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Shotguns, Shells, & Sporting Tales

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From Try-It-Out to Instructor

Dave and Susan Coffman's Sporting Clays Journey



The Beginning: Mother's Day

It all started with a "Try it Out Package" for Dave and Susan Coffman on Mother's Day, 2013. They signed up and came out for an introduction to Sporting Clays, a simple program offered for folks to test out the shotgun shooting waters with one of our instructors. The focus was on safety, knowledge about shotgun sports, and well... trying it out! They gave it a go and, as they say, the rest is history.


Everyone's Shooting Journey Starts Somewhere

We asked the Coffmans what prompted them to sign up for the Try it Out package. "We had visited the Southern Side by Side event at Deep River about three weeks prior. It was our first exposure to sporting clays, and we were excited to 'have a go' ourselves!" recalled Dave. After the Try it Out session, they were hooked! "Shooting targets was so much fun, we knew we had to get involved," said Susan. "I had no

experience with shotguns at all and had been concerned about whether shooting would be difficult or uncomfortable. After the Try it Out lesson, these concerns were put aside. Shooting is easy to learn, and with proper instruction, you won't have any discomfort. And it's fun!" Within a couple of weeks, they were back. They took some lessons and, over the next weeks and months, shot on several courses using rental guns.


The First Shotguns

After using rental guns for a while, the Coffmans decided to get their own. They had been shopping at gun stores and sporting goods stores but never felt they were getting good advice. Dave called up Deep River and asked for Bill Kempffer. Bill was most helpful and set them up with two beautiful Beretta Silver Pigeon shotguns. He also arranged for some modifications to Susan's gun, which needed to be shortened.

On July 4, 2013, Dave and Susan bought their first shotguns at Deep River. Both were Beretta Silver Pigeons, Dave's in 12 gauge and Susan's in 20 gauge.


Off to the Races

At first, the Coffmans shot once a week, usually 50 targets on a weekend day. As Dave was still working, that's all the time they had. Eventually, they were able to shoot more during the week. A typical day at the Sporting Clays range for the Coffmans involved loading up the car the night before with their push-cart, guns, and ammo. They'd head to the range either Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon. They'd try to shoot the station menus but weren't too proficient at first. They often just shot one target or the other until they could at least hit some clays. They never kept score, but that allowed them to claim they hit them all!

What do they love most about the sport?

"We still get a huge kick out of breaking targets, there is nothing like that! We also love the folks we've met, we've made so many friends it would be hard to count them all. Sporting Clays is blessed with the nicest, most genuine people you'll ever meet," said Dave. "We also love that although it's a real sport, you don't have to be a 20-something to shoot well. Of course, youth helps, but you can shoot clays, and shoot well, throughout your retirement years." About a year after their Try it Out experience, the Coffmans decided to shoot in their first tournament at Deep River. "It was pretty daunting!" recalled Dave. "On the first station, I remember seeing Susan's knees literally knocking. Maybe we should have waited until we got better..." Since then, Dave has steadily added more tournaments to his shooting and has moved up the ranks from E Class (beginner) to AA Class (one class down from the top). He's shooting about 6,500 tournament targets per year and was pleased to find that last year he was in the top 4% of tournament shooters nationally for his age group. Susan has been in and out of tournament shooting. She worked up from E Class to C Class rather quickly but currently prefers Deep River's Social Shoots, charity shoots, and, of course, the annual Southern Side by Side event. They have shot in many local North Carolina tournaments and a few large out-of-state tournaments such as the US Open, the Seminole Cup, and the Virginia State Shoot. In 2021, one of his proudest moments was winning the Deep River Club Championship and having his name added to the Deep River Cup.


The Student Becomes the Teacher

Dave is now one of our instructors. What led him to want to teach others about sporting clays? "Initially, I just wanted to learn more about shooting, and the 3-day instructor certification class offered a lot of information. I had no expectation of teaching, but after completing the certification process in 2018, Bill Kempffer asked me to come on board at Deep River. This was a surprise and a great honor, so I joined the staff," said Dave. "I have found that I absolutely love teaching, whether introducing new folks to the sport or helping experienced shooters to improve their skills. I think I get more of a thrill when a student hits a target than if I'd shot it myself."


You Never Know

This will not be what every person's path will look like who decides to sign up for a Try it Out package, and we certainly don’t expect 6500 targets per year in your future, but we do know that it can be addictive and a heck of a lot of fun. So if you've ever thought about it, come on down and "Try it out", you never know where it might lead! And by the way, Dave is a fantastic Instructor at Deep River and you can book him for your own Try It Out experience.

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