Thursday, December 10, 2015

Minnesota Horse and Hunt Club – Prior Lake, MN

Full disclosure: I screw up Valentine’s Day every year. I try really hard, but multiple things inevitably go wrong, despite all my planning. This year was a pretty spectacular fail, in particular. Why does this even matter? Because this particular activity, one of many I had planned for Valentine’s Day 2015, was scheduled to happen in February, but ended up happening in November, due to weather, schedules, and a bunch of other issues. But it finally happened.

D.Rough and I went skeet shooting. I’d like to claim romantically skeet shooting, but that probably isn’t the case.

The Minnesota Horse and Hunt Club lodge had recently suffered a serious fire and had been rebuilt. The place is NICE. Really nice. It’s a large complex full of all sorts of shooting areas and hunting areas, and probably horses (which we didn’t see at all). We showed up, figured out where to park, and went into the lodge. This is going to sound weird, but we were completely out of our comfort zone. This doesn’t happen very often. Everyone was in camouflage and bright orange and D.Rough and I were in jeans and sweatshirts. There was just a weird vibe to the whole place. Not a bad vibe, just something we were totally unfamiliar with. It took some getting used to. What’s even more bizarre is how nice everyone was. It was clear we weren’t regular members here, and the staff and other members were really nice to us and made sure we were taken care of. Well done, MHHC!

D.Rough and I signed our waivers holding no one liable when we shot our own foot off. We told the woman behind the counter we had an intro lesson scheduled with Dennis and she double checked to make sure we didn’t have a gun. So apparently, you can easily rent a gun form places like this. We rented a 20-guage and the counter woman handed us four boxes of shotgun shells. I can’t tell you how out of our element we were at this very moment. Dennis, our instructor, showed up and introduced himself and grabbed our shotgun. We followed Dennis out to this beautiful lakeside shooting stand – it looked like the world’s smallest patio. 

Dennis went through a quick lesson on how to click the button on the remote control and fling the clay discs into the air from different angles. Pretty easy. Then he went through a pretty quick (alarmingly quick, in fact) description of how to load our newly rented shotgun. Shell goes in the side with the metal side facing backwards, push the button on the side to load it, then click off the safety. Really. That was it. Then he showed us how to track the disc as it flies through the air. Cheek to the butt, butt to the shoulder (which 12-year old Chad can’t stop saying now). With your cheek to the butt, when you move your head, the barrel moves – pretty slick. Surprisingly not unlike the Big Buck Hunter game at your local redneck bar.  Your turn, Chad!  Seriously. This was quick. Remember when I was out of my comfort zone? Yeah, this was suddenly worse.

In a split second, I freaked out a little. Did we have enough safety instruction before giving me a lethal weapon? Should I be wearing orange? Will these ear protector things stop me from being deaf? Will I end up with a black powder coated face like the cartoons? How far do these projectiles travel? What is my middle name? Do I have a fidgety trigger finger? Who’s hand is this? What the hell am I doing here? Happy Valentine’s Day, Rambo. Sack up and shoot this thing! Breathe.

Safety on? Check

Load the shell? Check

Click the thingy on the side (technical term) to load the gun? Check

Cheek to butt, butt to shoulder? Check

Click off the safety? Check.

Breathe? …………………………………………….. Check, eventually.

Yell “pull!”, but phrased as a question? Check.

Follow the orange disc as it flies straight ahead? Check

Pull the trigger? Check

I’ll be damned, but I blew it apart. First Try. FIRST. F. N. TRY.

Dennis was shocked. D.Rough was shocked. No one was more shocked than me, I promise.

I began to tell these two shocked people about how much Duck Hunt, Golden Eye, House of the Dead, and Big Buck Hunter I have played over the past 30 years, but D.Rough excitedly told me to DO IT AGAIN! I have the best wife ever.

Repeat all the steps. Put the thing in the thing. Click the thing. Cheek to butt, butt to shoulder. Click the other thing. Pull. Track. Trigger. Clay explosion. I’m now 2 for 2 on reducing the clay pigeon population of Minnesota. DO IT AGAIN!

I did the things. Shell. Click. Butt. Butt. Click. Pull. Track. Shoot. Explosion. THREE FOR THREE. This is sooo easy!!!!

Then... I promptly missed a whole slew of targets to bring me back to reality. It actually isn’t that easy, but it’s oddly fun. Not like white water rafting or swimming in mac and cheese fun, but it’s fun. I just happened to have a little beginner’s luck to start the day.

D.Rough stepped up and went through all the steps. She was as nervous as I was. But she’s also a bad-ass. She missed the first few. Dennis gave her some pointers. She winged the next one. Dennis gave her some more pointers. THEN, she nailed one. It was on. My wife doesn’t like to do things she’s not good at, but once she gets a couple of wins under her belt, she’s on board. She is now on board – hahahaha

Dennis told us we could walk around the campus and shoot from different stands. Some in the woods, some on the bluffs, some on the water, and a couple of other places. We headed into the woods to see how we’d do without supervision. And frankly, we did pretty well. Neither of us were going to win any marksman/markswoman awards, but we blew up enough clay discs to keep it fun. At some point along the way, D.Rough stopped saying “Pull” and started saying “DRAW”. This was hilariously awesome. This is why I married her. She apparently adopted some old west gun-slingin’ boss swagger and would make the most hilarious comments when she hit a target. …which was increasingly often towards the end. You rule, D.Rough. We finished up all of our shells and high fived each other (with our lips). 

We headed back to the lodge while commenting on how the walking areas weren’t marked off at all and how easy it would be to walk someplace dangerous if you weren’t paying attention. Thankfully, we were paying attention.

We got back to the lodge and went to the restaurant part. It’s actually really nicely decorated with taxidermy and nice photos.

The servers were all really nice and helpful, which sounded like it may not have been the case in the past (based on comments online). The menu has a couple of interesting game items on it (elk, pheasant, bison, duck, etc.), but we opted for a grilled chicken sandwich and a triple threat sandwich. 

The chicken sandwich was good. Not mind-blowingly good, but it had a nice smoked gouda melted on it and caramelized onions. We really liked the soft pretzel bun that held its structure through the whole sandwich. The fries were pretty standard, so nothing to report there.

The triple threat sandwich is pulled pork, pork belly, and bacon with gouda and bbq sauce. All of the meat was really good and not dry. Again, the pretzel roll was wonderful with this usually sloppy sandwich. And the tots were REALLY crunchy and tasty. We were both glad we got these and even shared nicely!

Overall, we had a good time at MHHC. Granted, it wasn’t all that romantic and valentine-y, but it was still fun to do. It’s good for people to step out of their comfort zone and we were glad we did that. I’m not sure we’re going to sign up to be members at the club, but at least we know we’re competent in defending ourselves in the event of the zombie apocalypse. And a big shout out to Dennis for helping us out and giving us pointers without making us feel like the morons we are. Hahaha

Top 5 things about Minnesota Horse and Hunt Club
1. Dennis – the guy was a champ and we couldn’t have done it without him
2. You don’t have to own a gun to do this – you can rent them
3. This will help you out of your comfort zone and then back to a new comfort zone
4. It’s both easier and more difficult to do than I thought
5. The restaurant is actually much better than we expected

Bottom 5 things
1. Safe walking areas aren’t very defined
2. It’s a long drive out there from the Cities
3. It can get loud out there with all the gun shooting
4. If you haven’t done this before, you’ll feel uncomfortable, but it’s pretty easy to get re-comfortable
5. I don’t suppose they’re in the business of romantic, valentiney-y type things out there – I could be wrong about this.

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