Shooting Things in Montana

I don’t want to say that I became entirely reckless during my recent visit to Montana.

But it is simply a fact that I have never before driven a vehicle at a sustained 100 miles per hour, on a state highway, which I did for, oh, fifty miles or so, before I noticed my speedometer. In my defense, even with my triple digit speed, I was one of the slowest cars on the road.  (Up until 1999, Montana had no official speed limit. It’s now 75 mph, so yes,  I was breaking the law. We at Perceptive Travel do not endorse law breaking.)

It is also a fact that I had made no plan for this trip in advance, quite counter to my serious and scheduled nature. And as a final piece of evidence of my mental state, after a few days in Big Sky Country, I decided it would be good idea to learn to shoot something.

Shooting at Paws Up in Montana

Don't Mess with Me, or I'll Shoot You by Accident. Photo by Tracey Foster

Not a living something, I wasn’t having a psychotic break or an aneurism or something.  But there was something about driving around the rugged Montana landscape that made me think I needed to learn a little something more about handling myself outside of an urban environment.

That something might have included fact that my friend and I squealed “OmygodohmygodohmyGOD!” at the top of our lungs every time we spotted bison in Yellowstone Park.  Or that it was my instinct to slam on the break and swerve into the beast. It also might have included my wardrobe choice of a cute skirt and heels to go hiking around the park’s mudpots and hot springs, which even to me became quickly obvious was a bad idea.

I desperately needed to up my rugged-and-capable-quotient, and The Resort at Paws Up, in Greenough, seemed to offer a remedy: they provide instruction in shooting sporting clays. The lessons are at the resort’s world-class clay target shooting range, a “12-station course that throws a diversity of aerial target presentations. The clays cross, climb, zip in, fly out, or streak high overhead at speeds and angles accurately simulating the flight patterns of game birds.”

I resisted the urge to ask about their spa and signed up for the three hour instruction. But I realized that there was basically no chance that I was not going to totally suck at this.

My previous experience with armament had been limited to a 45 minute session with a recoilless gas-operated target rifle at Turnberry Resort in Scotland. Even though I had been extremely jet lagged, I felt that the utter lack of pock marks on the target was an indication that I was no natural markswoman.

And indeed, I am not. Despite the expert instruction at Paws Up, and despite the fact that I did shoot a few things I was supposed to, and just one thing that I wasn’t  — the side wall of the structure around the firing point, moments after the photo above was taken, whoops! —  I can say with total confidence that every shot I fired that connected with its target was a total accident.

I thought the rifle was really heavy, even though I evidently was using the lightest one possible. I was surprised that I had to get so…intimate…with the gun, pressing it up against my cheek like a kitten. I also found it strange that I had no sensation of any sort when I hit the target. I guess that makes sense but you think you’d get some sort of a frisson of success when that piece of clay shattered. I didn’t know I hit something until the instructor told me I had.

And I was amazed at how hard it is to actually see the target with one eye closed. Which might be because I am apparently left-eye dominant, I have always been physically incapable of winking my right eye shut. My career as a markswoman was finished before it ever started.

So basically, if I ever had to fend for myself and shoot game birds, I’d be totally doomed to vegetarianism. Which tells me that I’d better limit my future recklessness to endeavors that involve urban skills. After all, it’s not like there’s ever any need for a gun in New York City.


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