BOONVILLE — “Pull. Bang!”
In that instant a hard, bright hunter orange clay erupts against a blue Missouri sky over River Hills Sporting Clays Shooting Range. As the haze of gunpowder and buckshot vanish in the distance, and the remnants of that orange clay fall back to earth with a thud, a shooter reloads for his next target, all while helping the Central Missouri Food Bank fight hunger.
On Saturday, this was just one of thousands of clay targets that met its demise at the hands of shooters and the Rock Bridge Lions Club, who for the past 13 years has helped put on the Food Bank Classic at River Hills. While most of the Lions members were posted at each of the seven stations through the day launching clays, some, who were also shooters, made it around to try their skills at the seven different challenges.
One of the most notable shooters, and the Lions Club member who coordinates the event, was Bill Morgan.
Morgan, a retired member of the Columbia Police Department with 25 years of service, was the one to suggest a charity clay shoot as a part of the Lions Club community services.
“Lionism (being a Lions Club member) is community service, and one of the best ways to help the community is to feed some hungry people,” Morgan said as he took a quick break from launching clays for shooters.
Morgan has helped train many people how to shoot safely.
“I know there is an anti-gun sentiment out there,” Morgan said. “Yet the shooters in this particular case provide a great public service.”
The “X’s and O’s” of this game are just to have more X’s than O’s at each of the stations. A Lions Club member acts as a scorekeeper and marks all the hit clays, or “birds” as they call them, with an “X”. All the misses get an “O”.
A two-person scramble and 100-target sporting clays were the two separate shoots within the tournament.
One person who saw plenty of X’s and O’s in the coolness of the morning to the heat of the afternoon was Don Lang. Lang was working Station 3 of the shoot.
“I’ve seen a lot of really good shooters here today,” Lang said. “They’re like golfers. Instead of being on a golf course every weekend, they are somewhere shooting.”
Lang has also seen the shoot grow during his 15 years as a Lions Club member.
“It’s a lot of fun for the people involved, and no one takes it too seriously. And with the sponsorship, we raise a lot of money,” he said.
Each of the seven stations is marked by the food bank and corporate sponsor signs. Corporate sponsors made donations including ammo, a gun safe to be given away by a drawing and monetary donations. The donations helped the tournament grow from $850 proceeds in the first year to $15,000 last year. The Central Missouri Food Bank’s Executive Director, Peggy Kirkpatrick, said Saturday that the approximate gross income from this years’ shoot was $25,000, of which an estimated $20,000 would be netted.
Kirkpatrick said corporate sponsorship has meant much to the event.
“It’s huge. It allows us to make this a premier event,” Kirkpatrick said. “This has become one of the biggest charity shoots in Mid-Mo.”
Barbara Pickett, co-owner and operator of River Hills, discounted ammo and targets and donated a new Beretta 686 shotgun valued at more than $2,000 for a raffle drawing.
“Fundraisers are a good way to start shooting, because the targets are not that difficult,” Pickett said. “Also, most fundraiser shooters are novices, and there is usually someone around to help them out.”
One of the newer shooters in the sport, and back for his second year at the event, was Dean Albrecht of Columbia. Albrecht, who has been shooting for two years, had a simple strategy for the event.
“Hit ’em all, which has already failed.” Albrecht said, chuckling.
One shooter who had to contend with one more challenge than the others was Mike Brooke of Overton. Brooke, who has been shooting for 45 years, lost his right arm at the shoulder five years ago in a car accident on a pheasant hunting trip. It took him just two months before he took his next bird hunting trip.
“I do everything I did before, and my buddies help me when I need it,” said Brooke said.
Brooke hit the majority of his shots in the seventh station, but still finished behind his buddies.
“But that doesn’t keep us from having fun, and that’s why we come,” he said.