Trap Shooting

A week ago I purchased a Stevens 311A double-barrel 12-gauge shotgun. It looks like this one:

... only mine's a lot more beat-up. Remember the gamekeeper from Lady Chatterley's Lover? Imagine the kind of shotgun he'd carry and you're pretty close. The stock on mine has some dings and grime is ground into the grain of the wood. The blueing is mostly gone from the barrel -- the remaining finish is a kind of smooth, even brown.
Today I drove to Outdoor World and bought a few boxes of game shells (2 3/4", #8 shot). Fortunately one of the guys behind the counter was:
A) a grown-up
B) knowledgeable about guns -- quelle surprise!

Then I drove to the Markham Park skeet and trap range. Now, I've never done this before in my life. Luckily the sky was rather overcast and the range was pretty much empty. I had an entire (field?) to myself. Next door, a 16-year-old girl with a semiautomatic shotgun was blasting clay pigeons with monotonous regularity.

I put my ear protection on and Bob, the range officer, told me to go to the first post. This puzzled me as the field consisted of five narrow sidewalks in a fan formation, flaring out toward a lake. Bob watched me wander forward for a moment before shouting, "Where the hell are you going?"
"Post 1. Is that it?" I pointed toward a yard of white PVC pipe sticking out of the ground.
He shook his head in a way that I associate with my dad-- as if in expectation that certain information, mostly about cars and sports and firearms, is genetically encoded and passed down to all males.
Eventually Bob showed me where post one was. I faced a lovely lake, perhaps 1000 yards across, behind which was a stand of trees oddly denuded of foliage. Bob retreated to a lawn chair under a sun umbrella well behind me.
He offered to show me a clay pigeon before I shot -- he called it a "mercy bird."
"Sure," I said.
Something the size and shape of a china saucer, painted fluorescent orange, whizzed into the air like a frisbee, arced, and gracefully banked into the lake.
I loaded a shell into my left barrel (the Stevens has two triggers, one corresponding to each barrel). "Okay, I'm ready," I said.
Bob stared at me.
"Pull!" I said. The clay pigeon flew. I lined up on it and pulled the trigger. Nothing. Not even a click.
Now, let me say at this point that this shotgun was old (circa 1953) and had been hanging on a pawn shop wall for probably 10 years. I paid less than $200 for it. I hadn't dry fired it and didn't know enough about it to really detail strip it and insure function. For these reasons, I always half-expect any of my new firearms acquisitions to explode when I pull the trigger and am at least mildly relieved when they don't.
I looked down and realized that the safety had been on. Ah! I thumbed the safety off and nodded. "Pull!"
The clay pigeon flew. I knew the safety was off, so it was make or break, explode or survive time. I pulled the trigger. I heard a click. The pigeon peaked, seemed to hover for a moment, then slowly tilted to the left and joined its brother at the bottom of the lake. I scratched my head.
There are several reasons for a gun to go click when you're expecting a bang. Usually, it's the safety. But I knew the safety was off. Sometimes the ammo doesn't fire properly. I broke open the gun and peered at the shotshell within. Not even a tiny little nick on the primer -- which means the firing pin hadn't hit it. I closed the shotgun again. WTF?
"Are you pulling the right trigger?" Bob yelled at me.
Of course. Two barrels, two triggers. I gave him a confident nod and shouldered the gun. "Pull!"
The clay pigeon flew. I lined up and pulled the back trigger. The gun roared and bucked. The clay pigeon peaked, hung tauntingly in the air for a long moment, and gradually settled into the water.
Fortunately, I thought, there was no one else there to see my shame. I looked at Bob. He looked at me. I could kill him if I had to. I cursed myself for not giving an alias.
I missed the next 12 shots. Then I got smart and asked Bob what I was doing wrong. Turns out I was aiming the shotgun like it was a rifle -- that is, putting the front sight on the target and pulling the trigger. With a shotgun you need to actually cover the target with the barrels, to shoot as if it was slightly higher. After this and another couple of criticisms, Bob sat back down in his lawn chair.
I went on to break 10 clay pigeons in my first round. Not too bad considering that I had no idea what I was doing. I opted for a second round.
Now, I've fired shotguns before. I have fired 12 gauge buckshot which kicks like Jackie Chan. I know the best way to control recoil is to keep your cheek welded to the stock, so instead of a sharp whack you get a shove. Well, about halfway through the second flight, I forgot this important lesson. The butt of my shotgun reached over and cracked me right on the cheekbone. It didn't hurt too badly but the problem was that I wanted to keep my cheekbone off the stock on the next shot, which resulted in another whack. The more tender that spot became, the further I held my face away from the shotgun, which resulted in increasingly vicious smacks.
By the time I finished the second flight my right cheek had swelled noticeably. I looked like I had half a case of mumps.
I scored 11 on the second flight.
And here's the thing: I had a psychotically good time. I loved it even though I missed more than twice as often as I hit. The moving targets make the game much, much more challenging. I can't wait to go back.
By the time the flight was over, I felt like I'd been