Day Trippin': Trap shooting at Oxford Gun Club
Published: Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, March 20, 2012 02:03
In the world of Day Trippin’, the unknown is unnerving—there’s always a chance that nothing interesting will happen and I’ll be left without a story. But not this week. As the sound of shotguns and exploding clay pigeons resounded at the Oxford Gun Club, I knew I was entering as Krista the Outsider.
It began as a fairly average Thursday—rushing breathlessly into class, befriending a group of hookah-smoking students on the Green and doing internship work. But as the sun sank lower in the sky and the air began to cool, I put aside my student activities and prepared to go rogue at the shooting range’s weekly “meat shoot” competition, where gunslingers compete for literal pieces of meat like hams or turkeys.
My friends Gunther and Michael, who were going to the range to compete, situated their shotguns in my Jeep. As we began the surprisingly short 20-minute drive from campus, the road wound around corners and under a covered bridge, grew more narrow and eventually completely lost its yellow and white lines. Darkness and fog began to spread over the hills.
As one of the guys told stories of past experiences at the range, I couldn’t help but feel a little unsettled by the shotgun-wielding country folk I was about to encounter. “There it is,” Gunther said, pointing in the distance to a bright light jutting above the woods, illuminating the night sky. We sped past fields and over hills until I was instructed to turn into an unmarked entrance in the middle of a field.
The spotlights we saw from the road revealed small buildings and a sprawling landscape littered with orange shards. A row of camouflage-clad men and one woman faced the field like a dissipated but valiant army, intermittently shouting “pull!” In an instant, a disc would soar gracefully into the sky, until the designated shooter blasted it to pieces.
A group of nearby guys bantered about their upcoming competition. One person, who looked like a mountain man, shouted jovially to his friend, “Come on over, it’s ass-kicking time!”
For this particular trap-shooting competition, held each Thursday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., there are five members per team. Each round involves 25 clay pigeons—round discs used as flying targets—for each person. After everyone takes a turn shooting, the members rotate locations within their row. Whoever shoots the green pigeon wins the meat.
My friends refused to let me shoot—I don’t think my BB gun skills would have been up to par. Each grim-faced shooter loaded swiftly, and most shot with impressive accuracy. I sensed an underlying seriousness about the competition, and I didn’t get the impression this was just for fun. Or perhaps it was just a gritty, mutual respect that everyone shared thanks to the danger they slung haplessly over their shoulders.
While my friends took their turns shooting, I shivered alone on a bench trying to figure out the competition and act as inconspicuously as possible. The plethora of beards, camo and overall rugged manliness made me wish I had taken my mother’s earlier advice—“Krista, don’t wear a skirt to a shooting range.” I felt like the poofy-haired elephant in the room.
Only one person acknowledged my existence—the mountain man laughed good-naturedly at me for taking pictures and asked, “When ya gonna trade that in and start shootin’?” I could only giggle nervously and shrug my shoulders.
I wish I had gotten over my overwhelming out-of-place sensation and chatted with a few people—I’m sure they had incredible stories. I guess gruff-looking old men wandering around with loaded shotguns in the middle of the countryside at night is just something I need to be less wary about.
In the end, my friends didn’t win anything, and we started the trip home. I hope to go back and shoot a gun next time instead of awkwardly sequestering myself on a bench. The sign in the main building in which employees, shooters and their pet Labradors mingled says it all: “To have a friend, you have to be one.”