Hitting dustbin lids and turkeys
David Turner highlights some of the pitfalls in the life of a shooter and what can be done to rectify them
Have you ever felt you were invincible and couldn’t miss when out shooting? The clays appeared the size of dustbin lids and the pheasants as big as turkeys, every target falling out of the sky. All your Christmases seemed to have come at once, shooting like a “god” and your dreams of becoming a great Shot realised.
The opposite can happen, of course, and no matter how hard you try, nothing seems to work. You could say the wheels have fallen off and you can’t get it together no matter what you do. Everything goes wrong and you don’t know why. You could also say that you didn’t really know why you shot so well on the previous occasion. It’s a dispiriting feeling of all for those of us that care and usually shoot to a standard that most would call a “good Shot”.
Some might say “it happens to all of us now and again” — which is true, of course — and “don’t worry, you’ll get back to your old self and recover your old form”. That doesn’t cut it for me. I want to know why.
So what next? What are you going to do about it? At this stage you’ll need to ask yourself a few questions: • What technique do I use mostly? • Am I aware of specific techniques and do I use them? • Is there any particular type of target that catches me out? • Has my eye dominance changed? • Is my gun still a reasonable fit, and so on?
Let’s look at a hypothetical example. The game shooter who suddenly finds things getting worse. I’m going to use this in particular as I’ve met a lot of game shooters who have no idea what technique they use. The first thing many say is “I’ll have a lesson, that’ll sort me out”.
Some lessons will help you but one isolated lesson is not enough and by a long chalk. Most sportsmen, whatever their sport, have a lesson every week or so and are always looking to improve their performance; to win.
We must embrace the need for some help and tuition in an ongoing regime with an instructor who knows his stuff and can help you, in the classroom, the shooting ground and out in the field. It’s also important to feel good about yourself; you should enjoy making progress and your instructor’s company.
“Lessons will help you but one isolated lesson is not enough and by a long chalk”
Practice is, indeed, important — but make sure that you are not practising bad habits
Practice is vital
Lessons are great, but we need lots of practice too. There’s a big but here: the adage “practice makes perfect” is erroneous. Only perfect practice makes perfect. To put it another way: “practice makes permanent”. We don’t want to practise the wrong thing, as that could become permanent and be more difficult to shake off in the long run. Learned bad habits can be very difficult to get rid of. It’s good to practise Skeet shooting as it offers various angles and crossers
Golf is an example of a sport that encourages betterment, as there are driving ranges that allow golfers to practise their swing, while they’re not playing in a game. We don’t have that luxury.
Do’s and don’ts
• The first “don’t” is “don’t do nothing”. If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting the same results. You’ll have good days and bad days and you’ll never
Two common problems
One common problem is a switch or change in eye dominance with the shooter who’s “getting on a bit”. I’ve met several who have all said “I’ve always been right-eye dominant, why should it suddenly change?”. Well, it does. In some cases, it varies from time to time and seemingly without any reason. It can partially alter, just enough for the shooter to start missing inexplicably, even from one occasion to another.
Weight gain or loss can also affect gun fit, requiring necessary stock alterations; if, indeed, it fitted to start with.
When the wheels fall off and you lose your mojo
At the end of the day it’s important to understand your sport completely — recognising the various techniques, how to use them and what to do when it all seems to be going to pot.