Monday, October 19, 2015

The Best Shooter

If you have read my columns in the past, you may have seen where I have openly professed that my father is one of the best wing shooters I have ever seen. It is hard to admit someone is better than you when you can get a little cocky sometimes, but it would be akin to hearing a local kid saying he was a better basketball player than Michael Jordan.

Even my friends growing up would comment about Dad’s prowess with a shotgun. He would have his limit and a half of a box of empty shells laying at his feet in a neat pile. Meanwhile, you would have two empty boxes of shells, five birds downed but two of them you couldn’t find, and hoping you would have enough shells to finish your limit.

Several years ago I met Dad’s match. I was at a hunter education instructor meeting in southern North Carolina. We had different seminars we could attend focusing on several different aspects to hunting and outdoorsmanship. Duncan Tatum, who helped me teach classes in one county, and I both signed up for the wingshooting class as one of our breakout sessions.

It was a hard class to get into. The people in the know understood the valuable knowledge you could gain in the class and we also had unlimited shells we could shoot on the skeet range. We were both lucky enough to get in.

One of the hunter education specialists, Fred Rorrer, was our instructor. He went over basics that served two purposes. One, if wingshooting and shotguns were not your thing, you could quickly grasp what to do. Second, it helped us learn how to teach our students who may not be familiar with shotguns, hunting, or even firearms in general in a way to make sure everything was covered.

We each competed on the skeet range, and I was happy with my results, even though I do not shoot the shotgun the way we are to teach the course. I was brought up with the one eye closed technique. Now, everything is with both eyes open. Even the technique in shooting pistols has changed from the way I learned, but that is another story.

Afterwards, Fred gathered all of us for another exhibition and competition. We were each given 10 shotgun shells. We were allowed to load two shells in the magazine and one in the chamber of the shotgun. The other seven we had to hold in some fashion of what we felt would work best.

The rules were a skeet would fly every five seconds, except numbers four and five, and numbers nine and ten would fly as doubles. We had to shoot the skeet, load another shell, and be ready to shoot the next.

We all struggled with the game. I think the best may have been five targets hit out of all of us seasoned hunters.

Then Fred stepped up and talked to us. He explained the proper way was to have your forehand point towards the target. The shotgun was just an extension of where you were pointing. As he was talking, he loaded the shotgun and slid the other seven shells between the fingers on his trigger hand. Then he nonchalantly said “pull”. He proceeded to blast every target quickly and efficiently while reloading the shotgun between shots.

We looked in amazement. He then loaded the shotgun again. He put even shells in his left hand, and held the shotgun with his right hand by the trigger with it firmly on his right shoulder. He then broke all ten targets by shooting with one hand.

Next, he loaded the shotgun once again. Only three shells were used. While talking to us, in mid sentence, he said “pull” and the first skeet flew. With the shotgun behind his back and his head turning towards the skeet, he pulled the trigger. Immediately afterwards two more skeet flew. He quickly dispatched both with two more trigger pulls from behind his back.

To Fred, shooting the shotgun was the same as throwing a baseball at a catcher’s mitt. It was natural.

Fred was just as comfortable with a bow as he was a shotgun from what I learned later. It takes a lot to admit someone is better than you in something sometimes. It is completely different when you have a group of lifelong outdoorsmen who serve as instructors for hunting education and firearm education, and someone can not only cause your jaw to drop but also teach you more than you could have ever imagined.

Fred Rorrer passed away five years ago next month. I am honored to have had Fred as one of my instructors to become certified to instruct hunter education as well as been a part of that last class he taught.

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