On our recent trip to Scotland, we visited an absolutely stunning place called Rothiemurchus in the heart of the Cairngorm Mountains. It was almost a cliché of what you’d expect to find in Scotland: a castle, a loch, a river, woodlands, yet far more beautiful than I had ever imagined (and what I imagined was pretty spectacular). A grey overcast and heavy mist completed the picture. So what do you do in a place like this? Put on a custom made Shooting Jacket and go clay pigeon shooting, of course.
I had never done this activity, so wasn’t really sure what to expect, but upon arrival, it felt just about perfect. Angel had created both of us shooting jackets for the occasion. It may be more accurate to say that they were ‘shooting jacket-inspired’ as there were no billowed pockets for shells. But there were patches on the chest (which I always thought were just for looks), and the blades were vented for greater flexibility. Whether any of his helped or hurt my accuracy, I can’t, or won’t, really say.
Regardless, feeling dressed for the part in this storybook setting, it was impossible to ignore how classy and gentlemanly I felt on one hand, while also being deeply aware of how purely masculine the whole thing felt. While perhaps just a tad more polite than the baseball dugouts I spent years in, it didn’t take long for the trash talk to start. The competitive juices were flowing freely.
There were multiple stations and the pigeons were sent off in different ways in order to keep you on your toes. They skipped off the ground. They crossed paths in mid air. They flew away from you. They flew toward you. And success or failure was easily recorded for all to see as the pigeon either exploded into smaller pieces from a hit or sailed on its merry way with a miss. You hit it or you didn’t and everybody knew which one it was and of course, let you know they knew.
Hit or miss though, the power of pulling the trigger and feeling the gun fire and recoil against my shoulder was exhilarating. When the pigeon shattered, it was double the pleasure. Maybe more. With every shot, I must admit it became fairly obvious the leather patches, while they looked amazing, were not just a design element. They were quite functional. And I was quite thankful. I kept aiming and firing when it was my turn, while passing along a few gentlemanly pointers or friendly observations to my rivals when it wasn’t. Especially when the pigeon sailed on after their shot, falling harmlessly to the ground.
Afterward, we capped it off with a scotch at the lodge and gave our Hunter boots a little test wade into the nearby loch. A fantastic day. An incredible experience that makes me want to return to Scotland in the very near future. And to find some place like it here at home where I can introduce my friends to this most gentlemanly of pursuits.
Until that day comes, I will be dusting off my 1987 Nintendo console and reliving my Duck Hunt glory days. In my shooting jacket, of course.