One thing that drives me crazy on any clays course is the inconsistency of my shooting. I never know how I am going to shoot until I begin shooting. I practice as much as I can afford, but I can’t seem to break the cycle or whatever you would call it.
We all have our great days and our not-so-great days. With that said, inconsistency in performance is often tied to inconsistency in process. Misses typically fall into one of three categories: technical misses, planning misses and mental misses. A technical miss occurs when a target is beyond your technical ability to break. The solution here is simply to master this target presentation in practice so that it is within your technical ability at the next tournament. Then there is the planning miss. You had the wrong plan as you stepped into the shooting stand, sometimes caused by a failure to recognize what the target is doing at the break point. Then there is the mental miss, which is always tied to process, otherwise known as your pre-shot routine. If, after you finish a tournament, you can look back and say that your planning was flawless and all targets were within your technical ability to break, that only leaves your pre-shot routine as the cause of your inconsistency.
The three elements of a good pre-shot routine are: visualization, deep breathing and a visual cue. As you step into the shooting stand, visualize what it will look like, and imagine what it will feel like, to execute the shot pair. As you run through your visualization, load the gun and inhale/exhale at least twice. Close your gun and, as you assume a good ready position and move your shotgun to the hold point, remind yourself to focus on the specific focal points on each target. For example, “dome and 4 o’clock.” “PULL!” Running through this pre-shot routine on each and every pair will ensure a few things: 1) your conscious mind will be filled with constructive thoughts just prior to execution, 2) your body will be well oxygenated, with a lower heart rate, and 3) you will have reminded yourself of your most important job after calling for the targets: FOCUS.
Don Currie is NSCA’s Chief Instructor, an Orvis Wingshooting School instructor, and Master Class competitor. To get free shooting tips and videos, sign up for his monthly newsletter. You can also see more tips from Currie at www.doncurrie.com.