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It’s been over a year since I last shot a gun. I was in my hometown for this Thanksgiving, and so was my brother, so we and our dad took the opportunity to take the guns out. My brother’s girlfriend and my oldest son (7 years) went with us.

This time, instead of going out behind the grandparents’ farm, my dad had called and got us a place on an actual shooting range. Or so it was supposed to be. None of us had ever been to the location, so we weren’t sure how it would work.

When we arrived at the “range land,” we found the place deserted except for a couple dozen hunting dogs in chain link fence kennels. My dad and I opened a door to the old wooden shack — about 20′ by 40′ — and the first thing we saw was a wide flow of blood on the concrete floor.

Following the glistening dark red trail with our eyes, from just inside the doorway, we found the cut-up deer in a big metal bucket. A pretty fresh kill. No one answered our calls. We checked in another door and still found no one. So my dad used his cell phone to call the owner/operator to see what was up. We were supposed to have an appointment for this time and place.

Out back of the shack was what looked to be the range. It was pretty small, especially for an outdoor range. The longest line I could figure looked no more than maybe 30 yards. There was a tower for observation, with the rules of the range listed, but otherwise, the set up was pretty sparse.

Eventually the owner came driving up in his pickup truck. After a greeting and explanation of our intentions, he told us to follow him in our vehicle. He took us to what had been a corn field that summer, and told us we could shoot there. “Shoot in that direction. And try to aim low. There’s quail hunters over to the right.” He then left us to our entertainment. We could hear occasional shooting off in the distance. The Friday after Thanksgiving is a big deer hunting day.

So there we were, with a small arsenal of firearms, in the middle of a small field. To our left, on the other side of our vehicle (sitting on the rutted truck path) was a couple acres of new-growth pine trees. Behind us and to our right, was a thin copse of older pine trees, through which we could see a couple of houses and trucks (the tertiary blacktop ran between the trees and the houses). And in front of us, about 80 yards away, was a more sizable woods full of pines and hardwoods.

With the direction we were told to shoot in, the only things upright were some old brown corn stalks. We attached a paper target to a corn stalk (about 12 inches off the ground). We wouldn’t be able to do any real tracking on that target, but at least it gave us something to aim at.

We set about arming up. . . . to be continued.


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