Sportsman’s Corner: Mahar Fish’N Game Club Trap Shoot

(From left) High school advisor Evelyn Cunha, Mike LaPlante, Lucas Briand, Audrey Elwood, Corey Tanner, Jeff LaPlante, and middle school advisor Billy Devine.

(From left) High school advisor Evelyn Cunha, Mike LaPlante, Lucas Briand, Audrey Elwood, Corey Tanner, Jeff LaPlante, and middle school advisor Billy Devine. PHOTO BY MIKE ROCHE

Published: 05-23-2024 4:21 PM

By Mike Roche

This past week, the tradition of the Mahar Fish’N Game Club Trap Shoot continued with the help and support of the Orange Gun Club. Since the club was founded in 1957, members have held a trap shooting competition. While there were a few years in the 1970s when, due to the large number of participants and the fact that the former Athol Gun Club had multiple trap fields while the Orange Club at that time had only one, the Orange Gun Club has been host for most of those events.

On many of those occasions, the club has also provided great support by providing targets at no cost, along with food. That was again the case Monday, as club members and family enjoyed the wonderful weather and a great shoot. The number of shooters was down, but the enthusiasm certainly was not.

As is always the case, club advisors Evelyn Cunha and Billy Devine, both certified Massachusetts Hunter Education Instructors, reminded the students of the fundamentals of safe firearms handling and all students were made familiar with the shotguns they would use. Some of the club members had their own guns and others used guns provided by the club. For the benefit of all, the basics of trap shooting were outlined.

A trap field has five stations that are in a semi-circle 16 yards behind the concrete trap house, where the throwing machine launches targets when called for by the shooter. Five targets are taken at each of the five stations and shooters rotate to all five positions.

After some warmups to familiarize all with the process and see where the targets would fly, the competition got underway. Mike LaPlante led the way by breaking 19 of the 25 targets, claiming first place. Jeff LaPlante was right behind, with a score of 18 to claim second place. Lucas Briand was third with a score of 13. Everyone was a winner, however, as the hot dogs were great!

Volunteers pitching in to help the young shooters were members of the Orange Gun Club, including George Eastman (who pulled targets and kept score), Mike Barnes, Tom Tourigny and Chuck Neveu. Mahar Fish’N Game Club members shooting included Mike LaPlante, Lucas Briand, Audrey Elwood, Corey Tanner and Jeff LaPlante.

The Orange Gun Club has trap shooting every Tuesday starting at 5:30 and all are invited to participate. Breaking clay targets is fun and a great way to sharpen the eye as hunting season will be upon us before you know it. This writer must get his act together and do some shooting. Trap at the Orange Gun Club on Tuesdays and the Petersham Gun Club on Friday nights and sporting clays at Petersham Sunday mornings need to be added to the schedule. Time to move on from turkey hunting.

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That pursuit has been fascinating and the 4 a.m. mornings are always interesting. After spending most of the season prospecting for places where there likely be turkeys, but not likely other hunters, took some doing. It seems to this observer that peak strutting activity is still on this week, and hens are still responding. Being there as the woods wake up, hearing the barred owls hoot and the male songbirds sing as they establish their territories makes it special every time.

There have been a few long walks to distant gobbles and my hearing does not serve me well in pinpointing those sounds, which often are short-lived. One tom seemed to have a favorite strutting spot and refused to leave it despite answering my calls for an hour. My impatience resulted in my moving and it seems that he later came looking for me and caught me walking.

The next trip it was time to try something different. The steep incline seemed to be an obstacle, so moving the setup 50 yards was the plan. Less calling and softer purrs and clucks did not seem to make a difference until the bird suddenly flew up the hill and landed right in from of me! There was a big pine and some smaller pines but there he was, emitting a few “putts” to see where this seductive hen was.

Over the years, this writer has always tried to “tell it like it was,” even if it is embarrassing. No excuses, my shot missed, and the gobbler flew away unscathed. After all the time, money and effort spent by this writer, there is no excuse. Knowing what to do and doing it are sometimes two different things. It was a long walk back to the truck.

So, now it is time to turn the page. We have turkey breasts in the freezer to make turkey jerky. We have a lot of things to get done as summer arrives. The boat will be ready to go into the pond. There are great opportunities to go fishing. But, most importantly, it is time to stop neglecting the two bird dogs and start the process of training for the hunting season.

Mike Roche is a retired teacher who has been involved in conservation and wildlife issues his entire life. He has written the Sportsman’s Corner since 1984 and has served as advisor to the Mahar Fish’N Game Club, counselor and director of the Massachusetts Conservation Camp, former Connecticut Valley District representative on the Massachusetts Fisheries and Wildlife Board, has been a Massachusetts Hunter Education Instructor and is a licensed New York hunting guide. He can be reached at