Shotgun Sports And Steaks Are The Best

Since I’m really into self-delusion, I enjoy fishing, hunting, and the gentlemanly sport of blasting the bajeezus out of clay pigeons. There’s no better place to blast the bajeezus out of clay pigeons than the booming metropolis of Sequim, Washington.

And when I say, “no better place,” I really mean it. I don’t care where you’re from. Looking at you, Beaverton. 

Okay, Sequim’s not exactly booming in a metropolitan way, more like in a shooting sporting clays at Sunnydell Shooting Grounds way. If you’ve never been to a “shooting grounds” you should go, because the sport of shooting inanimate objects is as enjoyable as a round of golf, a match of tennis, a game of darts, the supposedly pleasurable activity called hiking…you know, all those activities we do to have fun. Shooting is just way louder.

Wait, this is already out of control. Before we move on, it’s possible you, the avid, storied reader, need some definitions and clarifications. No problem.

  1. Self-delusion is defined as failing to recognize reality. Fishing/hunting/shooting are typically used to further define this mental state based on the lopsided expense/success ratio. E.g., if you factor in all your gear, lures, fuel, etc., that seven-pound salmon you caught in Puget Sound last summer cost you $4,888.50, or $698.35 per pound.      
  2. Clay pigeons are little ceramic frisbees one shoots with a shotgun in an attempt to generate a sense of self-worth.
  3. Sporting clays, a.k.a. “Golf with a shotgun,” involves several shooting stations embedded in natural terrain hurling clay pigeons at impossible speeds/angles. This frustrating hobby was, quite deviously, invented by the American Psychological Association to increase global demand for cognitive therapy sessions.

Sunnydell has quite the storied history and is such a great place to shoot that maybe you should stop reading this now because I’m suddenly paranoid the next time I go you’re all going to be there, taking up space and generally getting in the way like all new people do. Especially me when I’m new, I’m the worst.

Oh fine. Chuck Dryke established Sunnydell in 1967, trained many successful trap and skeet shooters including his daughter Ellen (competed in Shotgun World Championships) and son Matt (competed in three Olympics, winning a gold medal for skeet shooting in 1984), and pioneered the science behind how to “see” targets.

I’ve taken lessons from Chuck (who passed away in 2012 at the age of 88), Matt, and another instructor I can’t remember. I’ve also received plenty of guidance from Ellen. By the end of a lesson I guarantee you will be making impossible shots, unless you’re a poor listener or insist on talking over the instructor, which really drives me nuts, as in why are you even paying for that lesson when all you want to do is prattle on about your problems or your Tesla or what you think about anything? Just listen for once.


After a lesson I can hit anything I want for about a week, then it wears off, kind of like my charm. For the record it wears off mostly because I live in a dense metropolitan area that discourages discharging shotguns at clay targets in 2000 square-foot backyards, so I can’t keep practicing. Plus, maybe I’m not what you’d call a “natural.” Which also explains why my wife keeps asking me why I always come back from duck hunting with no ducks (see: above definition of self-delusion.)  

I’ve seen instructors shoot a shotgun one-handed and break targets at 30 yards. I’ve watched our out-of-town guests who haven’t shot in 10-years have a great time shooting “teal” (the clay pigeon is launched vertically in the air), “rabbit” (bounces and skips across the ground) and a crazy one that actually comes toward you from across a pond. I think that last station is called “angry raptor attacking you,” and it’s pretty much about self-defense.

It turns out I kind of take Sunnydell for granted. If you do a little research and talk to a few of the folks who take shotgun-ing seriously, or even professionally, you’ll find that Sunnydell is viewed as one of the best sporting clays ranges in the country, and certainly top-rated globally.

Plus when you’re done at the shooting grounds your hands smell like cordite (think pungent, earthy/rust smell, I really find it quite agreeable, as I do gun oil) and your shoulder hurts just a bit. Then when you see your friends at work on Monday and you’re like, “Whadya do this weekend?” and they’re like, “We went to this new tapas restaurant oh it was so good and we had so many $15.00 cocktails…” and they say that all nasally and boring, then they ask you what you did, you get to say, “Oh we went to Sequim, you know with my (insert noun here…girlfriend/boyfriend/family/wife/dog…whatever) and we shot sporting clays at the shooting equivalent of a training ground for world champions…and my shoulder kind of hurts.”

And you’ll obviously win that conversation because your story is way cooler than your coworker’s. And you might get a raise that day because everyone at work will be talking about how awesome you are and your boss will finally really notice you and think you’re a real avant-garde, go-getter. And you’ll feel obligated to send me some of your new raise money because really you have me to thank since I pointed you in the right direction with this whole shooting sports thing in the first place. See? Why didn’t you start listening to me a long time ago? Oh, and I guess you could thank Matt and Ellen and Sunnydell in general if you want.

And, most importantly, thank Chuck Dryke, who, as many other writers have suggested, is likely in heaven teaching angels how to shoot their golden bows in a much more excellent manner. Or something like that.  

I know what you’re thinking … “I don’t have a gun.” It’s fine, Sunnydell can set you up with one, show you how it all works, how to be safe – they’re incredibly professional. I once sent a family from San Francisco there (long story, they were on vacation in Seattle and looking for something unique to do), a mom and dad with a teenage son and daughter – when I saw the mom a few days later she said they all shot, and loved it.   

And we haven’t even touched on what you get to do AFTER your day of shooting where you invited me along and paid for me to participate too. You have the entire town of Sequim at your disposal! Did you know there’s a rumor Kris Kristofferson and Linda Evans both live in Sequim? Maybe we’ll bump into them and they’ll invite us over for steaks, I like to eat steaks or a burger after shooting. Did you know tide, current and wind add length to the Dungeness Spit every year? Did you know Sequim is one of the driest places in the State of Washington? Did ya?  

Then there’s Port Angeles…and the rest of the Olympic Peninsula…

But I can’t get into all of this right now, I’m busy. You should definitely check out Sunnydell sometime though. Call first to make an appointment and all that. It’s worth your time. And you can thank me later.

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About Patrick McNerthney 51 Articles
Patrick McNerthney is a former President, Titan of Industry and general Society-Improver. He owns a business called Outcasting, which purportedly offers writing services, but is most likely a front for the illegal import and distribution of vacant hermit crab shells. Patrick aspires to own an NFL team and take over his block. He’s written four books: How to Break Out of Prison*, How to Cheat on Your Taxes*, How to Steal Your Neighbor’s Roof*, and The Future Will Not Involve Underwear**. *Not written yet **Not formatted or published yet