As the shuttle made its way up from the Lanai coast into the wooded uplands of the island, I set my expectations as low as possible. I had never fired a gun in my life, but nonetheless I was going to put my hand-eye coordination through the wringer at the Lanai Archery and Shooting Range. "I may not hit anything," I told myself. "That's OK."
As soon as I walked into the course office, I fessed up to my total lack of knowledge.
"Great, no bad habits to unlearn," said my instructor for the day, Mike Coehlo. He grabbed eye and ear protection, a carton of shells and a Beretta shotgun and we headed out on the 14-station clays course. We warmed up and went over the basics at the first and easiest station. Relax, breathe easy, feet a little wider than the shoulders, follow the clay with the end of the gun and squeeze the trigger.
The first clay shot out from trees ahead of me and to the left. It floated up in the air and held there for a moment before falling to the ground, my first shot high of the target. Second shot, closer but still high. We reloaded and on my third try the clay satisfyingly shattered as I released a yelp of joy and relief. I built up my confidence with a few more shots at station one before we moved on.
Each station is designed to mimic different game animals, including duck, quail, dove, pheasant and multi-clay stations that require tracking two flight patterns at once. More experienced shooters can skip right to the higher-numbered, more challenging stations. In addition to the clays course, there is a five-stand shooting area for beginners with eight targets and a nine-station skeet shooting field. My visit was arranged through the Four Seasons Resort Lanai, which hosted the stay and operates the range.
The most challenging station for me was one meant to mimic a rabbit hopping across your field of view from right to left. The little orange disc emerged from a bush briskly rolling along, springing into the air every time it hit a pebble or bump in the ground. No matter how hard I tried, I only managed to nick the clay.
"You shot the tail off it," Coehlo quipped, before suggesting we move on to the last station.
Here, I had a chance to see what I had learned. At each stop, Coehlo added to the lesson. By now I knew the basics of shooting, reloading and carrying and storing the gun safely. Thanks to the incremental process, it never felt like I was overwhelmed with information. I loaded and took aim for a two-clay station. First try, I hit the first target and whiffed on the second. Reload. Deep breaths. Track. Squeeze. Track. Squeeze. Both clays burst into little pieces above the trees.
Coehlo was a good teacher, and my confidence levels had done a 180-degree turn now that the carton of shells was empty and the clay course lesson was over. If only I had quit there.
The range tucked into the woods with views of the coast and Pacific appearing through clearings of Lanai's characteristic pine trees also features an archery course with 3-D animal targets such as turkey, deer, rams, boars and a velociraptor.
Coehlo outfitted me with a bow and again went through the basics of shooting and safety. I pulled the string back and took aim at a traditional circular archery target a mere five yards away. I could barely hit it. Arrows flew into the wood chip-covered ground, bounced off the side, and sailed far wide. I never came close to the center, struggling to aim, angle my body and pull back the bow all at the same time. More practice would surely have done me some good, but my hour was up and I left wanting another crack at those clays.
A one-hour introductory lessons cost $125 for sporting clays and $75 for archery, and special packages are available for experienced shooters and larger groups.