I'd never touched a gun before. I'm not opposed to touching them, I just don't hang out in the kinds of places where people shoot things. I think the only time I'd even seen a gun close up was when I was a young punk hustling a poker game run by members from a motorcycle gang who liked to keep theirs on the table (this sounds like a lie, but it's totally not; even for a Reno kid I had an unconventional sense of fun). But when it wasn't quite hot enough to go swimming on Friday, my buddy decided we were gonna drive down to Gervais and play shotgun golf.

The activity is technically called "sporting clays" and is like skeet or trap shooting but with way more walking. I refuse to call anything "skeet shooting" because I've listened to too much hip hop and "sporting clays" makes it seem like aggressive pottery, so I'm going to stick with "shotgun golf." Also it did feature a miniature pencil, which by law, makes something golf.

What you do is walk around to different stations and shoot a gun at a series of flying plates that are trying to escape. You miss, of course, and the clay pigeon goes back to his clay family and then you mark a zero with your mini pencil and move on. It's fun. But for somebody who's never shot a gun before, it's also pretty surreal. Not that it's dangerous; what was so unnerving about it, I think, is that it doesn't feel dangerous at all.

From the minute I set foot on the property, it felt a little too relaxed. Maybe we were treated differently because my friend is a regular, but I kept waiting for the owner to ask for some proof that I'm not going to hurt myself or anybody else with this weapon (gun class registration card, name of my sensei, helmet). Nothing. There's a longer safety lecture when you play laser tag. Maybe for that reason, I felt pretty uncomfortable just holding the thing for the first few holes, assuming somebody was going to realize the oversight any moment and disarm me to protect society.

Face of a warrior.
  • Face of a warrior.

On the course there are no warning signs or safety notices besides "wear ear protection". My coffee cup has the word "caution" on it four times, but the shotgun they just handed to an idiot said nothing except "Barretta" which I assume is Italian for "Beverage is very hot." To add to the incongruity, we got talked into renting a cart to push around our guns, ammo, and extremely dangerous coffee and it looked an awful lot like a jogging stroller. We were fully prepared in case we wanted to take our twins Shock and Awe for a power walk through the Pearl.

The twins always fall asleep in the stroller.
  • The twins always fall asleep in the stroller.

I did hit a few targets, which only made the whole thing seem more farcical. This gun does so much of the work, somebody as incompetent as me was able to shoot more than a couple moving targets. At the same time (and to my delight) I was able to capture 100% of the blackberries I came across along the course. It turns out I'm more of a gatherer than a hunter.

As I mentioned, it is fun. Like bowling and frisbee golf and war got together and made a baby. But laser tag is also fun and despite the zealous safety officers at Qzar, I don't think anybody could die playing that. Shotgun golf is also expensive (around $50/person for the half course w/ gun, ammo, and stroller) and for that money I could humiliate kids wearing little laser vests all day and still have money left for bumper boats.

Salem Trap & Skeet Club
6181 Concomly Rd.
Gervais, OR 97026
Summer hours: Wednesday through Sunday
10am - 6pm