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74 Ranch Course: Unparalleled in Diversity

The second Advance School is behind us, and man, what a great two weeks. Many things came to the top during our stay at the ranch. One of the biggest things is the realization that the course at the 74 Ranch is unparalleled in its diversity.

Stabilizing the Shot

The corrections we see are not new, but we are learning some new things. The animations are a big deal when it comes to helping shooters visualize what we want them to do. The stabilizing of the shot is huge.

I talked to Shane yesterday and he said it was going to take about 1000 more practice targets and he will have the stable picture in his game. He has already won one tournament and M2 in the most recent tournament. And with all the other things going on in his life, that is an accomplishment.

I am convinced even more today that the stabilization of the shot is the trip from 85 to 95. The world is trying to fix it at the end and that leads to so many things that don’t create consistency.

“Move, mount, shoot” tends to make shooters speed up at the end of the shot. At the point of impact, the gun seems to accelerate. On close birds, that’s okay. But on longer targets, that creates a lot of risk.

We’re not doing away with “move, mount, shoot,” but we are finding that when shooters begin to stabilize the shot, they begin to see the target coming on more shots than they used to. Many of the shooters were afraid that we were teaching something entirely different. We are not supposed to ride the bird. Shoot when the gun touches my face, etc. We are not abandoning that teaching, but we want to encourage you to finish the shot with more consistency concerning gun speed.

All shooting methods are based on focus on the target. And they all differ on what happens at the point of impact. This is the only system that is based on gun speed and bird speed being equal, and a realistic view of subconscious lead. When it is stable, shoot.

Shooters worldwide are trying to fix it at the end for lead and line. The beautiful part of this system is that if it is stable, it is right.

Being Farther in Front

One of the most important things is AWAY at the beginning of the shot. We find that those who have the most difficulty on longer targets are the ones who can’t play well in front of the bird. Over and over during the past two weeks, shooters had to be reminded to play farther in front because the target must come to the lead as the picture is stabilized for the lead to be correct. This is huge.

The inability to play away at the beginning of the shot leads to great risk on all shots, especially on long shots. Fear pulls the gun to the target.

I found myself saying over and over: “the target will find the muzzle without a doubt, and your job is to make it hunt for it!” Get the gun way out in front of the bird. If the first move is not away, then the rest of the move is catching up. Soft mount to the shoulder and muzzle close to breakpoint, and as the gun and target merge, the face comes to the stock, eyes to the front as the picture is stabilized… Dead target.

We are not throwing away looking at the front, but we can’t stress enough the focus shift at the end of the shot, just before the trigger is pulled. You will find whatever lead you perceive will be much less if your focus goes to the front of the target at the breakpoint.

Programming New Circuits

When practicing stabilizing the picture, it’s okay for you to let the breakpoint slide because you are programming a new circuit. The best target to begin on is a quartering incomer that turns into a crosser about 30 to 50 feet in the air with lots of belly and a gentle roll. It’s easy to see and easy to merge with.

Start on the cross-eyed target. Right-to-left if right-handed and left-to-right if left-handed. It seems to be much easier to look across the muzzle when you are learning this. We think it’s because as you mount the gun, your face is already turned slightly towards it, allowing your eyes to focus farther away from the gun on the cross-eyed shot. On the opposite shot where the eyes are looking away from the barrel. The animation with a voice-over shows how the target comes to the lead as the picture is stabilized.

I’m still amazed at the number of shooters who are looking down the gun or worried about the lead.

I heard from Jennifer in Montana. She and Doug are still doing single targets working on their corrections and stabilization. She is getting better. While they’re still having trouble with some of the incomers from right to left, they are getting better. I told her that would probably be the last one she would conquer….

Also when shooting a cross-eyed target with a lot of lead, see the target over the top lever of the gun. This will put the muzzles way in front of the target which will allow you to see more dots as the target merges to the gun.

When shooting blindside birds, move your front hand back to the receiver. This will give you more swing, allowing for you to open your stance on those birds to pick them up sooner. This eliminates fear and moving early before focusing. Opening up allows you to point your nose closer to the trap, enabling you to start the muzzle moving sooner.

Also, on all tower shots: feet together and hands together. This allows you to keep the gun on the line for a longer time. Point your finger on the front hand. I had a shooter who did not do that and was amazed at how many shots he missed under. And the farther the shot, the more under he was.

