Friday, December 12, 2014

Skeet Shooting - Dinkey Lakes Wilderness

Before going our separate ways for the holidays, a few friends and I took a day trip out to Dinkey Lakes Wilderness for some skeet shooting.

This was quite the novel travel for me as I have never shot any sort of gun before in my life.  It has been something I've wanted to try for a while but have thus far not had the opportunity, or the gumption, to try.

The weather that day was cold and overcast, whispering of coming rain and snow.  In other words - it was the perfect day to spend out in the woods for the melancholy, gloom-loving, soul.  The drive up on the winding Forest Service roads was blissful beauty.

We hiked around for a bit while hunting for a spot well suited for shooting skeet.  The smell of pine mixed in with the chilly air, making each breath a blissfully biting drink of alpine freshness...or it least it seemed so to me.  Maybe it is because living near the woods is new to me, so I feel like a child at a theme park every time I'm up there.  But I hope this is how I feel every time I am in the woods, for the rest of my life. 

We eventually found a great spot for shooting, well off the road and with a wide clearing with trees on the far edges.  Before getting down to business, we took a short little hike / climb up some boulders and took in the surrounding woods...because the boulders were there and demanded climbing.  Even in the overcast light (or, for me, perhaps because of the overcast light) the colors of the rocks and trees had a savory, rustic quality, like a visual drink of a hearth. 





Since I was a novice, we started out with shooting targets (stationary ones) before doing skeet.  I had decided not to try skeet that day since this was my first time shooting a gun and would most certainly fail epically at shooting a flying target.

Before beginning, my friend who was most experienced with firearm use gave us all a safety brief and advised on technique.  This included how to properly hold a gun when using it or when not in use, how to set and release the safety, and how to put ammunition in the gun.  We put on eye and ear protection and then they had me go first (of course, the novice).


 They started me with using a Ruger Mark II, 22 caliber pistol, which has very little kick back and is pretty light weight.  Settling into a comfortable and proper posture / stance for shooting feels rather awkward at first.  Needless to say my first few shots went no where near the target.  My friend gave me some corrective advice (push your chest and weight forward, keep your arms straight but slightly bent, and put gradual pressure on the trigger rather than jerking pressure all at once), and then I actually started to hit the targets.   



After we'd all had a turn at the 22, we moved on to the Glock 19, 40 caliber pistol.  This had a little more power behind it, and had a slight kick back.  And then onto the Romanian M63, 7.62x39 caliber rifle.  Obviously quite a bit longer than a pistol so part of the difference is tucking the butt of gun firmly into your shoulder to absorb the kick pack, and you have to lean your cheek against the gun to get proper visibility of the front and rear sights.   I had progressed from two types of pistols to an assault rifle in an hour's time.  I felt satisfied for the day.  We picked up the brass off the ground (the empty shells that is) and then moved on to the day's next activity.

 


 We set up the skeet thrower and the boys got to "pulling" and shooting.  The basic way this works is the "puller" loads the skeet thrower and then when the shooter yells "pull" the puller launches the skeet disc for the shooter to shoot at...in a nut shell.  So us two girls had a go at pulling as the boys shot.  And, in case you are not familiar, in skeet you shoot at brightly colored discs that are made of some sort of biodegradable clay material (so you don't have to pick up the bits after you shoot them apart).



As I said, I had decided not to try shooting skeet since a shotgun looked rather intimidating and I had only just fired my first gun an hour ago...but you see I have friends who don't let you just watch things.  And these two guys wouldn't let us two girls just stand and watch.  Plus, these days I am trying not to live my life by my lack of self confidence. So, we both ended up giving it a go.


The shotgun we used was a Winchester 12 gauge.  And shotguns are quite a different animal than a pistol and even a rifle.  And for someone of my height, they feel almost as long as I was high (although that is an exaggeration).  I felt awkward holding it, but I tucked the butt of the gun firmly into my shoulder, pressed my cheek against it to get as good a sight as possible and yelled "pull!" without over thinking it too much.  I missed.  But, the power behind that gun and the smoke that comes out of it after a shot was an instantly electrifying experience.  I racked the slide (pulling a bar on the bottom of the gun back to put your next shotshell in place in the barrel to shoot) and called for a "pull again."


And, miracles of miracles, I actually hit the thing on my second and third shot.  No one was more shocked than I.  I felt ridiculously excited about this fact, embarrassingly so. 

In fact, I believe a joyous squeal of victory escaped out of my mouth.  What?  But whatever, I mean if you look at me, you'd never think I'd be able to hit the broad side of a barn with a shotgun, so I was feeling pretty great I had been able to hit a small flying disc.

We rotated turns until, around 1600ish, we called it quits to head back down the mountain before daylight ran away from us.  And, if the day had not already been filled with enough wonderful adventures to sing praises of, the drive back included even more.

The beauty of having a hearty, 4-wheel drive truck with thick tires is that you had have a good deal of fun driving on Forest Service roads which, let's just say, aren't the best maintained roads in the world.  We took a scenic route (i.e. longer route) home through the woods down toward Pine Flat and the ride over pot holes and up some OHV turnouts made the ride more entertaining then the Indiana Jones rides at Disneyland...far far more entertaining. I couldn't stop laughing. 

We made some detour stops at a site of a recent control burn and visited the ruins of a former prison in a now dried portion of the Pine Flat Reservoir.  Since it was dark at this point, and the reservoir dry and barren, the boys decided it a good opportunity to give a go at creating the truck version of the Tea Cup Ride (Disneyland allusions continue)...it was worse than the tea cup ride...and by "worse" I mean "better" and also "worse." My stomach and face hurt from so much laughter.
 
All in all, a great day. I don't have the proper words really to give the praise due here, because I feel so blessed to have friends who invite me on fun adventures and who are patient with me when I am the only one who doesn't know how to do things.  And I am thankful for wild spaces like the woods that provide the perfect backdrop to experience something new.

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