giggle. Taken literally, those two words just don’t go together.

Walking to Station Six, I realized my arms were getting tired. My shotgun has a solid-core adjustable-comb stock, which makes it pretty heavy, and the voice system isn’t that light either. But seriously, my arms were tiring out before I’d made the complete circuit? Lame. But come to think of it, I hadn’t crossed “work out” off my to-do list for quite a while.

At stations Six and Seven, I did OK – not great. Then it was time for Station Eight.

I’m a little obsessed with shooting well at Station Eight, because when I nail those shots with an audience of strangers watching, it just plain feels good. “Yeah, guys, I can shoot.”

High house first: Miss!

Low house next: Miss!

I looked around … good, there still wasn’t anyone watching, besides my own worst enemy.

I was going to head back to Station One when I remembered what had happened on an outing this spring. I’d taken a total shotgun newbie to the range, and when we got to Station Eight, she asked why I didn’t do doubles there.

“Uh, because that would be ridiculous?” I ventured. Then I said, “What the hell,” and had her pull doubles. I missed both.

This time, I found myself saying “What the hell” again.

I hit the doubles button and yelled, “Pull!”

To my astonishment, I pulverized both clays, and I laughed maniacally as the shards crashed down around me. That felt really good. Why the hell wasn’t anyone watching now?

After that, I did better. My shooting wasn’t perfect, but it was reasonably good. Good enough that next time I came to Station Eight, I pulled doubles again.

And NAILED ‘em.

Again, no audience. Except for the person whose opinion matters the most. Things were looking up.

Left Behind

It doesn’t happen too often that I’m left behind on a hunting trip that I think I’d really enjoy. But it happened this past week when my husband, Joe, went to Argentina with three friends for duck, dove, and pigeon shooting. Being left behind in Buenos Aires during their hunt would have been an intriguing adventure, but even that invitation was not extended. All of which led me to ask, “What’s a Shotgun Wife to do when she’s not invited to join her shotgunning spouse on a hunting trip to a desirable destination?”

Looking at it in hindsight now that the week is almost done, it’s not a hard question to answer when you’ve got a wingshooting and deer hunting destination of your own to manage.

The fact is that summer is the time for me to get all my special projects done while we’re not tending to hunting clients every day of the week. That includes some habitat management, some structural maintenance, some personnel policy updates, etc., etc. But my favorite projects by far are those that involve the upgrades to our facilities and lodging; these projects always satiate my passion for creating the overall aesthetic appeal of Joshua Creek Ranch to our year-round guests.

Joe likes to tell our clients, friends and relatives who inquire about his retirement plans that he can’t possibly consider retirement as an option because his wife is too busy spending his money on her projects at Joshua Creek Ranch. I can’t deny the accusation. I sincerely love making the ranch a hunter’s paradise, from success in the field to enjoyment in the dining room to comfort in the accommodations. I have to admit, too, that it can get a little dangerous to Joe’s financial well-being if I’m left alone for long to dream up endless ways to improve the Ranch for the enhancement of our clients’ satisfaction.

For example, this week while Joe was off hunting without me, I worked out the details for converting a bunk room at the Lodge to a luxurious suite for guests during the hunting season. The idea became overwhelmingly exciting to the point that the drapery and upholstery fabrics are now purchased, the furniture arrangement is determined, and the safari theme includes hides and memorabilia collected during some of our own hunting trips.

A little later during this week of Joe’s absence, the minor maintenance issue of a light fixture shorting out over a bathroom lavatory led to a not-so-insignificant renewal plan for the entire bathroom. Trust me: you’re going to like this improvement next time you’re at the Ranch.

Okay, I’ll confess that the entire week wasn’t devoted to furthering Joshua Creek Ranch client enjoyment. I did also meet with our taxidermist about mounting the bobcat I shot one early morning a couple of years ago while hunting a particular Axis buck. It took my son’s enthusiastic response to the unexpected turn of events that resulted in shooting a bobcat rather than an Axis deer to convince me I had a trophy to be proud of. It’s taken me this long to decide where to display him in our home filled with Joe’s trophies and how to mount him to best reveal his beautiful coat. But those decisions are now made. All that remains is for me to spend some time scouting around the ranch for the perfect weathered limb for him to be standing on.

Then, of course, my week of abandonment would not have been complete without the “girls’ night” when a dear friend, her sister-in-law from California, and my sister joined me for an evening at the Ranch. We celebrated my friend’s birthday with champagne and pizza. How’s that for misbehaving while my hunting hero was afar working hard to save the Argentine crops from devastation by ducks, dove and pigeon.

There is one task I’m ready for Joe to resume as soon as he sets foot on the Ranch. As much as I adore these precious 8 and 10 week-old English Cocker puppies, they define the phrase “what a mess!” But they have learned the meaning of the command “outside,” meaning you can’t come in my house.

I don’t know if I’ve done enough damage to avoid being left behind on his next sensational trip. Time will tell.


Ann Kercheville is President of Joshua Creek Ranch. Located in the renowned Texas Hill Country just 45 minutes northwest of San Antonio and 90 minutes southwest of Austin, Joshua Creek Ranch occupies a uniquely diverse terrain including miles of Joshua Creek and Guadalupe River bottomland planted in fields of grain crops for prime upland and deer hunting habitats. You can visit their web site at

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