Taking up arms against nuisance pigeons

Sportsmen’s Club trap shooter Sonny Dulay zeros in on his target during a recent retiree trap shoot.  - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
Sportsmen’s Club trap shooter Sonny Dulay zeros in on his target during a recent retiree trap shoot.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

Retirees among a growing number of island trap shooters.

The group of group of retirees gossiping in a back room of the Sportsmen’s Club on a recent Friday morning could have been mistaken for any number of senior social clubs.

Former school teachers and sheriffs rubbed shoulders over steaming mugs as a light rain fell outside.

But when the coffee break was over they filed out a sliding door and selected their shotguns out from a rack of firearms mounted to a wall, slapped on ear protectors and headed out to the range for another meeting of the “retiree trapshoot club” as it is casually called.

They lined up along six shooting stations facing a gentle hillside already blanketed with the bright orange broken remains of “clay pigeons.”

One at a time the members yelled an inaudible command and a voice-automated launcher sheltered in a cement bunker noiselessly flung an orange disk out toward the hill. A shotgun bellows from among the line.

Sometimes the clay pigeon disappeared in a shower of orange. Sometimes it escaped the shot only to break on the bed of shards.

To members this weekly retreat is as much about getting outside with friends as it is about “breaking birds.”

“I started doing this when I mentioned to a friend I hadn’t shot a gun in 40 years and he drug me out here,” said Rich Schmidt as the members hung up their guns for another of their frequent coffee breaks. “It’s really about the people. A solid group of citizens is really what it is.”

The sport of trapshooting has become increasingly important to the Sportsmen’s Club as well. In 2007 the club added four new trap machines that allow the clay pigeons to be thrown from various angles, adding to the challenge. There are plans to add a moving “rabbit” target to the range in 2008.

Club President Steve Korn said the improved trap range, along with improvements to the club’s pistol range and new gun safety classes have played a roll in bring fresh crop of members to the club.

“It seems to be a very popular activity and a big draw for getting new members in,” he said.

The trap range is still popular with the club’s oldest member as well. Sandy Sanders joined the club 60 years ago when members still dueled teams from Kitsap in deer hunting tournaments.

He said that as the club grew in years and membership the focus shifted away from live hunting events to target and trap shooting. Though he misses the days of wild game dinners at the lodge, he is glad to see the club still thriving.

The octogenarian still looks sharp shooting among fellow retirees but he sums up his shotgun skill modestly.

“I hit a few and I miss a few,” he said.

Sonny Dulay said trap shooting is his way of soaking up some spare time as a retiree and keeping a sharp mind. Hitting the pigeons is more about focus than technique he said.

“It’s really a mental game,” he said. “Sometimes I wonder what I’m doing wrong, but it’s all up in your head.”

A few of the gathered shooters look conspicuously young for retirees. But the age requirement for the club is flexible Tate Minckler said.

“We have a few people here who are only retired from 10 to noon on Fridays.”

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