By: Earl Mclean

Every once in a while, a story comes along that just needs telling.

It was a normal day at the range when I came into the clubhouse. Dan the owner introduced me to a man and his wife. They asked me what a clay shooting lesson for a beginner consisted of, price, etc. – all the normal things. They then asked me if I could do a lesson with their daughter. Of course I said yes. I asked when, and the mother replied, “Today.” I was not busy, so I agreed. I asked, “Where is your daughter?” The answer was, “in the car.”

So I went out to meet the young girl. (Her name has been changed in this article to respect her privacy.) Her mother introduced her as Chris. “She’s 13 and wants to learn to shoot clay targets,” her mother said. I introduced myself. I asked Chris if she had ever fired a gun. She shook her head no. I asked her if she wanted to start today. She shook her head yes. I could tell she was very nervous and shy. I talked with her, and all I could get from her was a nod, shrug, or head shake. Her mom and dad asked her if she wanted them to go with her. She nodded yes.

I went into the clubhouse and got a. 410 and two boxes of ammo. We walked out to the 5-stand where I had a very easy and close incoming target. I helped her get the gun mounted correctly, explaining things as I went along. Still, she had not spoken a word. I asked Chris, “Are you ready?" She nodded. I pulled the target, she pointed the gun, exactly as I instructed, and pulled the trigger. The target exploded. She looked at me with great big eyes and smiled.

Her first smile.

I asked Chris, “Do you want to try again?” She nodded a lot faster, still smiling. After shooting about eight or 10 times, I asked Chris, “Are you having fun yet?"

“Yes sir,” she answered. As we proceeded, breaking more and more targets, Chris started to ask questions about the gun we were using, how many kinds of guns there are, what was in the shell, and so forth.

The following week, Chris returned, and I moved her up to a 20ga low recoil. Every three or four weeks she would return and hone her skills. Each time I saw a difference in her confidence and self-esteem. Her mother called me and thanked me for helping Chris and said she was like a different person from when she started shooting. The following year, Chris competed in a league with several other young shooters and adults, doing very well. She finished high school and college and has continued to do very well. We lost touch for a while, but one day she came by asking about me. She now comes out on occasion with her father and sometimes brings her friends out to the range.

Learning to shoot helped transform Chris from a backward, shy, timid little child who wouldn’t speak into a mature young woman who is successful and confident. It’s been a pleasure to watch her blossom.

Earl Mclean is a coach and target setter at Drake Landing and is the owner of Heads Up Shooting System LLC, writing from Fuquay Varina, North Carolina.