Until my trip to Lana’i this month, I had never shot a gun. In fact, I’m not sure I had really even held a gun, despite the fact that my parents – who grew up in the country in Western Pennsylvania -did have guns in our house growing up. A pacifist, an animal lover and a lifelong resident of suburbs and the city, I had never had the urge. Probably the closest I ever came to shooting was at a video arcade in the early 90s.
My husband Don, who spent his childhood in rural Iowa, had a different experience. He went quail and pheasant hunting with his father often, and of course, he shot bb guns all the time. One of his families’ shotguns is somewhere in our basement. So when we had a chance to shoot a few rounds at the Lana’i Pine Sporting Clays, he was all in.
After a quick drive from the Four Seasons Lodge at Koele, our instructor suited us up with shooting vests and earplugs (you can use your sunglasses as eye protection) and then took us out to teach us about guns. He gave me a .28 gauge because it was lighter and the recoil wouldn’t be as harsh. The smaller barrel means that it’s harder to hit the targets though. Don got a big manly .22.
We walked through all the steps of loading a gun, taking the safety on and off, and of course, the safest way to carry a gun (open, with the barrel facing down). I felt weird at first handling the gun, but soon got the hang of it. Our instructor’s enthusiasm carried me through my nervousness; he kept telling us how much fun we’d have “blowing things up.”
After our instructor felt that we wouldn’t accidentally shoot each other’s head off, he gave us a golf cart and we were off to the first of 14 stations. Each station has at least two targets that are designed to mimic the flight of a different kind of bird (there’s even one that emulates a rabbit running across the ground). You can shoot one at a time, or if you’re advanced like my husband, you can hit two in tandem.
I was pretty nervous when I stepped up to the podium for the first time. The instructor told me to lift the rifle up to my cheek, close one eye and follow the target to the apex. “Pull!” The first few times, I missed because I kept closing my eyes when I pulled the trigger! Clearly not the way to go. But on my fourth try, the clay target smashed. “You did it!” Don said.
By the end of the lesson, I was hitting about 1 out of every 3 targets. The instructor proclaimed me a natural shot (um, yeah, I don’t think so. I was still closing my eyes). But I did feel surprisingly comfortable with the gun. Lots of women come to the Sporting Clay range with their husbands or boyfriends, our instructor said, and end up enjoying – and often out-shooting – their partners.
Once we got the hang of it, we took our little golf cart off on our own to try our luck. My eyesight isn’t the greatest, so I did best on the targets that were a little larger. Don got his gun groove on, and was soon hitting targets in tandem. We made it through all 14 targets, enjoying the view of the Lana’i pine forests along the way.
If you’re the hunting type, Lana’i Pine Sporting Clays could keep you occupied all day. There’s an archery range (visitors can compete to win a crystal pineapple), a skeet field, a compact sporting range and something called “wobble traps.” The cost for our two introductory lessons, plus two boxes of bullets, was $170.
My arms were sore the next day from holding the rifle and my shoulder felt a little tender from the recoil. It’s safe to say that shooting is never going to become my favorite way to spend time. I didn’t get the same thrill out of blowing things up that I do from other outdoor activities, like hiking or snorkeling or off-roading. But at least I gave it a try. Sarah Palin, eat your heart out.