Letting the Lead Fly

We spent a lot of time outdoors over the Christmas holidays, including a couple of sporting clays outings with our friends the Cheneys and the Fenrichs.  Carolyn Cheney is an excellent photographer, and took some great pictures of Cassidy and me.  I combined them with a great song by my favorite band into a little video.

Photos of Cassidy and me by Carolyn Cheney
“Let the Lead Fly” by
The Wrinkle Neck Mules (buy the excellent record at Amazon)

Weekend Woods and Water Update

Lots to report this weekend.

On Saturday morning, I shot my first sporting clays competition.  There were a few things I didn’t realize before hand.  Like that all stations would be at the much harder North Course.  And that all shots are doubles.  I probably should have done my homework and been aware of these nerves-inducing subtleties in advance, but where’s the fun in that.  The bad news is that I shot horribly.  The better news is that I still got third in my division.  The facts are that I need to practice more and differently.  I think I’m going to shoot the tournament at Rio Brazos next weekend.  I’d never heard of Rio Brazos before, and I’m not too keen on hunting preserves, but it’s close to Houston, and there aren’t all that many local sporting clays tournaments to choose from.

This afternoon, Cassidy and I went shooting together.  She did really well, knocking a bunch of clays down- with her .410.  I’m not sure how many I could hit with that small pattern.  The only camera I had with me was my iPhone.  She hit a bunch of clays, but this is the only shot I got on film.

ackstroke heat (win), freestyle heat (win), 4×4 relay (backstroke)
and butterfly heat (blue Rice swimcap)).

Raina and Delaney had to leave before 7:00 for the swim meet and Cassidy spent the night at a friend’s house, so Luke and I got up this morning and went for a dude’s breakfast of bacon, eggs and grits.  Then we watched some Little Bear and chilled out on the couch.

My kids rock.

Thanksgiving Eating & Shooting Report

Here’s the rundown from a fun weekend.

We spent most of the weekend in Austin with our friends the Fenrichs and the Donovans.  We all had a grand time, and the food was excellent.

The big kids got to eat their Thanksgiving meal outside.

We had a huge meal on Thursday, followed by lots of napping on the couch and football on the TV.

Cassidy and Remy spent much of their time in trees.

On Friday, Arnie and I shot sporting clays at the Capital City Trap & Skeet Club.  It’s a nice facility with a good mix of stations, and very nice and helpful staff.  They reciprocate with the Greater Houston Gun Club, so GHCC members get member rates there.  I didn’t shoot all that well, but the weather was perfect and we had a good time.  Afterwards, we met the rest of our families and the Donovans for dinner at El Arroyo, Raina’s favorite Austin restaurant.

I had to run a half marathon worth of miles last night, just to begin the process of recovering from all the good food I ate over the weekend.

This morning I was back out at GHGC, taking a shooting lesson from Bobby Fowler, Jr.  I like the heck out of Bobby, and he is a fantastic instructor.  He even had me hitting the rabbit shots, which have long been my Achilles’ heel (it turns out I was shooting over them, and needed to lower my barrel).  My plan is to take a lesson or so each month from Bobby and see if I can raise my game a level.  He wants me to enter some competitions, and I probably will.  In preparation for that, I joined the National Sporting Clays Association.

Raina and the kids went to Galveston this morning with her parents.  After shooting, I had a sushi lunch at Osaka.  Now its off to do some chores.

Sunday Mashup: Camping, Sporting Clays and Shotgun Shells

This weekend we spent a lot of time outside, enjoying the beautiful weather.

Saturday morning Delaney and I drove north for a little over an hour to attend an Indian Princess campout.  Delaney had a blast hanging out with her friends, and I had fun meeting some of the other daddies.

This morning we had breakfast and a closing ceremony, and headed back home.

We got home around 10:30 a.m., so I decided to try to beat the coming rain and shoot some sporting clays.

It was windy and it felt like it was going to start raining any moment- though it didn’t.  Still, I felt a little rushed, and didn’t have my best day.  I shot 61 of 72, for an 84% mark.  That’s a decent percentage, but it was on the easier South Course.


Station 10 killed me, and it’s not particularly hard.

If you’re wondering (and I guess even if you’re not), the iPhone program I use to score sporting clays is ClayTracker (iTunes link).  It’s a $20 program, which blew my mind at first, until I thought about it.  There’s probably a pretty small market for a sporting clays scoring app, so if we want developers to write for a niche market, we have to be willing to pay a little more.  On the whole I am pleased with ClayTracker.  It is well designed and graphically pleasing.  If the developers continue to add features, it will remain one of my favorite apps.

Among the features I’d like to see added are:

1. Skeet scoring, which the developers say is coming.

2. A “Notes” feature where you can quickly add notes about the various stations.  This would be extremely helpful when you’re scouting a new course.

3. More stats, easily accessible.  For example, when I arrive at a station I shoot a lot, I’d like to be able to easily access my recent or lifetime stats for that station.  Historical graphs would also be helpful.  That would let me see my rabbit percentage approaching 30%.  OK, 25%.

