Explore Kansas Outdoors: Clay shoot brings church, community, friends together in Kansas

Steve Gilliland
Pratt Tribune
Clay shooting helps hunters practice their target skills as game-bird season opens in Kansas.

It has always pleased me to be part of a church where so many guys and gals are hunters, fishermen, outdoorsmen and shooting enthusiasts. The dedicated upland bird hunters were easy to spot at my churches annual trap shooting get-together on Sunday, as most clay birds had little chance of survival when those shooters were on the firing line. Our small but diverse group consisted of an ex-soldier with extensive marksmanship training, an electrician, an engineer, a golf-course manager, a large farmer, the youth pastor, a couple high school kids and a few retired duffers like myself. Ages ranged from upper 70’s to 14 years young.

A 12-volt clay-bird thrower was set up in the farmers lawn overlooking a corn stubble field. Pickups parked with tail-gates down on the other side of the lawn against a tree row became staging areas for each shooter’s guns, ammo and equipment. After a brief meeting to explain safety expectations and a prayer, thanking God for our time together and asking for His control over the afternoon, we were off. The rules were simple; no loaded shotguns behind the firing line, and constant awareness to keep all guns, loaded or unloaded pointed downrange. Each shooter took a pocketful or a box of shells to the firing line with them and loaded their guns there. Someone ran the thrower with the remote control while two shooters, one on each side of the thrower took turns as targets were thrown. After ten or twelve shots each, shooters changed until each shooter had a few turns on the firing line.

It all reminded me of “turkey shoots” when I was a kid, where shooters shot one round at a paper target, and the shooter’s target with the most BB holes won a turkey or canned ham. My buddy always took his beat-up, scratched-up old twelve gauge single-shot that was so dilapidated it actually fell apart into two pieces to load. He’d walk to the firing line amidst chuckles and guffaws from shooters around him sporting twelve-hundred-dollar professional skeet guns, but you could hear a pin drop when his straight-shootin’ old cannon won every time.

After we tired of breaking clay birds thrown from the thrower, semi-automatic handguns and revolvers emerged from cases and bags. Targets became clay birds hung low to the ground from cornstalks, and paper plates stapled to leftover yard signs from a recent school board election campaign. Our soldier’s marksman’s expertise was invaluable as he was able to help those of us not really good with a handgun, and paper plates began filling with holes and clay birds began breaking.

Again, I’m proud to be part of a family, community and church congregation where numerous guys and gals are hunters, fishermen and outdoor enthusiasts. One of the guys at the trap shoot remarked that he had just taken the last of his pheasant meat out of the freezer to grill, making way for the bounty from this year’s pheasant hunting season which opened Saturday. I thank God every day for His marvelous Creation, and for trusting us to manage His wildlife. Continue to Explore Kansas Outdoors!

Steve can be contacted by email at stevenrgilliland@gmail.com.