The Desire to Break the Target

The other thing I witnessed is what the desire to break the target does to the learning process.

It was damn near impossible to get shooters to quit trying to break the target so they could learn a new move. This desire to break the target always included the gun. If we could just get them to insert farther out in front of the target, keep their eyes on the target, and see it come to a stable picture without trying to hit the target, it worked. But when they missed a few, they instantly went back to getting the gun closer and closer to the target.

Finally, we just got them to not load the gun. A miracle!

Also, this is not riding the target. Riding the target means you are constantly guessing the lead and consciously looking for something that looks right with a sliding focus ratio of 50/50 to 60/40 – and typically an erratic gun speed. We are stabilizing the picture and giving the subconscious a specific time to adjust the lead. And when the target comes to the lead, something magical happens: it stabilizes, and the target breaks.

Another huge by-product of this system that we saw in the last two weeks was that the corrections are much more obvious. There is so little happening in the picture. We had shooters who were pulling away and in some cases even swinging through. And once we got them to start in front and stay in front, they were amazed at how things slowed down.

And yes, the inevitable question comes: “What about just starting with a mounted gun?”

Well, you can. But there will come times when a mounted gun will keep you from being able to pick up the target early in its flight path (i.e. blind side birds, quartering from left to right for right-handers, and the opposite for lefties).

We still hold to the phrase “you will never shoot better than the quality of your basic move and mount.” If you choose to mount the gun to eliminate risk or save time, do it. But if you don’t learn to mount the gun, don’t expect to shoot well.

Nuisance Decisions

This was the topic of last February’s Coaching Hour. Man, did Vicki and I encounter that when we were leaving for the first school, and it sure surprised us.

We were less prepared for this school than any before due to some things out of our control We had not even packed our clothes and only looked at the weather forecast the night before. Needless to say, we were forced to make a lot of nuisance decisions that Wednesday morning and they wore us out. What a revelation! My head hurt.

It was a testimony to getting things ready the night before. Routine, routine, routine… Guns, bullets, monitor, coats, long pants, boots, socks, hats, Pro Ears… I am here to tell you that you want to make as few decisions as possible on game day. To reiterate: you cannot make a lot of decisions in a short period without paying a biological price

It just dawned on me that this is why coaches send the plays into their quarterbacks. It’s why athletes practice; it becomes routine so they won’t have to think on game day. Could it be the reason that teams or people choke? Possibly. Who knows? It’s an interesting thought, though.

Visual Pathways

I talked to a vision therapist on the way down to the ranch about new research being done on visual pathways or visual systems. The retina begins the processing but many pathways come together to give us the image of the target and that comes into play in anticipating ahead of where that target is. So much new information… It does not negate any of our conclusions concerning how we use the information, but we’re learning so much about the visual system.

Science has proven that the visual pathway processes the lead and line data of moving objects. In fact, the visual processing system of the brain actually anticipates where the object is going to be, even though the retina sees the target where it is.

When we first were aware of this, we felt that the visual processing system could actually project ahead a few dots, but now we are even more sure that with experience, the visual processing system can project ahead many more dots than we originally thought.

When you have a lot of experience shooting targets at distance, your visual system can project ahead many many dots. But remember: it is the visual system that does the projection, and the visual system continues to feed information to the subconscious brain. 

The Journey Continues

I’m still amazed at the number of people who are still trying to use the conscious brain to get the lead right.

I asked the vision therapist a question: If I could break a 20-yard crosser, does the computer have the ability to figure the lead on a 40-yard crosser? Without hesitation, he said yes.

We added that the technique for a 40-yard target is much more precise than a 20-yard target. He did not understand entirely but he will once we shoot together.

It is a combination of the visual input from the center vision and the periphery that inputs to the brain that allows it to anticipate farther and farther out in front. If you want to get good, you’ve got to practice long targets and short targets as well.

When practicing, you are really practicing your reaction to the target first. It’s like how you eat with your eyes first. This is why it’s so important to take every shot like it was your last, or like your whole future depended upon it. Just because it’s in practice doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter. They all matter. What will your reaction be when you see them in the beginning?

I found this in an article about cameras vs. the human eye:

“Each eye is more capable of perceiving detail below our line of sight than above, and peripheral vision is much more sensitive in directions away from the nose than towards it.”

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