The Boy Scouts is a way for many boys to learn how to tie knots and build pinewood derby racecars. Yet, for Daron Gunn of Sioux City, Iowa, it was a way to begin clay-pigeon shooting—a sport in which he would later become a state champion and All-American.
After hearing his father’s childhood memories of shooting, Gunn gave it a try with the Boy Scouts in middle school and was hooked. Now, six years later, he is an accomplished marksman who has competed in more competitions than he can count (sometimes as many as twenty-five in a single summer) and has been ranked a Class B shooter—only two levels below the highest rank.
The clay-pigeon shooting range is like a golf course—except that instead of holes there are stands; shotguns and clay disks instead of clubs and balls. The shooter moves from stand to stand, trying to hit the disks as they fly into the air (“pigeons”), drop out of trees (“squirrels”), or roll along the ground (“rabbits”)—all set into motion by means of special machines.
The disks range from the size of a soda-bottle cap to about four inches in diameter. The shooter is awarded one point for every disk hit; he does not have to break the clay, only chip it before it hits the ground. There are 100 birds in a round, and Gunn usually scores in the upper 80s to mid 90s.
Gunn emphasizes the large role that self-motivation plays in his success. “Nobody really ever has a coach for this sport, and so you just have to teach yourself to stay focused.” In fact, he says, focus is one of the greatest things he’s gained from sporting clays.