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Shooting Great after the Lesson … or Not

When I go back to practice, or especially when I shoot a tournament, I promptly forget all of your teaching and revert to my bad habits. What accounts for this phenomenon? Is it the stress of competition or do I need more practice?


The answer is a combination of “yes” – it is the stress of competition, and yes, you need more practice. You have only been shooting for five months and the data bank in your mind is not there yet.

In your practice routine, you must go and have a specific thing to practice. On one day, go and only shoot targets that are right-to-left quartering. Another day, go and shoot incoming targets. Make your practice time quality time, practicing on only one thing.

Where people make a mistake is when they go and shoot the whole sporting clays course and work on shooting a score rather than taking their game apart and making a plan to improve on one thing at a time. Feel comfortable and confident that any time you walk up to a station that is quartering right-to-left or left-to-right or incoming that you know exactly how to hit that target.

Think how nice it would be to walk up to a station, look at the targets, and know how to hit them, rather than saying to yourself “I hate this target. I can never hit it.” Thinking negatively only creates a negative response. Confidence makes the subconscious mind relax and your ability to concentrate on just focusing on the target becomes easier.

This way your practice becomes useful; you’re not just shooting shells. Practice does not make perfect – perfect practice makes perfect.

As for the stress of competition, you are going to have to make that go away. The only way to do that is to shoot competitions at not only your home club but other clubs. There are only so many ways your home club can throw targets and you can become used to them. Then you go to another club and they throw targets you have never seen before. The stress level goes up by the cube.

As you are going along your learning curve, enjoy the challenge of each station. Learn from each hit, where to see the target, and where to break it so that you can go to the second target. If it works once, it will work again. If it doesn’t work, correct it. As you progress and your practice becomes perfect, your confidence level will go up. If you are confident that you can hit any bird out there, you become relaxed and able to hit them.

Nothing can take the place of the actual shooting in a competition where every hit can make a difference. To get rid of the jitters, you are just going to have to go and get the experience that shooting competitions requires. Go and have fun and learn from your failures. That’s what all the great competitors have in common. They learn from their mistakes and don’t make them again.

Your job is to build your data bank so that you can draw on it at any time. Good shooting.