Shooting day for Foreign Military Attaches to Slovenia
I confess upfront that I am no expert in sport shooting, actually the reverse is truer, but I am committed to get on the range and become a proficient clay buster. I am probably too old to go from good to great but I will go from bad to good. This blog is more insights into my experiences in clay shooting and not in other forms of sport or tactical shooting.
I never grew up with a shotgun (unfortunately). Neither my dad nor my older brother were much interested in shooting so I was left to my own devices. I was always supported in what I wanted to do but I was never exposed to the experiences of say bird shooting with a shotgun. All my dad owned was a very old single bore shotgun that I was too scared to shoot. He did buy me an old 410/22LR which has now been passed on to Dennis Goslin.
It was only much later, about 13 years ago, that Neal Seady, Ivan Jones and Clive Taverner of PE introduced me to clay pigeon shooting at the Port Elizabeth Clay Target Club. I enjoyed immensely even though I was frustrated by slow progress. At 40 years of age I was no longer used to struggling and learning as when a teenager. To make matters worse, years of shooting rifles had got me fixed in the habit of aiming and it was difficult to shake this habit. My shotgun also bruised my cheeks badly, at the time I thought it was the fit, but more about that later.
As part of my work I relocated to Slovenia in 2006. It was in the same year that I met Igor Rakusha on a flight from Chicago to Frankfurt. We were sitting next to each other when Igor recognised that I was reading a gun magazine I bought in the US. So the conversation started and we realised that we were both headed to Slovenia. I will explain a bit about Igor; it was Igor who got me back into shotgun shooting in Slovenia. Igor has close relations with Berretta and he arranged for my first firearm purchase in Slovenia, a Berretta SO5.
Igor is the owner and director of the SHOOTING CENTER GAJ in PRAGERSKO Slovenia. Igor was a previous national champion of Slovenia and came 13th in the World Cup in Olympic trap. Actually competitive rifle and shotgun shooting was brought to Slovenia by Igor’s grandfather, Francis Rakuša who was a former Yugoslavia champion. The shooting range is impressive, a venue for the European Championship where about 400 contestants from 40 different countries compete; also the World Cup in 2009. The range holds on average 15 national and 9 international competitions a year. By 2018 the range would have been developed for European and World events in various disciplines including air rifle, small calibre weapons etc. The range is frequented by high profile shooters from the Middle East such as Almed Al Maktoum who is a member of Dubai’s ruling family.
One of the many business ventures of Igor is a factory for making of clays which are exported all over the world. It sounds like a simple process but these clays of 110mm weighing 105 grams must be designed to break as easily as possible so that a hit can be scored with as few pellet contacts as possible.
The range in Pragersko is an hour and 15 drive from my home; when you count the time in both directions it becomes a “slep” so I have not done much clay shooting lately. The hunting family I belong to had a trap shooting range in the forests overlooking a beautiful valley, probably the most picturesque shooting range in the world. This facility was used one afternoon a week for decades, but all good things come to an end. Land belongs to private owners and hunting families only have the rights of hunting. Ownership of small land lots is common, it amazes me how everyone knows which piece of land belongs to whom. Back to the range, I have never understood the whole story, which is very common for a foreigner in Slovenia, but I am told that one of the land owners complained and the hunting family president of the day accepted to stop clay pigeon shooting too easily and too soon. The range has been closed ever since. Moral of the story is never give up without a fight.
Many hunting families have their own clay pigeon ranges, I was recently introduced to a range in the hunting family of Ales Spendal. The setting is beautiful and the facilities excellent so hoping to join Ales on some of his shooting outings there. All hunters revel in the comradery of the hunt between hunters; for me it is more important than what I shoot or don’t shoot – this is where I miss out the most because I do not speak Slovene and most of the hunters in Slovenia speak German and not English as a 2nd language. This is only true in the hunting fraternity because in no other sphere of life have I ever needed to understand or speak Slovene. This probably highlights the fact that the younger population are more interested in tech games than in the love of the hunt.
Back to the shotgun stock that was bruising my cheek. I learnt from Igor that I was not holding the shotgun properly; I was holding the shotgun more like a rifle. The impact of this was far greater than a bruised cheek because the stock of my Berretta S05 was made with too much offset, the likely outcome of how I was holding it during the fitting I have fitted the stock with a Berretta gel pad and I am good again, but I remain disappointed to have such a magnificent shotgun with an “adapted” stock.
The other simple lesson that I learnt from YouTube videos was never to look down the barrel of the gun but to focus on the clay. Probably this was so obvious to the great shooters who introduced me to the sport that they never taught me this basic important principle.
I will close this blog with some reflection. My dad always reminded me that when I believed I was right then it was time to pause and reflect. It is important in our lives to put back into sport and society what we got out. I can reflect on my part of Dennis Goslin starting clay pigeon shooting at about 56 years of age, he went on to win his seniors colours. I have enjoyed taking many Slovenes including Igor and his family to hunt in SA. My hunting family mentor and close friend Dusan Ravnihar has been with me to SA on 3 occasions and Ales Spendal and his wife joined us on the DeBeers farm hunt in Kimberly in 2014. The conclusion of my reflection is that I owe much more because I have gained so much in friendships and experiences from hunting and sport shooting.
Shooting my Beretta SO5 at our hunting family range, now closed