Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Learning responsibility on clay shoot course

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Mike Bonner, a consulting agronomist from Onanole, has a passion for the shooting sports and has the technical credentials to back that up. He is an Olympic-class shooting judge and attended both the Sydney and Atlanta Olympics as a referee. Bonner is also certified to offer both the provincial and federal firearms courses and has taught hundreds of adults and youngsters the basics of safe and ethical shooting and hunting.

"I'm convinced that teaching young people the basics of firearm safety goes a long way towards making them responsible adults," said Bonner.

To that end, he and a group of volunteers organized the province's first-ever sporting clay shoot south of Riding Mountain Park."

Sporting clay shooting is a relatively recent development and the sport attempts to challenge the shooter with targets thrown at all angles and heights to simulate bird hunting. Sporting clay courses are typically established in areas with variable landscapes and the clay pigeon throwers, or "traps," are laid out in such a manner to really challenge the shooter.

Bonner and his committee had the bright idea that the abandoned gravel pit near Scandinavia would make an ideal sporting clay course.

"You see," said Bonner, "the results of the gravel extraction left an area with lots of variable angles and elevations so we had a lot of options when it came to trap placement. Plus, being a gravel pit, there was no mud; a real consideration after all of those rains."

Because of this, and the tree and grass growth that had occurred since the pit quit operation, this location really did simulate a real hunting situation. I spoke to a local landowner before the hunt and he said he was delighted that young people were being shown the ins and outs of safe shooting. But shooters of all ages came out and many of us shot on both days.

I found the course to be very challenging, especially the "battue" station. Battues are wicked thin little targets that seem to come out of nowhere and my shameful "2 out of 10" on the first round told me I had to bear down. Clay pigeon shooting requires the ultimate in concentration but if a shooter is too tense, he or she can tighten up and swing the shotgun poorly. I think the phrase "ice water in your veins" sums it up nicely.

The overall weekend was one of those pleasant country events. Friends, neighbours, parents and many others volunteered to place equipment, barbecue burgers and hot dogs, just make sure the whole thing ran well. The Erickson Grade 11 physics class were asked to operate the traps and, in return, a portion of the funds raised would be donated to their upcoming trip to NASA. The rest of the funds went to Delta Waterfowl in support of their Mentored Youth Waterfowl Hunt. And a good time was had by all.

This first-of-its-kind sporting clay shoot was so successful that Bonner and the other organizers decided to form the Scandinavia Sporting Clays Association which will be putting on similar events in the future. Stay tuned.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 19, 2010 D11

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