The Origin of Skeet

By

V-Shrake





The other day, while on the skeet line at our local gun club, I had an interesting reaction from the fellow at the next station. He exclaimed, "What the blinkety-blank is that thing?"

As I was uncasing my skeet gun shortly before his outburst, I assumed it to be in admiration. I finished buckling on my shellbelt before addressing his ignorance.

"Why this, Sir, is my skeet gun. A Mossberg M-500, with an eighteen inch cylinder-bore barrel. I installed the pistol-grip stock myself, and a spare ammo carrier on the buttstock. Of course, I've removed the plug."

His eyes fairly goggled at the sight of such skeet gun perfection, and who could blame him? The poor man stood there with an over/under, and clearly realized that he had the wrong gun for this sport.

"That's a riot gun, for Pete's sake! You can't shoot skeet with that."

The poor fool was clearly confused, so I attempted to clarify the situation for him.

It's a little-known fact that the sport of skeet shooting, as it is practiced today, progressed in much the same manner as sporting clays. In both instances, the sport originated as a means of gaining valuable hunting experience in the off-season. Of course, they proved so popular that they became sports in and of themselves, overshadowing their humble origins. Alas, in the case of skeet, the hunting aspect has been all but forgotten. People view it as an end unto itself; or, at best, a prelude to dove season.

The reason for this is the dramatic decline in the population of the North American Spotted Skeet. Once, mighty from no further than the next bit of cover. Apparently, being flushed upset them no end, and they would immediately re-group and swarm over whatever had upset them. Being incredibly stupid creatures, skeet were known to have been "flushed" by perfectly stationary barns and houses. Whatever their motivation, nothing survived a skeet swarm unless it fought back; buildings sagged and strained under the weight of thousands of feathery bodies, and trees were uprooted. But Man had his skeet gun.

"Wait!", I hear you cry. How could birds the size (and shape) of softballs be dangerous? The answer lies in their territorial natures and sheer weight of numbers. Once a group of skeet got it into their pea-sized brains that something was a threat, they would attack it unmercifully. In the case of a small number of birds, this usually resulted in a few minor pecks to the ankles. Large flocks, however, could swarm a man and bowl him over, pecking his bones clean.

Alfred Hitchcock actually used documented skeet attacks as the basis for many scenes in his movie, "The Birds", albeit with the feathered fiends flying. While this wasn't typical skeet behavior, it was more dramatic than having your actors overwhelmed from the ankles up.

Obviously, when faced with such ferocity, Man must fight back. Skeet predation was greatest when our best weapon was the old 12ga. side-by-side. However, once repeating shotguns began to make their presence felt, the skeet's days were numbered. Now we had the right tools, but still had to improve on our tactics. When faced with an angry sea of skeet, every shot must count.

Originally, sporting skeet had two stations. Number One was "Flushing Skeet", which has survived to this day. This simulated the low, fast exit of a startled skeet.

Station Two was known as "Attacking Skeet".

Flocks of this ugly, ungainly, black and yellow softball-with-wings dotted the plains. Unfortunately for the skeet, people found them ugly (I purposely repeat myself, to drive the point home), damaging to crops, livestock, buildings, and most anything that got in their way. Of course, the fact that were also quite delicious didn't improve their long-term survival odds.

Skeet were notoriously poor flyers, good only for a short fast and jerky flight, generally no further than the next bit of cover. Apparently, being flushed upset them no end, and they would immediately re-group and swarm over whatever had upset them. Being incredibly stupid creatures, skeet were known to have been "flushed" by perfectly stationary barns and houses. Whatever their motivation, nothing survived a skeet swarm unless it fought back; buildings sagged and strained under the weight of thousands of feathery bodies, and trees were uprooted. But Man had his skeet gun.

The "Attacking Skeet" station consisted of the shooter standing in his box, while skeet decoys were bounced at him in a two-hundred and seventy degree arc to his front; this was to simulate the ground attack, of course. To adequately simulate a horde of marauding skeet took a great number of decoy-hurlers; since they were positioned in front of the shooter, perhaps accidents were inevitable. There were also rumors of shooters purposely aiming at hurlers, to cut down on the hail of decoys. While certainly reprehensible, if true, perhaps the old adage "All is fair in Love, War, and Skeet shooting" originated here.

In case you were wondering where skeet got their name, it comes from their annoying call, which went something like this: "SKUH-eet, SKUH-eet". It is quite shrill, and got more so when the birds were agitated.

Now having explained the origins of the sport, my choice of skeet guns is fully understood, I hope. The fellow at the gun club was unconvinced, but I am sure that the readers of this scholarly discourse are more of like-mind to myself.

My dream skeet gun is the Mossberg M-590. The extra three shots would be most beneficial, and I think that the bayonet would be handy for dispatching wounded birds.

Certainly, the sport as it is now played doesn't call for this level of sophistication in firearms, but I do it more for the spirit. Remembering skeet's humble origins, and keeping traditions alive.

Besides, if you should find yourself in the middle of a skeet swarm, is that over/under going to be much good?

It is rumored that in the dark places of the land, skeet still roam free. If you do hear their dread cry, don't say that I didn't warn you...





If you have questions, criticisms, or things to add - email me please.


V-Shrake

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