Guns are loud. I mean really loud. The fact that this information might come as a surprise to me should inform you how little I know about guns. Before my trip to Lanai, I had never fired one.
Hunting on Lanai
I should have known from my flight into Lanai on Island Air that some gunplay might be involved in my trip. The people next to me on the plane were hunters. They were serious hunters who had traveled the world to hunt. They were telling stories after a delayed flight like “you think this is disorganized you should fly Aeroflot” in Russia. “Air Mongolia is worse, they put someone else’s kid on your lap”.
Lanai Mouflon Sheep and Axis Deer attract hunters to the island. Thousands of deer are descendants of 8 brought from India to the Hawaiian Islands in 1867 as a gift to King Kamehameha the Great. The sheep were introduced by ranchers in the 1960s. Neither had natural predators on the island and they proceeded to eat much of the local vegetation.
I was not here to hunt sheep but instead the illusive sporting clays on the island.
My instructor and guide Frankie Fernandez grew up on the island. His father came to Hawaii from the Philippines to pick pineapple. Frankie pointed out that hunting fresh meat on an island where goods have to be shipped in and milk, for instance, can cost over $9 a gallon has some practical advantages also. His 11 and 13-year-old daughters are getting their hunting license soon and the event can be as big an occasion on Lanai as getting your driver’s license.
Getting There Is Half The Fun
You can drive to the Lanai Pine Sporting Clays facility, but getting there by UTV on a “ride and shoot” tour is a lot more fun. Frankie and I hopped on a UTV to navigate some of the many miles of dirt roads on the island. I had never driven a UTV but the ride is surprisingly smooth considering the state of some of the roads we were on.
Sporting Clays is a type of shooting involving “clay pigeons”. The best description I have heard of it is “golf with a shotgun”.
I donned a hunting vest (although I am still not sure why), signed some paperwork to the effect of “if I did something really stupid with a shotgun by not listening to my instructor it is probably my own darn fault”, grabbed a shotgun and a box of shells and hopped on a golf cart (did I mention “golf with a shotgun”).
If you have the picture from the movies of yelling “pull!” while a machine throws a clay disk into the air and then blowing it to pieces with a shotgun you have part of the image of the experience. One of the big differences is that Lanai Pine Sporting Clays has 14 different stations with different machines set to throw or even roll clays in different motions to imitate the movement of different birds or small animals. So at one station I was trying to shoot at a clay as it got to the top of its arc, at a second I was shooting at one as if it had been flushed from my feet and was flying away from me (harder) and at a third at a “rabbit” that rolled from left to right across my field of fire.
Frankie was a good instructor who started with having me simply point at the clay at the top of its arc and saying bang (I was much more comfortable doing that). He tried to break me of the habit of letting my finger rest on the trigger which I had picked up from playing with toy guns as a kid. Instructors have to go through training that teaches them to anticipate novices like me doing stupid and unexpected things like throwing the big loud gun to the ground after the first shot (while it is still loaded with the second shot). Fortunately, I did nothing to justify Frankie needing to tackle me to the ground.
To my surprise and, if my liberal gun-control friends will forgive me, pleasure, I was actually able to hit the targets as much as half the time. Although to be fair, some I simply wounded instead of disintegrating them. In any case, the clay then falls to the ground and dissolves into fertilizer with the next rain.
I never did figure out what the vest accomplished but I figured out the earplugs really quick. Did I mention guns are loud?
No sporting clays were harmed in the creation of this article… well, ok some were… but they had it coming.