"It can feel like the longest three seconds of your life or the shortest nanosecond," said Bob Sparr, describing those crucial moments Wednesday when he made visual contact with his flying prey and raised his rifle toward the sky.
"You never know which direction the birds are coming from," said Sparr, 56, of Corona del Mar. "You go into an emotional state. You have to mount the gun, set the target and fire. It takes the right reflexes."
Sparr wasn't hunting in some remote country field, and those elusive birds were actually made out of clay.
He and about 100 other target shooters brought their weapons to the Orange County Shooting and Training Center in Irvine, where they blasted their way through an eight-event course to raise money for Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach.
The 13th annual Invitational Stag Shoot was sponsored by the 552 Club, a nonprofit fund-raising arm of the Hoag Hospital Foundation. Organizers hoped to raise $30,000 during the event, which also included a silent auction.
Participants paid $220 each to take part in the shoot. The course included a "flurry" station in which several clay targets were released into the air at one time. Shooters tried to hit as many targets as possible.
Another event required participants to shoot at targets moving on a horizontal track.
"It takes a lot of hand-eye coordination," Sparr said. "It builds a lot of camaraderie."
Funds from the event will help pay for a $6.7-million expansion of Hoag's emergency room. The expansion will increase the number of beds from 17 to 30, said Carol Heywood, the hospital's manager of public relations. The emergency room was designed to handle 17,000 patients a year but now cares for 42,000 people annually, she said.