Mason County News
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Wednesday, May 11, 2011 • Posted May 11, 2011

Ralph Winingham, who is a darn good writer, an outstanding chef, and a fellow member of the Texas Outdoor Writers Association, not to mention a friend, a nice guy, and a fine American, recently sent an email to a bunch of TOWA members inviting them to shoot on the TOWA team at a benefit sporting clays shoot in Austin. I got the email, and pointedly ignored it.A few days later Ralph sent another email, saying he needed one more shooter, and insinuated to me, personally, that if I didn’t volunteer I was a lousy TOWA board member who should probably turn in my ring AND my tietack. So I reluctantly consented to shoot, knowing it was a mistake.The shoot was a fundraiser for Operation Game Thief, which is a sort of branch or division or whatever of Texas Parks & Wildlife, so it’s a very good cause, and they always need money. It’s hard to weasel out of a deal like that, and still claim to support your local game warden. So, for the record, that’s why I finally said yes – not because Ralph tried to lay a guilt trip on me. Plus there was a free lunch for shooters; fried catfish prepared by the Texas Game Warden cooks, who are legendary.The shoot was held at the Texas Disposal Systems Exotic Game Ranch on the south side of Austin, and when I got there I was happy to learn I wouldn’t have to stand in front of a huge crowd of people and miss clay birds. There were two ranges, spread over about ten acres. So the only people who generally saw me shoot were the people on my team. Not that I mind embarrassing myself, but I figure the smaller the crowd, the better.Besides me and Ralph, who almost never misses a clay bird, our team consisted of Sam Caldwell, who is the finest artist I’ve ever known, John Goodspeed, who’s forgot more about writing than I’ll ever learn, and James Stewart, who is the editor of the Brady newspaper, which runs my column. With those guys on my team I felt confident we would do very well, or at least have fun doing very badly.As a matter of fact, I offered to make a wager with my friend, TJ Greaney, who publishes Country Line magazine. TJ and his son, Cody, both shot on the Chevy team, which was evidently put together by Craig Eppling, who is a fine fellow and a great representative for Chevy, but a poor judge of sporting clays shooters.Anyway, I bet TJ that whoever’s team won, the other guy had to paddle the winner down the Llano River while the winner fished. He agreed, which immediately made me suspicious. I figured they must have a ringer, or something.The actual shoot was a lot of fun. The stations were set up along a road, and the birds we shot at were thrown sort of out over pastureland, although I think the machines were messed up. The clay birds flew every which direction, which made them very hard to hit, so mostly I just aimed at clouds and stuff.Plus I had to be very careful not to outshoot James, since he’s one of my editors. He’s got a fancy Beretta shotgun, and it would be embarrassing for him to get beat by a guy with a plain old Remington 870. Luckily, it wasn’t hard to stay behind James, because he’s almost as nauseatingly accurate as Ralph.John also hit most of the clay birds, which left me and Sam responsible for most of the missing. I’m proud to say we came through with flying colors, which we also shot at, and missed.Scott Robertson, an exhibition shooter for Beretta, put on an outstanding show just before noon, and it was fantastic. He shot clay birds and golf balls and Lacross balls and eggs and some other stuff, but he never aimed at them. He shot mostly from the hip, although sometimes he held the shotgun over his head. Someone needs to teach Scott some proper form.While that was going on I told TJ, “I can do that.”He said, “What, shoot like that?”I said, “No, see that guy pushing the button when Scott says ‘pull?’ I can do that.” TJ was doubtful.Rick Perry showed up at the dinner, so I gave him some advice about governering and stuff. He told me he plans to go shoot a buffalo, and donate it, along with the gun he shoots it with, to a charity auction that’s coming up. I told him that sounded like a real good idea. He was very relieved to hear it.The shoot was a lot of fun, and the TOWA team ended up winning the media division, chiefly because we were the only team in it. Well, that and Sam’s excellent missing.I forget what our score was, but I’ll report that as soon as I find out the Chevy team’s score. Because, when you get right down to it, I’d a lot rather fish than paddle . . .Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who is considering a sponsorship from Remington not to represent them at shoots. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or

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