A Family Sport

During the summer of 1971, after I moved to Phoenix, Arizona, it was time to get ready for the opening of dove Season on September 1. At the time, way out north on Scottsdale Road, there was a trap shooting facility, The Shot Yard, and I carted my shooting age family out to hone our skills for the upcoming bird season.

The proprietor of The Shot Yard happened to be from Houston, and when he was in Houston had been a salesman for another large computer company. We had shared several accounts competitively and I had scored some significant wins against him. He changed professions.

We were a motley crew lining up to shoot with the “pros”, but as we prepared for the upcoming season, it soon became clear to me, my, 12 year old, son, Brad, and my former wife that we had stumbled upon a family sport. We were smoking the clay birds with regularity and the misses, became few and far between.

Our first dove season in Arizona was a resounding success, helped along by our trap shooting practice. Randy, age 8 and Suzanne, age 4, served as “fetchers”, but Suzanne could never learn to pull off the downed dove’s head.

Soon after dove season ended, quail season started, and my love affair with Quail hunting reached passionate heights. The first Gambel quail that I shot is mounted and displayed on the gun cabinet on our old ranch house. It has held up remarkedly well with 2, cross country, and 5 in state moves.

I well remember the shot on the first quail, a long one, in the Salt River bottom, west of Phoenix. One feather came fluttering down, the bird kept flying, and plop, fell to the ground with one shot pellet having entered under its right wing and pierced its heart.

Too soon, quail season ended but in early 1972, The Shot Yard’s proprietor, talked us into entering a competitive trap shoot he was holding. For the family’s first go at trap shooting, we did well and quickly became “hooked”.

My first win at a trap tournament was in May of 1972 in Show Low, Arizona where, to determine the winner, I was involved in a four person, “shoot-off”. Feeling nerves, but taking my station on the line, and turning up my concentration, I was able to hit five straight clay pigeons while my opponents fell out, one by one. One added bonus, my mother, Ruth Bryan, was visiting my family in Arizona and she was able to watch this shoot and watch my win in the “shoot-off”.

Being the last man standing meant victory and as a trophy a very nice Nambe Ware salad bowl set, a winner’s check for $200.00 and over $200.00 more for winning the Calcuttta. Since none of the experienced shooters knew me I “bought” myself for $2.00. As the years went by it became extremely difficult for me to purchase myself in the Calcuttas. If another shooter or spectator bought me he would win eighty percent of the pot and me, the shooter, would only get twenty.

By the fall on 1973, Brad and my ex were state champions in their respective classes and I had moved to the number 2 spot in the statewide rankings of handicap shooters. In handicap shooting, the shooters are classed by yardage from 18 to 27 yards, depending on individual skill and past wins. Small purses were paid for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place finishes, but the “big money” was won in the Calcuttas!

What started as a “tune-up” for dove season, had now become an avocation for my family, but again, my day job interfered with it.

Sometimes a good day job can really interfere with your avocation