“Sandanona is my second home. It just feels comfortable, it always has,” says Andrew Johnson, Orvis Sporting Clays Manager, who maintains all three Orvis clay courses to the highest of standards.
Step inside the historic lodge and its richly textured past comes alive. In the original lodge, with its stone fireplace, well-worn wood floors, leather couches and chairs, and wood-paneled walls, you can almost hear the generations of stories that have been told around that hearth.
But don’t let the historical grounds distract you, what really makes Sandanona special are the trappers, a team of instructors & guides who accompany each group of shooters on every round of the 20-stand sporting clays course. It’s their job is to show you the lay of the land, ensure gun safety, pull the clays on command, offer advice when asked, and keep you loose and entertained with wisecracks and stories.
New to the Sandanona team in 2020 is Chief Shooting Instructor Paula Moore, who brings with her twenty-five years of experience coaching, instructing, and competing at the national level. What truly sets Paula apart is her natural ability to connect with her students. She loves bringing new shooters into the game, working with high-level competitive shooters, and training other instructors. “Shooting is my passion, so being able to introduce new people to shooting is pretty much a dream job.”
“This is your office,” says Shooting Instructor Andy McDermott, gesturing to the surrounding woods. “You’re outdoors. You’re shooting. You’re with the dogs. Doesn’t get better than that.”
For all of them—instructors, trappers, and guides—sharing their passion for the outdoors with customers is one of the most satisfying parts of their profession. “I get to share my love of the outdoors, this lifestyle, and the sport every day,” says McDermott. “It’s fun to be a part of what is often the beginning of a new hobby for someone. Something which they can share with their friends and family, and always have a reason to get together and spend some time outside.”
Hang out with this group for just a few minutes and you’ll sense how well they get along. “We’re a close-knit family,” says Kaiser. His dad, Jeff Sr., who is retired from the LaGrange (NY) Fire District, says the bond he and his fellow trappers share reminds him of the firehouse where the crew is your family. Though they maintain a busy schedule, they take time on Thursdays to shoot together, smoke cigars, and bust each other’s chops.
“The staff here is like an extended family,” says McDermott, who filled a table at his recent wedding with fellow trappers. “We spend an enormous amount of time together and we have a very tight team. Almost everyone fills multiple roles in a given day. We have a shared love of the outdoors, and our enthusiasm and cooperation allow us to provide a seamless and pleasurable experience for our guests. But only because of how well we work together.”
Sandanona may be the oldest, most respected shooting institution in the country with inviting history and immaculate grounds, but it’s the welcoming staff who love their work that make the experience here feel as fresh and satisfying as the day it opened its doors.