Why shotguns are like love: Keep both eyes open, pull the trigger at the right time and you’ll hit it

Sage Outdoor Adventures has the Vail Valley's only sporting clays course. Professional instructors help you learn how to shoot properly and safely.
Randy Wyrick|

Sage Outdoor Adventures

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WOLCOTT — Shotgun shooting is like finding love. It’s more of a neighborhood play than laser-focused.

At least that’s what Darryl Bangert and Eric Ostby with Sage Outdoor Adventures sometimes say, and if they didn’t say it, then we just said it for them.

We wandered out to Sage Outdoor Adventures, where Ostby did not once roll his eyes while we were shooting. He’s a shooting instructor and has seen it all.

Unlike a rifle or pistol with a single projectile, a shotgun shell has about 400 pellets that expand as time passes, like the universe and true love.

Anyone should be able to hit a clay pigeon or true love, right?

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“They’re not hard to hit, but they’re easy to miss,” Ostby said.

Like love, shotgun shooting is a matter of perspective.

It turns out you have a dominant eye, the same way you have a dominant hand. It’s usually the hand with which your wife and/or significant other smacks you upside the head. Your gun goes under your dominant eye. You look down the barrel, but take your shot with both eyes open, Ostby said.

“Look where you want to shoot and it will get there,” Ostby said.

See, just like love.

Basically, don’t go Dick Cheney on anyone and you’ll be fine.

Thinking about love loudly

Shotgun shooting is a thinking person’s sport, but don’t think too much. It’s visual. Picture your clay pigeon blowing up from the last time you blew something up, and your brain will reproduce what it saw and how it happened. In other words, the more you see yourself blowing stuff up, the more stuff you’ll blow up.

So, theologically speaking, God loves you and wants what’s best for you. He trained your brain to re-create both the actions needed to blow stuff up and recognize true love when it smacks you like a recoiling 12 gauge.

Shotguns are like love and shotgun shells are like Cupid’s arrows, only louder. In both, it’s all about when you pull the trigger. Here’s why:

• Both shotguns and love can blow big holes in your soul.

• You have to pay attention to where things will be and where they are.

• If you over-think it, then you miss.

• If you’re not out in front of it a little, then you miss.

• If you have to control everything, then you miss.

• If you have to see everything all the time, then you miss.

• Focus on the target, not on what you’re holding in your hands. If you focus on the gun and yourself, then you miss.

• Hold the gun snugly but not too tight. Don’t strangle it. If you do, then you miss.

• When you can’t necessarily see everything, and you pull the trigger anyway because it feels right, chances are you’ll hit it.

And here’s another parallel.

About 90 percent of the time you miss because you let it pass you by and you didn’t pull the trigger, Ostby said.

There is one perfect time to pull the trigger, but do not despair. There is more than one opportunity to pull the trigger and still hit your target. But you’ll hit nothing if you don’t take your shot.

And remember to breathe. That’s like love, too. A good shot takes your breath away.

Sporting clays

Sage Outdoor Adventures has the Vail Valley’s only public sporting clays course. Sporting clays are like golf with a lethal weapon.

In sporting clays, the clay pigeons are supposed to behave like animals, as long as the animals have lost all sense of self-preservation.

Bangert runs Sage Outdoor Adventures and has been guiding locally since 1976 — rafting, hiking, Nordic skiing, snowmobiles and ATV tours — just about anything that involves adrenaline in the outdoors.

The ranch where Sage Outdoor Adventures is 6,000 acres, and you pretty much have the run of the place. When you’re finished, or before, jump on a four-wheeler and answer the philosophical question that has tried men’s souls for ages, “How fast does it go?”

It goes fast enough to have a lot of freakin’ fun, is how fast it goes.

In the winter, they keep the shooting stations open for the stout hearted, or you can take a snowmobile tour. They start those in December, and because of the ranch’s location, Bangert’s crew gets to start a week or so earlier than most places and go a week or so longer, he said.

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