Are you a fan of Top Shot? Would you love to shoot a variety of guns? Do you enjoy home cooking with Texas hospitality? If you answered yes to any of these questions, Texas Triggers is where you need to spend your next vacation.
Texas Triggers is located on a ranch in Sonora, Texas, purchased by the Donaldson boys’ great-grandfather around 1926, as a cattle ranch. Most people thought Charles “Big Doc” McMillan was crazy for buying that dry, barren land; that is, until the oil companies came in. As the years go by though, there has been less and less ranching done on the property.
In 2011, Gay Donaldson, the granddaughter of Charles, began a new adventure with her boys, Reid and Colby. It started when Colby realized the challenges from Top Shot were just wasting away in warehouses after their use. He contacted the show’s creators and found out he was able to purchase them. It was then that the Donaldson boys and their mother, Gay, decided to bring the Top Shot experience to southwest Texas.
Because my husband is an expert at the ranch, I joined him on this particular trip. Upon arrival at the ranch, Gay greeted us with a warm hug, sandwiches and a cold drink. Trying not to seem too nosy, I glanced at the kitchen counter and saw a stack of handwritten recipe cards and a notebook that listed the menu for the next few days. All that home cooking on the menu sure whet my appetite.
There are so many personal things I could tell you about our stay. How Gay gave us her room. How Clooney, Gay’s dog, happily greeted us every morning, or how we enjoyed quiet mornings and dark evenings on the front porch while watching turkeys, jackrabbits and deer come to the watering hole nearby. What I really need to tell you about though is the experience that their “company” had.
Yes, at the ranch, Gay refers to the clients as company. Her exact words were, “Looks like our company is here. Let’s greet them at the lodge.” The lodge is a beautiful, rustic building with a fireplace and long wooden table that seats 12. As the company arrived, their eyes went immediately to that table that displayed all the firearms they would be shooting throughout their stay.
After introductions and safety briefings, we all headed down to the short range. The afternoon began with a lesson on the fundamentals by my husband, followed by the opportunity for everyone to shoot various single-action Army revolvers, lever-action rifles and modern-day pistols. Shooters engaged a variety of reactive and non-reactive steel targets on targets set at different distances. It was all there, including falling plates, hostage targets, cowboy silhouettes, chest plates, dueling trees and the challenge from Top Shot Season 2, the Cannon Ball Run.
The west wind carried a welcoming smell from the smoker outside the lodge – dinner! All devoured smoked turkey, stuffing and cranberry salad followed by Oreo Smash. After dinner, we all moved out to the front porch, complete with rocking chairs and a fully stocked bar.
The next morning we all met again at the lodge, then went down to the short range. Homemade breakfast burritos were brought out as guests prepared to shoot competitions that were set up to pit them against each other. Two-liter soda bottles hanging from ropes or on posts, shaving cream cans and steel targets – in other words, lots of targets to destroy. And for lunch? The menu offered chicken Alfredo, salad and chocolate cake. After that, we headed to the long ranges for more competition with the company shooting AR rifles on one side and Barrett 338 Lapuas (and also in .50) out to 1,000 yards on the other. The Baghdad Beer Run —where contestants fired short-barreled AR-15s at knockdown targets, being driven by Colby in a souped-up, electric off-road car.
That evening we gathered on the lodge porch for appetizers, including Reid’s special bacon candy. Guests took turns shooting a crossbow at targets in the watering hole below. Slow-cooked beef tenderloin with grape salad, party potatoes and chocolate cherry cobbler comprised dinner. Then it was back out to the porch for some friendly tomahawk throwing.
The Gauntlet Challenge appeared on the last day. The company divided into 2 teams and competed just like in Top Shot. It even included Colby in the background announcing as guests hit, missed and tied while the teams moved along. The Top Shot challenge of the day meant guests zip-lined across water. The fun kept on, even though my husband and I had to leave early. They brought out the .50 BMG and international full-auto weaponry.
However, as I looked at the chicken salad sandwich and homemade cookies that Gay had packed for us, I felt like I had just said goodbye to the family after a weekend visit. That’s what Texas Triggers is all about. Treating people to special events, as only a special family could do.