A Fun Afternoon of Trapshooting in Havre, Montana

Last week I wrote about missing grouse in the opening weekend of the hunting season and that I would be doing some clay pigeon shooting to get my shooting eye back in training.

I was in Havre, Montana most of last week covering the annual convention of the Montana Tavern Association for Tavern Times, the monthly newspaper of the tavern association. The convention opens with a golf tournament and a shotgunning event. Last year we enjoyed a round of sporting clays at a facility at Polson. This year the shooting event was at the Havre Trap Club.

The Havre Trap Club has an active program, with regular registered shoots, shooting leagues and fun events., as well as some special events, such as the special shoot for the Tavern Association.

A guest shooter for the afternoon was Max Erickson, owner of Erickson Financial Services of Havre and a sponsor of the shooting event. Max is a Butte native, the son of Len and Mona Erickson.

Max demonstrates that when participating in shooting sports presents some challenges, there are ways to meet those challenges.

Max has complications from diabetes. He has some mobility issues, so he shoots from a chair, which is not particularly unusual in the trapshooting world. A more serious complication is a vision loss in his right eye. Actually, that’s a variation on a relatively common problem in shotgunning: a master eye that is at odds with the body. Many shotgunners are right-handed but have a left master eye, or have a cross-dominance problem, in other words.

There are different solutions to the cross-dominance problem. Some shooters simply close their left eye, or even put some translucent tape across the left lens of their glasses to force the right eye to take over.

The loss of vision in one eye complicates things, as closing the left eye won’t solve the problem. Max tried shooting left-handed but that didn’t prove to be satisfactory. A local gunsmith came up with a solution in the form of a secondary gun muzzle, about an inch long, attached to the left side of the end of his shotgun. This gives him a secondary reference on which his left eye can focus in tracking flying targets.

It’s not perfect, but as some members of the Havre Trap Club related he now normally misses around four targets in a 25-shot round of trap, whereas when he tried shooting left-handed, he’d hit about four targets. In the competitive world of trapshooting, that won’t win many trophies. On the other hand, for a recreational shooter it’s the difference between acute frustration and enjoyment.

On the topic of trapshooting, the Havre Trap Club went out of their way to create a fun program for the convention shooters. We shot a couple rounds of standard trap for loosening up as well as to help work up an appetite for lunch.

Later they came up with games to test shooting and reflexes. We lined up at the firing line and divided into groups of three. The first person would call for the target and shoot. If he missed the second person could shoot and if he missed the third person could shoot. It’s trickier than it sounds. If a person shot after the target had already been broken, or shot out of turn, he’d earn a disqualification point. It didn’t take long before most of the shooters became bystanders while Max Erickson and Ralph Ferraro, a Bozeman restaurateur, were the last ones shooting with Ferraro finally prevailing.

I’ll modestly mention that in a second heat your reporter ended up as the winner.

Still the main thing to the shooting event was to have fun and we succeeded in a big way. Another bonus is that we had a good refresher course in shotgunning and that should pay dividends in grouse and pheasant hunts this fall. During the afternoon we each went through about six boxes of shotgun shells and I’d bet most of us don’t go through that many shells in a full season of shooting.