Air­gun Stu­dent

Our air­gun stu­dent takes a ma­jor step to­ward grad­u­a­tion, by go­ing it alone

Airgun World - - Contents -

Nay­lor Ball learns how to solve his own shoot­ing prob­lems

Afew months back I hit a bit of a wall with my shoot­ing de­vel­op­ment, and the first thing I did was to go to the Air­gun World editor for help. Terry has al­ways been a men­tor for me and I knew he would do every­thing he could to get me back on track. His ad­vice worked for me then, and now that I’m once more strug­gling with some vi­tal tech­niques, I’m sure Terry could put me right again, but I won’t be con­sult­ing him, and here’s why.


None of my cur­rent prob­lems – high, an­gled shots, con­sis­tently ap­ply­ing fol­low-through, and cor­rectly read­ing the signs my quarry leaves – are new. I’ve been taught to deal with them all in the past, and I know I al­ready have the an­swers to my prob­lems. The real is­sue here, is re­mem­ber­ing and ap­ply­ing what I’ve been taught, rather than phon­ing Terry, or go­ing through back copies of this mag­a­zine to re-learn my lessons. It’s ob­vi­ous that some­thing has to change, and now, be­cause I need to have the an­swers avail­able as soon as I en­counter any prob­lem I’ve al­ready trained for. Ba­si­cally, I can’t keep go­ing back to square one, and I def­i­nitely can’t keep re­ly­ing on Terry to sort out my prob­lems.


The odd thing is, when I’m pass­ing on what I’ve learned to other shoot­ers, I can re­call just about every­thing I’ve been taught. Per­haps that’s be­cause I’m on the ‘out­side look­ing in’, or more likely it’s be­cause teach­ing al­lows me more time and con­sid­er­a­tion than I have when I’m on my own, just shoot­ing.

What­ever the rea­son, things are dif­fer­ent when I’m teach­ing, but that doesn’t help much, re­ally. Get­ting some­one to help show me things I al­ready know doesn’t help much, either, at least in the long term. No, it doesn’t mat­ter how I look at this, the an­swer lies in me think­ing for my­self and taking charge of my shoot­ing.


I’ve al­ready had some suc­cess with my new ap­proach, too, es­pe­cially when it comes to tack­ling those steeply-an­gled shots at squir­rels or roost­ing pi­geons and corvids. Th­ese shots, and specif­i­cally the mo­ments lead­ing up to taking them, used to give me a sore neck and even headaches. Even­tu­ally, the pain and stiff­ness would all but wreck my stance and un­less I was rest­ing my ri­fle, I’d given up on this type of shot al­to­gether. Not now, though, and the so­lu­tion was so sim­ple that I can’t be­lieve I didn’t think of it sooner.

All I do is keep the ri­fle down un­til I’ve spot­ted my quarry and it’s sit­ting still enough for a shot. At the mo­ment, my eyes are sharp enough to do this with­out binoc­u­lars, but even when that’s no longer the case, us­ing a light­weight pair of bi­nos to lo­cate a squir­rel or bird has to put less strain on me than track­ing

them through the scope of an 8lb ri­fle. Then, when the time comes to take the shot, I set my feet, raise the ri­fle, and take the shot in­side five sec­onds. If I’m not happy with the shot, the ri­fle is low­ered and I re-set the stance. Ba­sic stuff, but it makes an in­cred­i­ble dif­fer­ence and it’s all my own work.


Cor­rectly in­ter­pret­ing the signs of my quarry, mainly rab­bits at the mo­ment, is prov­ing tough but again, I’m get­ting there. I still find it al­most im­pos­si­ble to tell fresh rab­bit drop­pings from old ones, es­pe­cially af­ter rain, frost, snow, or even dew has been on them. I had a se­ri­ous think about this and de­cided to switch my at­ten­tion to other in­di­ca­tors, such as scrapes and signs of feed­ing, which are much eas­ier to read. A fresh scrape is dark and its edges are ‘sharp’, whereas an old one will be ‘rounded off’ by the ef­fects of the weather. Sim­i­larly, freshly-stripped bark on saplings stands out im­me­di­ately, as does new crop dam­age, so by look­ing for dif­fer­ent signs, rather than driv­ing my­self nuts try­ing to read im­pos­si­ble ones, I found my­self a work­ing so­lu­tion, and I’m re­ally proud of that.


Fi­nally, my most per­sis­tent prob­lem – ap­ply­ing con­sis­tent fol­low-through. This re­ally has held me back, and the frus­trat­ing thing is, ap­ply­ing proper fol­low-through is sim­plic­ity it­self. All I need do is hold per­fect aim un­til the pel­let strikes. That’s it, there’s no more to it, and the ben­e­fits are huge. Proper fol­low-through ap­plies the per­fect fin­ish to every­thing else I pro­gram into the shot, and fail­ing to ap­ply it risks mess­ing every­thing up at the worst pos­si­ble stage of the shoot­ing se­quence. Fol­low-through is a big deal and I un­der­stand that per­fectly, but there’s a dis­con­nect be­tween know­ing about it and do­ing it every time I squeeze the trig­ger.


I’m work­ing on it, though, and I’ve come up with some­thing I think might work. I say ‘I’ve come up with some­thing’, when ac­tu­ally the idea came from Terry, but af­ter re-think­ing my early lessons, I’ve re­called his tech­nique of hold­ing back the trig­ger af­ter the shot and not re­leas­ing it un­til I see the pel­let hit, or even miss. This process changes things around just enough to make my shoot­ing rou­tine ‘dif­fer­ent’, and that has given me a new sys­tem to learn. I def­i­nitely couldn’t learn the ‘old’ sys­tem, but this one is work­ing so far. It’s early days, but watch­ing for the pel­let’s strike be­fore I’m al­lowed to re­lease the trig­ger re­ally does pro­duce per­fect fol­low-through. I need to hold my ri­fle as steady as pos­si­ble to be able to spot that pel­let strike, and of course that’s ex­actly what proper fol­low-through is all about.


As I’ve said, it’s early days, but I’m be­gin­ning to be­lieve I can now fix most of my shoot­ing prob­lems; at least the ones I’ve al­ready been trained for. I’m also con­fi­dent that teach­ing my­self to solve my own is­sues solves a prob­lem in it­self and pre­pares me well for the fu­ture … as an in­de­pen­dent air­gun­ner.

Not this time. I know Terry would put me right, but I need to sort things out my­self.

Fresh scrapes are easy to spot and far more re­li­able as quarry signs than in­ter­pet­ing rab­bit poo!

Now, the ri­fle stays down un­til I need to take the shot. Easy! My old way of track­ing tree­top quarry was painful and in­ef­fi­cient.

When I’m teach­ing oth­ers, I re­mem­ber every­thing I need, but it’s not the same when I’m shoot­ing.

Per­fect fol­low-through is now within my grasp.

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