The worst thing about being self-taught is the teacher. It’s not that we men aren’t smart because we are. In this case, it’s kind of like the Driver’s Ed teacher saying, “Look, we’ll talk about the brake tomorrow, right now just get your coat and I’ll get the keys.”
You’ve been hunting pheasants, quail and ducks for many years. By now, good shooting should pretty much be a no-brainer. Facing your first clay bird, we heard, “Yeah, I can do this, throw me a target.” It’s pretty much a jock mentality. After all, while you may be a bit washer and dryer challenged, you can shoot a shotgun!
From 1960 to 1980 I was a very respectable shot in the game fields. If it had feathers or fur and was in season, you could count on me to fill the tag or game bag followed by modest tales of extraordinary shooting prowess. Back then, I didn’t have the first clue how I dispatched game so quickly in the fields of Pennsylvania and Iowa but I did. I had a semi back then too. It was a gnarled 20 gauge SXS that was semi-reliable but really delivered when it counted.
It was in the early 1980’s that I first encountered the clay target. For some unexplainable reason the little 20 gauge wasn’t as reliable on the clays course as it had been in the field. Never doubting my ability, I knew a new gun would take care of this quite handily. Which it did of course, until it recognized who was shooting it and then it too became unreliable. Undaunted, my search continued with multiple purchases until my accountant suggested I figure out just exactly how the X got on the score sheet.
I’m now in Veteran class. Though not happy about that particular classification, the many years I’ve spent in sporting have encouraged and supported my lifelong desire to be involved in the shooting sports. Here is a hard-earned lesson paid for in many missed targets.
When we first step into the box, unguided and without expectations, sporting clays is a blast. Minis, battues and rabbits confound us at first but through trial and error, gradually, 1 shell at a time, targets do begin to break. Instinct is the shooting method of choice and for good reason. It’s worked before and that’s reason enough.
Soon, crossing and quartering birds are broken with a fragile but growing confidence while our shooting style is taking shape. Not only are we becoming more familiar with certain shots, we’re definitely on the path to taming this game. Targets are breaking. Life is good.
Enter the score sheet………
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