Volume XVII, Issue 23 # June 4 - June 1, 2009

Making Family Memories One Shot at a Time

Our middle brother has had a bigger challenge than outshooting us

Trapshooting can make for an exciting day, especially when it’s sort of a family reunion. For the last five or six years, I’ve gathered with my two brothers, Tim and Bill, honorary family uncles Randy Steck and Kevin Sullivan, plus several of our children at the Carney Gun Club (carneyrodandgunclub.com) in Northeast Baltimore to take part in the annual Paralyzed Veterans of America Trapshoot.

Fish Are Biting

Rockfish dominate the sporting picture this week, with lots of good catches chumming and fishing cut bait. Trolling continues to get a fair share of fish as well, but anglers are downsizing trolling lures to five- and six-inch baits. Croaker are becoming more reliable on the eastern side of the Bay, while spot and white perch are becoming more numerous on the western side. But the best news for many is that Mr. Blue Crab is prowling in full force. Good catches are being made in many bigger tributaries as water temperatures rise, and trot lining, traps and hand-lining are increasingly effective.

The five of us have never been the high-scoring team and only occasionally win individual honors, yet there is always an intense family rivalry. This extends to dirty tricks: hiding the others’ gloves; ducking ammunition and making distracting comments at critical moments. But it’s always done in good humor and hardly detracts from our scores. In fact, it keeps things from getting too serious.

The first part of the event, a four-round, 100-target series of 16-yard singles, is always the most hotly contested phase among us, probably because it’s easiest. In trapshooting, you stand at one of five shooting stations arranged in an arc 16 yards behind a low, concrete trap house. There are 25 clay targets, or birds, per round, and five are shot from each station.

The clays are launched on command in an unpredictable direction by an oscillating mechanical trap. They fly at a speed of about 45 miles per hour, and a competitor has only a second to acquire the target, determine its trajectory, swing a 12-gauge shotgun to the correct location and fire. It can be a challenge.

Tim, our middle brother and a retired Marine, took an early lead. Starting out with a 24 for 25, he posted an overall score of 97 for the four-round, 100-bird series. That bested us all.

The second half of the day was devoted to doubles, a particularly sadistic version of trap where two clay birds are thrown at once. It’s not twice as hard as shooting singles; it’s about 10 times as hard. Tim did well again, as the rest of us faded further back in the pack.

At day’s end, brother Tim was high gun for our team. We all congratulated him for his score and each other for not humiliating ourselves any worse than we did. But Tim has had much more of a challenge over the years than outshooting the four us.

Tim’s Triumph

Tim joined the Marines back in 1968. On February 22, 1969, on a hotly contested hilltop in Cambodia, his position was hit by a Viet Cong mortar shell. The explosion killed a number of the squad and severely wounded Tim, shattering about three inches of his spine just below his shoulders. He has been in a wheelchair ever since, but it’s never really slowed him down.

We all shot trap and skeet as youngsters and have continued to do so throughout our lives, but Tim was always more dedicated than either Bill or myself. When he was released from his long stay at the Naval Hospital in 1971, he resumed competitive trap shooting.

Over the years, he has won quite a number of contests around the country, and in 2004 made the All American Wheel Chair Trap Team as one of the best five shooters in the nation. He maintained his position on that team for the next three years.

At the Carney Gun Club, after the day’s shooting, we retired to an outside gazebo overlooking the beautiful grounds. There we enjoyed perhaps a few more adult beverages than we should have, accused Tim of taking advantage of us on the range and recounted this and past adventures into the dark.

The next day when all the team and contestant scores were tallied, we also discovered that Tim had won a tidy sum of money and individual, overall first place for wheelchair shooters. That little bonus made the occasion one of our more memorable reunions and yet another cause for celebration.

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