Annie, Get Your Gun
by Brandon Lessner ’08
Wednesday evenings, or sometimes early Sunday mornings, you can spot them—young men and women in camouflage gear, loading their shotguns and ammo into vehicles and heading out of town. We might end up at Pintail Point near Queenstown or at Hopkins Game Farm in Kennedyville, but we won’t come back to campus with any bagged birds. We’ve been breaking a few clays.
The Trap and Skeet Club caused quite a stir on campus about three years ago when a group of students sought permission to bear arms. In a world where the names “Columbine” and “Virginia Tech” strike terror in hearts of the American public, campuses and firearms are a notoriously dangerous combination. From the start our club has been under close scrutiny because of the possible dangers that our hobby incurs. However, over the course of several meetings with faculty and administrators, we allayed any fears about the safety issues that could arise.
Our guns are stored in the Department of Public Safety, and an officer must be present when we remove the guns from the safe and also when we return, to confirm that all guns are accounted for. Guns may not be left in cars, for any amount of time, not even for us to run to the dining hall. We leave campus immediately after checking our guns out from Public Safety, and return the guns to the safe promptly after our shoots. On top of that, only members of the club’s executive board have access to the safe, allowing even less of a chance for the guns to leave unauthorized.
For the uninitiated, sporting clays is like golf and duck hunting. It takes a precise eye and quick reflexes to hit the clay, just as it takes a good golfer to hit a great shot on the first swing. Add in the feeling of the gun recoiling, the smell of gunpowder and the shattering of a clay after you fire, and you have yourself sporting clays, trap or skeet.
Of approximately 20 members, not all of us are hunters; in fact only between 5 and 10 of us hunt anything. Most of us simply enjoy the sport of perfecting hand-eye coordination, challenging ourselves to difficult courses and building self-confidence. And there’s something very satisfying about the recoil after the shot is fired just before the target breaks. When the noise of shotguns ceases, and you walk back inside from the great outdoors there is a sensation of achievement and relaxation that rewards everyone who participates in the club. All of us—beginners and seasoned veterans alike—have a respect for the so-called weapons we use as part of our hobby. For us they are sporting equipment used to help us relax, have some fun and escape the college atmosphere for a few hours.
There’s even an altruistic motive. Since the club’s inception we have held a number of successful fundraising events to support our club. Because this hobby is so expensive between our club insurance policy, shotgun shells, shooting fees and guns, we quickly burn through the money we are allocated from the SGA. Our first fundraiser at the Chestertown Elks Lodge was very successful, as was our second at Pintail Point. Both shoots were very enjoyable and presented a great opportunity for our club to meet local hobbyists and alumni who enjoy our fine sport.