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Return from Phoenix

Returning from Phoenix and what a great time was had by all. Dan Twitchell at Ben Avery runs a first-class operation and we had a ball shooting both of his courses and teaching 29 shooters. Eleven of them came for two days over four days…

Without exception, the ones who could afford it and came for two days were glad they did on the second day at about 10 AM. What a dramatic turnaround in their shooting. It seems that on the second day everything solidifies into a more solid technique.

We are seeing more and more Safari shooters finally come to us to improve their wingshooting techniques and we are glad to see it. We put so much into our articles in the magazine and it’s good to see the interest.

Learning (or not) From Pull-Away Shooters

There’s still a perception out there that all top shooters pull away from their targets because that is what they teach. But nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, we had two shooters who had lessons from a self-professed top shooter named Bruce, and they had been told by him that he shot pull-away on everything. But they were told by others who had shot with him that he did not shoot that way. He was in front of the target the whole time and shot just like Gil and Vicki taught when the money was on the line.

Then they began to put two and two together and realized that after every issue of Sporting Clays Magazine that Bruce would use the phrases and points that we would make in our articles in their next lessons.

“Why am I learning from someone who doesn’t shoot like he is teaching me?” they asked themselves. “And on top of that, he uses Gil and Vicki’s phrases that he reads in Sporting Clays Magazine?”

They were not the only ones that mentioned the similarity of phrases in their teaching every month after our articles came out. We can’t do anything about it but we surely can begin to mention it here and in our articles.

We would tell you that most of the top shooters don’t pull away from their targets like they say they do. They start in front and stay in front just like we teach. We are the only professional coaches who have shared with everyone our journey in coaching for free in Sporting Clays Magazine. The rest would not share with you all they know for fear that you would have the knowledge to beat them.

Yes, this does exist. Several comments were made about several shooters who said they pulled away, but in reality, when the shooters in the room had shot with them in tournaments, it was not the case.

Clinics and Videos: Updates

We were overrun with shooters this trip to Phoenix and were disappointed that we could not accommodate more shooters who wanted two days. It seems the two-day format is catching on as the way to go, and we agree with it. Well, we guess booking early to future clinics is in order for all of you.

Our Advance Classes start next week and we are full for three weeks in a row this year. In fact, we are full next this weekend with two groups of shooters who wanted each of us to themselves beginning on Friday. Then we have three Advance Classes that are full.

The clay target review is a huge success. We showed 16 pheasant kill shots that I shot last Tuesday as a trial run for the pheasant hunting section of the shot simulator that we will be introducing. The shooters were excited about the pheasant shots.

We will be redoing the clay kill shot review soon and will be adding a GoPro shot straight on to the shooter so you can see how the mount and muzzle speed play into stabilizing the picture. On Wednesday we will be working with Mitch on placing a green donut around the red dot on the current review to indicate when the gun is really mounted so you can see how the target comes to the lead as the picture is stabilized. That, for some reason, is the single most asked question when people watch the review.

The Hardest Things to Teach Kids

I talked to two coaches of high school shooting teams (SCTP) and asked them what was the hardest thing to teach the kids in their shooting. Without hesitation, their answer was “really focusing on the target.”

Then I asked a couple of their team members who were sitting at the lunch table the same question. They said “mental focus,” to which I asked what they meant. They said the students could focus on a target and break it several times but then they would just lose it for some reason. When I asked why, neither they nor the coaches could answer.

I asked all of them where their eyes were when they were shooting a low house target or a left-to-right crosser. They all agreed they were on the target, but when I mentioned that they had to be seeing the target across the barrel, you can imagine what happened! The kids looked at me like I had grown an ear on my forehead and the dad coaches looked at each other like I had begun to speak another language.

“Well, focusing hard on the target is the hardest thing we have to get across to the shooters,” one of them said.
“So you’re telling them to look so hard at the target that they don’t see the barrel?” I retorted.
“Of course,” they said, relieved.
“So they’re trying to get the gun ahead of the target a certain amount and not look at the barrel?”

They all agreed and again, were all relieved.

So I just had to ask it…”How do you visualize getting the gun ahead of the target and not looking at the barrel? Just what does that look like, and why do you all of a sudden, when you know what hard focus on the target looks like and have broken six in a row, do you not focus on the next two and miss them?”

Well, that ear must have grown out of my forehead again, because I got that look.

“Again,” I said, “do you realize when you’re shooting a right-to-left target that you’re looking at the target across the barrel?” The coaches didn’t have a clue and the kids didn’t know what to say. They could all recite the phrases but did not have a deep enough understanding of what the words really meant when applied to the reality of actually shooting.

We see this a lot in the volunteer coaching programs of SCTP and 4-H. When we took them in and showed them the Knowledge Vault animations, they were blown away and both texted their sons to come in alone to see this stuff. Their sons got it immediately but were afraid to say anything to not disappoint their fathers’ coaching commands. They are getting hooked up with the Knowledge Vault and we’ll see where it goes.

Stuck on Plateaus

Again, we’re seeing a lot of shooters plateau at 74-76 because they are playing too close to the target and getting jammed. And the reasons for the misses are still as crazy as ever.

In a few instances, we had to fight with them to get them to try being early. But eventually, they gave in and were amazed at how easy it got and how consistent they became immediately. I’m sure you heard several pops from the Phoenix area if you were out shooting this past weekend.

Maybe the big takeaway for me was that the line takes care of itself when the picture is stable. So many shooters are thinking that if their nose is over the gun and they cut their eyes back to pick up the target, they will see it sooner and hit it more consistently. Well, we’re here to tell you it doesn’t work from a scientific standpoint, and it won’t work from a performance standpoint. It’s that fear thing, putting the barrel between the target and the eye.

Finishing early, allowing the barrel more time to merge with the target as they come together in the breakpoint, and letting the target come to the lead is getting easier to teach and comprehend due to the clay kill shot review. So we both know we are on to something here.

I can’t wait to redo the shots with the GoPro camera shooting back at us when we shoot. Also, we are planning to shoot left-to-right and right-to-left crossing shots in the same break point at 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 80, and 100 yards.

We are coaching a writer long distance to hit a 100-yard crosser without even being there. The first attempt was consistent at 60 yards, but the target was dome-on and had too much curl. He hit the target but it would not break. Next try, it will be belly-on and not so much curl with all the spring the weak ProMatic trap can muster. My prediction is success in the first box of shells.

Ben Avery 2014
Importance of the Preload