How to Encourage

My Daddy was a Sporting man!  Although he never shot (or probably saw) a sporting clay target he certainly enjoyed the upland game sports and that included doves, ducks, and quail shooting….He had a friend with pointers and with the wild coveys around our home place he schooled me and my two brothers on the etiquette of shooting……In the dove fields he insisted we be good wing shots and he bought many a round of ammo in the process of schooling us to perform well……..…..He was always one for good equipment and we had good shotguns to use……(I actually broke in on a Parker sixteen gauge double that was perfect for the task)  He was a stickler for safety and we were never too big to have the gun taken from us if we got sloppy with safety……….His friends and hunting mates were always around and we were always “enrolled” in a continuing education course in the shooting/hunting pursuits…….Lessons learned from those men remind me of Robert Ruark’s “Life Among the Giants” chapter in his great coming of age in the South  novel “the Old Man and the Boy”………..where the Boy is constantly indoctrinated into the hunting camp and shown the right way with lessons learned from mistake’s along the way……These gentle giants encouraged the Boy while imparting the proper ways ……….….Believe me, we have all made mistakes and thus gained immensely from the lessons of the adults who seemed like giants to us back then! 

I said all that to say this:  We all started somewhere in the shooting sports and someone had to mentor us in the proper safety techniques and wing shooting and /or clay shooting……….No one is born with the knowledge ingrained in his  or her DNA……..Lots of us would like to believe that as a young American, we are  endowed with gun knowledge but….…it isn’t so!    I coach a kids team and usually the young boys who have shot a little are the most difficult to coach…..they all have preconceived ideas and habits that mostly have to be overcome in the first lessons……….Usually girls will become a better shooter faster because of the lack of  that same phenomenon……….they don’t pretend to know so much and are willing to listen and explore the technique you have proposed……..

And finally, teaching or enlightening someone on the sporting clays course is not all related to youth participants…..As my squad was shooting Hermitage a couple of months back we encountered a lone shooter (probably middle age) that was on station three in the Cypress and obviously ill at ease in shooting alone…………I spoke to him to him and he told us this was his first ever tournament and he didn’t have a lot of confidence in performing well………..He lived close to the range and he’d practiced a bit and wanted to try a tourney but couldn’t manage shooting all stations alone…………I asked him to join us and we incorporated him into our rotation………He was an adequate shot and a nice fellow and we spoke of the etiquette of sporting and squad make-up and general sporting knowledge throughout the rest of the tourney…….He expressed his gratitude for us being inclusive and helping him along the way!    He may choose to shoot more tournaments or he may not but everyone begins somewhere and to grow this sport we all have to lend a helping hand…….It may take you out of your comfort zone……..it may diminish your score……….but remember we were all  first time clays shooters at one time and we all had a friend or mentor to aid us in our sporting journey………..

MY journey began before my teens in the woods around our rural farm and with the guidance of my Daddy and those “Gentle Giants” who  shepherded me through all those mistakes and encouraged me to continue to persevere, and even though I made mistakes along the way, they all encouraged me!  Why don’t you encourage someone next time you see an opportunity?

Dan Paxton

VP South Carolina Sporting Clays Association

NSCA Level Two Instructor