Perspectives and Observations

Often I hear shooters complaining of their scores not being what they thought they should be after a shoot. Again, I hear folks saying “I thought I ran station 8” or “I am sure I only missed the b bird one time on station 9.” Or “how did so and so score higher than me when I saw him miss so many on multiple stations?” It’s an age old dilemma! Shooters must take responsibility for their scores and in order to progress in the shooting arena, you must be vigilant in keeping up with your score card station to station. By this I do not mean you have to examine your card after every station (probably detrimental to anyone’s mental game) but as a shooter you must announce your name when you enter the shooting station for your first presentation. If the trapper is not calling out your results pair to pair you must ask them for the results. At a minimum ask for the score outcome on that station prior to climbing back out. “So…did you have me with an 8 on that station?” This is easily accomplished, or if you dropped one “did I get a 7 on that one?” Remember it is incumbent on the shooter to check after each station because if you move ahead you have the score you leave with on the card for that station.

Another thing I hear a lot about is the quality (or perceived lack of) of the course being shot. All courses are not created equal and all shooters have certain presentations that cause them angst. For older shooters it is usually edgy targets especially in dim or windy conditions that make the course a “seeing game” instead of a shooting game. I feel a lot of empathy for any target setter because he has a job of satisfying the upper echelon shooters that are into competing at a very high level and also the lower class shooters who are beginning their journey as well as the added dimension of recreational shooters, ladies and kids who are just out for fun. Bring bad weather into play or changing wind conditions and you can make folks very unhappy with their performance.

At a recent shoot I heard a gentleman say “I won’t be back for any more of these type targets or maybe even back to this club!” We’ve all had those experiences during our shooting journey but I submit to you that you need not dwell on the bad experiences or the ones you missed. After a humbling experience on the same course that day I asked two of my students who shot the course “How did you feel about the course?” They both remarked that they didn’t feel too bad about things, especially after looking at the scores posted earlier in the day. “We hit some we shouldn’t have hit and missed some we shouldn’t have missed, Dan.” “But isn’t that a part of learning?” I asked. They both indicated that if anything positive came from the course, it was that they had both finished it and learned a few things along the way! That is a lesson to learn that all shooters need to adhere to……that is to try to take something positive from each experience with a shotgun and try really hard to not dwell on the negatives. Every text on the mental training for any sport and especially shooting will advance the theory of the most important thing to remember is to be positive and exhibit positivity. Every time you get “outdone with yourself” or “down in the mouth” as my Daddy used to say, you are going into a downward spiral of defeat. The way to combat that downward motion is to take every station, easy, hard, or something in the middle as a learning experience and don’t be so outcome oriented………I never ask students that I coach what they scored, but always ask what they learned. The score is not as important as how they feel about the shooting and what they learn. Every lesson ends with a discussion of what can we take from today’s session. If they had problems on certain stations I will work on their individual needs independently at their next session.

My thoughts on coaching or getting a coach is that most freely dispensed advice is worth what you pay for it! Not much! A shooter who shoots recreationally or just wants to get better at hunting or general shooting probably could benefit from coaching but it is not a necessity for those pursuits. However, if you aspire to compete in the many shoots around the state and region and have reached a class of “b” or “a” you probably could use a coach. Many shooters continue to persevere on their own and with friends coaching and develop many bad habits that cost them time, shells and target fees and usually plateau around the 70’s. An experienced or certified coach can shorten the learning curve and keep them from going down the “rabbit trails” of bad habits that keep them from their potential. Beware of the idea of going to the club top gun! He may be a great shot with his methods but can he help you with your game? Does he communicate well? My thinking is that you need to find a coach that communicates well, understands your goals, and wants you to succeed in your shooting aspirations. I also think that keeping one coach is best as long as you feel you are progressing. Changing to another coach in mid journey is not usually beneficial because they may want to change your base method and you’ll end up starting over or becoming more confused and thus not having fun. Believe me, fun is end goal for all of us in this sport!

So go out shooting to the nearest sporting clays, trap, or skeet field and have some fun!