A flash of orange shot across the horizon, disintegrating as the retort of a shotgun echoed through my ear plugs. “Pull,” I hollered, sighting down the semi-automatic Winchester 1400 12-gauge shotgun lent to me by Laramie Area Visitor Assistant Director Mike Gray. I traced the clay pigeon, leading it and aiming low in anticipation of its descent. Exhaling half a breath, I squeezed the trigger, and the shotgun kicked into my shoulder. “Loss,” the Laramie Trap Club attendant called as the orange disc fell to the ground unharmed. Mike yelled for the next pigeon, as I worked my way around loading the next shell. Though right-handed, I shoot southpaw, which can be frustrating when chambering rounds into right-handed firearms. “Don’t forget to account for the wind,” yelled Bruce Adams, a trap club member and the third in our shooting party Sunday. Adams picked off his next clay pigeon as gusts of wind rippled green grass flat against the field. I barely know how to predict bird shot trajectory on a perfect day, I thought. How the heck am I supposed to account for gusts of up to 40 mph? “Pull,” I cried against another blast of wind. Instead of tracking the target this time, I squeezed the trigger as soon as I saw orange. The pigeon burst. I suppose popping the target before the wind gives it wings is one way to go about it.
Clay pigeon is an interesting name for an object that more closely resembles a small dinner plate. As a boy, I wondered if they were so named because they allowed hunters to practice shooting pigeons, a spiraling thought process that often led to the question of why anyone would want to hunt pigeons. As it turns out, clay pigeons are reference to the actual pigeons that were used at the beginning of the sport during the late 18th century, according to the Encyclopedia Brittanica. Marksmen practiced shooting live pigeons to improve their aim, but by the end of the 19th century, the practice was outlawed. For a time, glass balls filled with feathers replaced live targets, but in 1880, George Ligowsky patented a clay target described in “The Field” as a “saucer-shaped piece of brittle crockery,” forever changing the sport. In 1900, trapshooting was introduced as an Olympic event.
Taking the lead
Sparse clouds streaked across the midday sky Sunday as temperatures reached into the 70s. Despite the wind, it was a beautiful day for an adventure. “Scores are 16-Ike, 14-Mike,” the attendant called out before instructing us to move from the 16-yard marks to the 23. Unfortunately, Bruce wasn’t able to complete the round with us because of a mechanical failure with his firearm. “Looks like I’m in the lead for once,” I joked. Smiling, Mike shot back, “Don’t give me that. You have Army training.” “It’s not like they taught me to shoot shotguns at Frisbees,” I replied. During the second round, both our scores dropped off, and we tied 11-11. Having only shot trap once before several years ago, I was happy with the score and quit the field pondering ways to convince my wife I needed to buy a shotgun. The sport was an excellent opportunity to get outdoors on the rare sunny day late in May. Despite some minor bruising in my shoulder, I found trapshooting to be an enjoyable, low-impact and inexpensive weekend activity. Visitors inclined toward the shooting sports can find the Laramie Trap Club about 5 miles west of Laramie along Wyoming Highway 230. The club boasts about 120 members and organizes both skeet and five-stand tourneys. This year, the club is hosting the Wyoming Trapshooters Association Wyoming State Shoot in July. “Most of the people who come to the shoot are from Wyoming and the surrounding states,” Laramie Trap Club Manager Dawson Poteet said. “But we’ve had people come all the way from Canada and Australia before.”
Author Ike Fredregill follows a clay pigeon across the horizon at the Laramie Trap Club. Photo by Mike Gray