KEEPERING WITH THE NGO: Prac­tice makes per­fect

... But, as Tim ex­plains, make sure it is per­fect prac­tice – whether shoot­ing a shot­gun or a ri­fle. You owe it to your quarry to make ev­ery shot count

Sporting Shooter - - CONTENTS - WITH TIM WE­STON

With the shoot­ing sea­son now head­ing into full swing, clay grounds up and down the coun­try will have been busy with clients com­ing in for an hour’s les­son to re­mem­ber how to swing the gun prop­erly, get their stance right and have a prac­tice. It is re­spon­si­ble to make sure that you are com­pe­tent when you go out shoot­ing and that is why many peo­ple will take a les­son or two each sea­son. Shoot­ing comes nat­u­rally to those who have done it for years and years, and to those who take their sum­mer sport of pi­geon shoot­ing se­ri­ously, too. But for those that shoot once or twice a year only, a les­son, in my view, is a must. Even tak­ing ad­van­tage of the BASC have-a-go ses­sions at a game fair will make a dif­fer­ence. It

‘At the range, I try to make it as real as pos­si­ble: I only give my­self a few sec­onds to get the ri­fle up, set and aimed, just like in the field’

all helps. You will also en­joy your sport much more; there is noth­ing more frus­trat­ing than miss­ing ev­ery­thing and not know­ing why, but af­ter some in­struc­tion at least you should know why you are miss­ing!

It is not just the game shoot­ing sea­son that goes into full swing in the win­ter months – the nitty-gritty part of deer stalk­ing, the doe cull, is also at its peak. It can be hard work, with poor weather, but the job needs do­ing and deer stalk­ers and deer man­agers are out and about. For the hobby stalker, does can re­ally be hard work be­cause of the lack of day­light hours. In the sum­mer, on the roe bucks, you can eas­ily get out at 4am and be back home to get ready for work at 9am and still have time for a sec­ond evening stalk. But the win­ter is dif­fer­ent; hobby stalk­ers will only have week­ends or the time they have taken off work, un­less they are lucky enough to be re­tired. And let’s face it, who re­ally wants to do their hobby when it is rain­ing side­ways and blow­ing a hoo­ley?

That’s why we have to make ev­ery shot count and where, just like with a shot­gun, prac­tice makes us bet­ter. I use a ri­fle far more of­ten than I do a shot­gun, both for foxing and stalk­ing, but I still take plenty of range time too. I prac­tise dif­fer­ent shoot­ing po­si­tions, from prone to stand­ing, and will go through the DSC1 shoot­ing test as prac­tice. I try to make it as real as pos­si­ble: I only give my­self a few sec­onds to get the ri­fle up, set and aimed, just like in the field (although on the range I have the ad­van­tage of know­ing what is be­hind the tar­get, which I check in the field first and be­fore shoot­ing). Gongs are also a re­ally good way to prac­tise your ri­fle shoot­ing; they are re­ac­tive so you know when you’ve hit it and you can eas­ily set them at vary­ing dis­tances. Light-hearted tar­get prac­tice is great fun too, but can be ex­pen­sive with a cen­tre­fire ri­fle. I must ad­mit that I do tend to use my deer ri­fle for my prac­tice be­cause that is what I shoot most of the time, but there is noth­ing stop­ping you us­ing a .22 rim­fire for prac­tice – you will still need to get into the cor­rect body po­si­tions and stances.

That brings me on to an­other point: all this prac­tice might be for noth­ing if I’ve been prac­tis­ing bad habits. Your mus­cles learn your pre­ferred body po­si­tions (mus­cle mem­ory) and the brain will au­to­mat­i­cally set you up to be in the same po­si­tion as last time. Now, what if that isn’t the cor­rect po­si­tion for shoot­ing? We could well be teach­ing our­selves bad habits. For ex­am­ple, I have to take a yearly shoot­ing test with the Forestry Com­mis­sion for a stalk­ing li­cence. It is ba­si­cally the DSC1 but with fewer chances to mess up a shot. Last year my last two shots at the deer tar­get were taken stand­ing, from sticks, at 40m. I set the sticks and took my two shots. Both went into the kill zone but I re­ally didn’t feel right; if that had been a live deer I prob­a­bly wouldn’t have shot (I know I shouldn’t have shot at the tar­get ei­ther, but you know what it’s like when you are on a test – no mat­ter how many times you do it, it is still nerve-rack­ing). As soon as the test was over the ranger said: “Well done, but do you know what you did on the stand­ing shots?” “No,” I replied, “but I didn’t feel right, not like I nor­mally do.”

“You didn’t put the sticks up high enough and your back was bent; you should be stand­ing up straight. That’s why it didn’t feel quite right.”

Now that is a com­mon mis­take and one that many peo­ple make. I re­ally try to re­mem­ber to get the sticks up so I am straight, but, as that ex­am­ple shows, I don’t al­ways. Could it be down to mus­cle mem­ory?

So, later this year I am off to see a friend of mine at Carl­ton Moor Range, Mike Dick­in­son. Mike has a won­der­ful fa­cil­ity in Der­byshire with two un­der­ground tun­nel ranges and long-dis­tance stuff out on the hill. He is also a great in­struc­tor so I am go­ing to have an hour’s les­son with him just to check over my stance, po­si­tions and tech­nique. Maybe it would be a use­ful thing for all ri­fle shots to do ev­ery now and then. I will re­port back on what is wrong with my shoot­ing.

Any tar­get prac­tice helps – just make sure you are prac­tis­ing the cor­rect tech­nique

When shoot­ing from sticks you should be stand­ing up­right, not lean­ing for­wards

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