4. The ability to snap a photo of a station for future reference.

5. An online service, where your stats would be automatically uploaded and available for review or sharing.  You could even create and link tutorials on YouTube or some other video repository.  It would be cool to be able to access a rabbit tutorial while whiffing at a rabbit station (though miraculously I hit 2 out of 3 rabbit shots today, including the first half of a double).

image Afterwards, Delaney and I went to Academy Sports to buy some gun-cleaning patches and a little Hoppe’s No. 9.  While there, I made an important discovery.  As all shooters know, finding cheap shotgun shells is a never-ending quest.  Generally, I alternate between Carter Country and Academy, based on who has what on sale.  Recently, I have been frustrated at the local Academy to find that the shells I want are not on sale, when other similar shells are.  For example, the last two times I have been there I found a big stack of 20 gauge cases on sale, intermingled among the identical cases of 12 gauge shells which were not on sale.  Today, after telling Delaney we weren’t going to buy any shells because they were too expensive, we wandered over to the camping aisle.  There, far away from the hunting and shooting gear, were cases of Remington 12 gauge shells for $59.  That’s not the best price you can find, but it’s close enough.  So if you’re going to Academy in search of shells, look around.  They may have cheap shells in an unusual location.  And based on my experience, they may not tell you they’re over there.

So I stocked up on shotgun shells, came home and cleaned my guns, and put them away in the (locked) gun cabinet.

With any luck, Cassidy and I can prevail upon the rest of the family to finish off a great weekend with a sushi dinner.

Sporting Clays, Volume 3

After shooting Volume 1 and Volume 2 from a behind the shooter, stationary camera, I shot this round with a gun mounted camera.  It works OK with high, arching shots where there is a lot of blue sky to provide contrast.  It works less well on low, fast shots, where bushes or trees are in the background.  I also learned on editing that I need to start shooting only after I have loaded and am ready to shoot.  This video is pretty sloppy, but it taught me what I need to know for future videos.

It would also be really, really helpful to have a remote control for my JVC GC-FM1A HD camcorder.  That would allow me to easily stop and start between shots while reloading.

I shot OK today, particularly considering that the pull delay wasn’t working on several of the stations and I was shooting alone.  But I still gave away too many easy points.  I should be hitting at least 85% on the south course.

It’s been slow going on the videos, but I’m getting there.

Sporting Clays, Volume 2

After inadvertently recording Volume 1 in standard definition, I made it a point to shoot in HD today while shooting the South Course with my buddy J.C. MacBarker (known to some as Robert Brannon).  I had some camera angle issues, but the higher definition makes the clay visible, which is cool.  Things will get much better after today, as my gun camera mount arrived in the mail this afternoon.

We did good on the South Course, other than my continuing difficulty shooting the rabbit.  Later, we shot the harder North Course with another buddy.  We all did good, but not great, over there.  The gun camera mount is going to be handy for calculating some of the harder shot leads.  When you’re practicing and can take as many shots as you want, it’s relatively easy to zero in on most targets.  When you’re shooting in a competition, it’s important to get the lead right from the first shot.

All in all, a beautiful day.  And there’s no better way to spend a beautiful day than shooting some clays in the country.

Sunday Mashup: JVC Pocket Camcorder & Sporting Clays

This week I bought a JVC GC-FM1A HD camcorder.  Although I am starting to suspect that this camera might suck, other than the complete lameness of the included MediaBrowser LE software, which does not even recognize HD video on the camera, the jury is still  out.  I do like the fact the camera records onto a flash card, which allows me to remove the card and manipulate the video within Corel VideoStudio 12 (VS 12 users should note that non-HD video is in 4:3 format, to avoid the squished appearance that will result if you set your non-HD video project files to 16:9).

I decided to test the camera by combining two of my favorite things: tech and shotguns.  When I went out to shoot some sporting clays today, I took the camera and my spider tripod and filmed a few shots at each station.  I inadvertently shot the video in non-HD, so the resulting video is in lower than ideal resolution.  One of the features this camera needs is a way to lock the resolution, to avoid accidental resolution changes.

When editing the video footage, it became apparent that my camera placement and, more importantly, the lower resolution made it difficult to see the clays in flight.  It is likely that you would need to follow the clays with the camera to get a good shot shot (to coin a phrase).  Since I was by myself, that was not an option today.  Cassidy and Delaney often go shooting with me, so we’ll have to try a moving camera next time.  I hope that HD resolution will allow you to see the clays in flight, even with a stationary camera.

I love the fact that HD video cameras are getting smaller.  What I would really love would be for the iPhone to shoot HD video.  When that happens (and eventually it will), I will be a happy camper.  In the meantime, I continue to search for a small, full feature HD camcorder that will let me shoot video and easily upload it to YouTube or Vimeo or download it to my computer for use within an editing application.  Suggestions would be appreciated.

As far as the shooting went, I did good with everything in the air, particularly since the pull-delay wasn’t working at some of the stations and I was shooting alone, and horrible with the rabbit shots, where the clays bounce along the ground.  It’s hard to believe I can hit so many of one and so few of the other.