“Guys, you should stay clear of Western Ireland next week: Vera signed up for some clay pigeon shooting!”, Loz dutifully informed everyone he had known for more then five minutes once we had made it to Ireland. I smiled wryly. Thanks, man.
We were in Dublin, and about to embark on two different trips. Loz was going to explore the south-west, and I had settled for experiencing the Wild Atlantic Way in the west. My itinerary foresaw a visit to an adventure centre, and of the various activities on offer, like abseiling, bungee jumping, speedboat rides, to only name a few, I had chosen the clay pigeon shooting.
A decision with which I had managed to surprise myself immensely. “What the heck, Vera”, I sneered at good old me, ”You? Shooting something? What exactly, may I ask? The ground? Your foot? We all know this is not gonna end well! If you have some issues, why don’t you go stab a pumpkin or something, eh?”.
And I have to say, I was kind of right there. I don’t have a great interest in fire-arms and as with aiming at things and hitting them… let’s just say I’m talented in other ways. And I don’t deeply hate clay, either, in case you might wonder. Nope. It was a completely mysterious decision.
Nevertheless, it was what I was going to do on this mostly sunny afternoon right next to Ireland’s only fjord, Killary Harbour. This already caused the first pickle. Obviously I had to pay attention to our instructor, but my head just kept turning away from him so that I could look at the scenery.
Although the guy didn’t look half-bad, either. It also came to my mind that listening to his explanations would probably come in handy if I actually wanted to hit the clay, and even if that was not going to happen (a more likely scenario), it’s always better to at least look like you know what you’re doing.
There’s just one problem with me when it comes to learning something new: if it can be done wrong, I will do it wrong. I think something inside my brain once decided the best way to learn something the right way is to meticulously try out all the wrong ways first.
I used to get embarrassed about that, labelling it as stupidity, but I have since accepted it as just my way of understanding how something works. For everyone who is with me, this is a great advantage: say you and me are both together in a group and you are worried you’ll make a fool out of yourself, then you can leave your troubles far behind because I will triumphantly surpass you. Hooray.
So Gabriel, our instructor, laid down the rules, like – very obviously – only shooting in the shooting stand and only between two wooden posts, showed us the shot-guns – a lighter one for the ladies – and, my favourite part, explained the different steps to achieve a successful shot by demonstrating how and how NOT to do it.
He had great faith in us. Our itinerary foresaw less time for this task than a regular client would get, and still he was confident that we all could walk out of there having hit at least one clay pigeon. Well, he didn’t know me yet, did he. It started with his innocent question: “Anyone left-handed?”, where only my hand went up.
So in the stand, I held the gun on the left. I pressed the butt below my collarbone (the butt of the rifle, that is), brought the barrel up so that I could only see the sight, closed one eye and aimed. Totally pro-like. Something was weird, though. I informed Gabriel about this feeling of mine.
He seemed much less surprised than I and nodded in a friendly way: “That’s because you’re looking through your right eye when you need to be looking through your left eye, really.” Okay. I tried looking through my left eye and then decided that I was more right-eyed than left-handed, so I switched the rifle over to my right. Cross-eye dominance. It happens to the best of us.
Now Gabriel had explained to us what the most common mistake is when it comes to clay-pigeon shooting: pulling the trigger too quickly when you do have a big enough time window to find the clay with your sight and follow it before you take the shot. Sounds all very logical. But my instincts usually don’t give a crap about logic, and they didn’t fail me this time, either.
“OH MY GOD IT’S A CLAY PIGEON IT’S THERE WHERE WHAT WHO CARES SHOOT AAAH!”. Boom. And another lucky clay pigeon had gotten away.
We had four shots for each turn we took. At one point my fellow shooters had managed to all hit at least one pigeon. I looked over to Robin, a fellow blogger from Germany, who had been in the army and who practised his shooting in the dry. For that he positioned himself a couple of meters behind the person shooting at that time, and pretended to hold a rifle with which he followed the clay. Since he had been successful with this method, I tried it, too. Even my imaginary rifle I fired off too early! But it did improve my feel for it, all in all.
Then it was time for my last four shots. The first one – actually not too bad, but no hit. The second one – fired too early again. Uh-huh. The third one – fired too late! Seriously?! The fourth and last one. I really just fired, took the rifle down and turned around without even waiting for the shot to miss – but wait: my fellow comrades burst into frantic applause: I had hit it, I had hit it!! Aaah!
Okay, so I didn’t actually see how I hit it because I had prematurely turned around, but Gabriel looked very moved by my glorious break-through at the very last moment, and therefore I will believe it.
So not only have I been clay pigeon shooting now, I have also HIT a clay-pigeon! I’m practically Billy the Kid! Still, one way or the other: if you see me with a gun, it’s probably best to stay as far away as possible…
Anyway, that was my experience, and I was invited by Mary and James from Killary Adventures as part of a post TBEX blog trip, so many thanks. Their house is right next to the shooting stand, by the way, so they must have faith in their instructors… Speaking of which, thank you to Gabriel, too! He’s a fantastic instructor AND good-looking – two thumbs up!
And if you guys are spending time in the wild west of Ireland and like outdoor activities, adventure or not, do check the Killary Adventure Centre out – you can also stay there if you wish, easy-peasy. Thank you for reading, and make love, not war!