In the 18 years since Winterhawk Ranch Sporting Clays has been in business near Nine Mile Falls, Wash., only one shotgunner has fired a perfect 100-target round.
Dan Hoke has not repeated the feat he scored six years ago, but the Medical Lake dog trainer has come close.
“He’s one heck of a fine shooter,” said Winterhawk owner Gary Scheinost, who reveres Hoke as the course’s Sultan of Swing with a 20 gauge.
“But he really fell apart the last time out. It was a hard thing to watch,” Scheinost said, shaking his head.
The normally unflappable Hoke was shooting a good round with a group of shooters that walks around to different stations much like a foursome of golfers plays hole-to-hole around a golf course.
He was vaporizing most of the clay targets with ease.
Then, on the last station, Hoke’s nerves began to frazzle, Scheinost said.
“It’s 10 targets, doubles: the first goes to the right and the second goes left.
“Hoke has no trouble there usually, but this time he missed the left target every time.
Shooters might see Hoke miss a station once, but rarely twice.
“This time he missed five of the left targets in a row,” Scheinost said unable to disguise his amazement. “He couldn’t believe it, and said, ‘Dammit, I can’t figure out where that bird is.’
“That’s when I tossed him one of the unbreakable plastic targets I had left over.”
Gotcha. The look on Hoke’s face was priceless, he said.
The prank required orchestration so that Hoke would shoot first at the last station.
“I had help,” Scheinost admitted. “That made it even more fun, since everybody knew why Dan was missing, that is, except Dan.”
It must be pointed out that Scheinost had a miserable shoot a few weeks previous, missing 10 easy incomers in a row at one of easiest stations on the course.
“Yeah, that was pretty bad,” he said, sounding a bit surprised that a lowly newspaper writer knew the whole story.
“Hoke got me good on that one. Only a fit guy could pull it off. He had to sprint 200 yards while I was behind the screen (at another trap) to get those plastic targets and put them in without me seeing him.”
But Scheinost said he has more than evened the score.
“When you’re just an average shooter like me, it’s no big deal to miss targets,” he said. “Missing is not out of the ordinary for people like me.
“But a lost bird for a really good shooter, especially consecutive lost birds, can get into his head. It can drive a guy crazy, especially when he’s the only guy who’s ever run the course.
“So I win.
“But I’ll be looking for tripwires and booby traps around my house.”
Opening day observations: After more than 30 years of covering the opening day of fishing at Spokane-region trout lakes, I still have a few unanswered questions.
Why do parents dress their kids for summer and then take them out on a cold spring morning for the opening day of fishing season?
Is this why kids flock to the malls?
I’ve had better luck seeking other answers.
What’s the most common question anglers ask Chris Donley, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife fisheries biologist, when they see him at one of the Spokane area’s fishing lakes?
“ ‘How many fish do you guys plant in here?’ – that’s easily the question they ask me the most,” Donley said Saturday while checking anglers at Williams Lake.
“I’m not sure what the number means to them when I answer. It might be 1,500 or 15,000 depending on the lake and the size of fish. But either way, they seem content with the answer.”
What are the most common boating oversights on opening day?
“Improper boat numbers,” said Dan Thomas of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, who was stationed Saturday at West Medical Lake. “A lot of people put the numbers on their boat all bunched together, but that’s illegal. There’s supposed to be a space in there.
“Also, we see a lot of brand new life jackets still in their plastic packaging, as if people want to keep them clean.
“Lifejackets need to be ready for immediate use. Better yet, they should be on.”
Contact Rich Landers at 459-5508 or e-mail email@example.com