Clay pigeons in season all year at Coeur d’Alene Skeet and Trap

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  • RALPH BARTHOLDT/Press Steve Thurman watches as his wife, Michelle, bangs a clay target Wednesday at Coeur d’Alene Skeet and Trap in Hayden.

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    Steve and Michelle Thurman of Athol are both shooting instructors whose children were part of the Coeur D'Alene High School shooting team. Photo by Ralph Bartholdt

  • RALPH BARTHOLDT/Press Steve Thurman watches as his wife, Michelle, bangs a clay target Wednesday at Coeur d’Alene Skeet and Trap in Hayden.

  • 1

    Steve and Michelle Thurman of Athol are both shooting instructors whose children were part of the Coeur D'Alene High School shooting team. Photo by Ralph Bartholdt

Hot sun.

It flickers on the scrub of knapweed and goat grass at the edge of a pasture near Ramsey Road in Hayden.

A breeze skitters and fades, cutting the chaff from the heat as Michelle Thurman’s gun jumps.

With the stock of a Binelli tucked into her shoulder, Thurman leans into her shot like a grappler.

Her trigger finger packs a punch. It is electrically tied via synapses, neurons and receptors to her eye.

The result is a broken clay target that just a moment earlier winged through the low blue sky like a fleeing pigeon.

It’s a clay pigeon, or it was. And then there’s another one and Thurman whacks it as well.

The whole exercise takes less than two seconds as clay pieces scatter through the heat sprinkling the weeds. Thurman opens the Binelli’s breach and steps aside while the engine of a small plane groans over the field to the north of Coeur d’Alene Skeet and Trap.

Rhonda Harvitt manages the club nudged against the Coeur d’Alene Airport on the west end of Miles Avenue that began at a different location in 1946.

It was once closer to Hayden Lake.

“They used to shoot over the lake,” said Harvitt, a former escrow officer who took to shotgunning as a sport and when the job came open six years ago, started managing the club.

The skeet and trap club was moved to its present location at 1879 W. Miles in the 1960s or ’70s and its furnishings, a wooden bar and lunch counter, plaques, trophies and memorabilia speak of a time before subdivisions moved in, and the city moved out of town.

But the trophies aren’t all old, the newest ones were gleaned over the past few years by the club’s youth teams comprised of two schools, Coeur d’Alene and Lake City high schools and the gun club’s own Hayden Long Shots. A Long Shot member, Maddy Rusho of Priest River, outshot all other youth shooters at a recent state skeet shoot, Harvitt said, and the Priest River teen placed second in the state last year.

Rusho is a younger embodiment of a trend that’s been ongoing in shooting sports for more than a decade: More women are joining the ranks of gunning sports once dominated by guys with guns.

The club’s Women on Target program — the next meeting is set for July 20 — usually draws a full house and for $20 women are outfitted with everything they need to step outside and whack clay pigeons with shotguns and shells that are provided.

“It’s kind of like a Tupperware party,” Harvitt said. “We hope to have a lot of them come back, and then sign up and get into clay target shooting as a hobby.”

Thurman and her husband, Steve, Athol business owners whose sons — grown now — were part of the Coeur d’Alene High club, are instructors and referees.

Thurman made history when she outgunned all 400-plus shooters in this year’s winter league, and this spring she won top honors in her class at a western state shooting competition in Tucson. The meet included shooters from 13 states.

Thurman started shooting as a hobby eight years ago.

“It’s something you can do with the whole family,” she said.

One of Thurman’s sons, Grant, was a state champion at Coeur d’Alene High and was invited to Colorado Springs to try out for the Olympic team.

“It’s a lot of fun, and it’s popular,” Thurman said.

Thurman shoots a 20-gauge Binelli and a 12-gauge Beretta, both of them semi-automatics with less recoil than other guns. Steve shoots an over and under Browning 12-gauge. The guns are vented, ribbed and look like firearm versions of muscle cars.

They are made for the track — that is the skeet and trap ranges where clay targets zing sometimes a couple at the same time and in opposite directions.

But they are more ubiquitous than that.

“We can hunt with them too,” Steve said.

The skeet and trap club at Hayden is known regionally for having a lot of youth and women shooters, Thurman said.

First-time club shooters must call ahead and be walked through a safety lesson before they are allowed on the range.

“Safety is the most important thing,” Harvitt said.

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