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I’m afraid to add up how much money I’ve been spending at the shooting range these days.

Seriously. I don’t want to know. I just walk up to the counter, hand over the plastic and sign the slip without looking at the amount. It’s super easy if I just don’t bother putting on reading glasses!

Make no mistake – I am not filled with faith that I can afford it. Not at all. Not after taking a staggering blow to my fiscal fitness earlier this summer: new home air conditioning.


See, I just don’t want to know how much I’m spending at the range, because holy cow, when you go once or twice a week, your shooting gets noticeably better, really fast.

It feels so good – best-drug-on-earth-good – when the clays that were getting by you the week before are now vaporizing, and better yet, you’re not the least bit surprised. That demure little Mona Lisa smile is the only reaction you’ll allow, not wanting to jinx your good fortune with excessive celebration.

The last time I spent this much time at the range in the summer – four years ago – I had my best duck season ever. It was the most ducks I’d ever gotten, and my highest average bag per hunt. It was my best dove season too. Haven’t matched either since.

This summer feels even better, because I’ve stopped going alone, as I did four years ago. This summer, I’m cultivating a clan of shooters, each of us motivating the others to get out, determined to avoid the shame of plowing through two or three boxes of shells to get less than a limit of doves.

One friend is a lapsed hunter, working to get back in the game after a couple years away. She’s already feeling the results of going regularly.

Another is a former student who has taken up shooting and plans to start hunting this year. She is a freakishly good shot for a newbie. Gonna have to curb my envy with that one.

Then there’s a coworker who just bought a new shotgun and is working to get his groove on with it.

And a guy I haven’t hunted with for years, but I’d like to again soon.

We all keep our goal front and center with constant queries. Are you going this week? Are you going? What time? Whew, it’s gonna be hot!

Sweat, of course, is just good practice for dove season.

This past week is the first time in a couple months that I haven’t gone out. Work was just too intense. The coworker with the new shotgun was buried in work too.

No, no, no, no, no, no, NO! Can’t get derailed. Can’t lose this momentum. Must go back this week at all costs.

I can’t afford it.

Can’t afford the time, can’t afford the money.

And I don’t care. Smashing the clays feels too damned good, and the promise of a better dove and duck season feels even better.

Somehow, I’ll make it work.

Holly A. Heyser is the editor of California Waterfowl Magazine. A hunter, forager, writer and photographer, she lives in Sacramento, California. You can see more of her work at

Last modified on Friday, 01 August 2014 11:33
Holly A. Heyser

Holly A. Heyser is a hunter, forager, writer, food photographer and college journalism lecturer. She writes a blog about hunting at shoots food photos for boyfriend Hank Shaw, who writes a blog about wild food at