The importance of shooting practice
Why Simon Ward is a great advocate of polishing your shooting skills.
It never ceases to surprise me how so many keen game Shots do not consider taking practice. Or are even dismissive of the notion of it.They might argue, with some good reason, that driven clays are relatively easily mastered, but any success on the shooting ground may not necessarily translate to a similar performance in the field.
It's how you use your practice time that counts, training on the type of angles and shots you are likely to come across during the shooting season. Also, it's not a bad idea to have a good session with your trusted coach before you train alone, as he will be able to tighten up your technique and give you your good timing and angles, so as and when you train alone you are practicing good skills as opposed to the opposite.
Top performers in all other sports practice endlessly, no matter how good they are. They will iron out faults as they arise, or simply seek perfection (admittedly this can be pretty elusive, and rarely better than temporary!).
Bizarrely, this attitude to practice and instruction does not apply to other sports – tennis and golf are good examples. Snooker too. Players will spend hours just hitting balls. And from beginner to seasoned Shot, it is accepted that lessons and regular practice can prove invaluable.
I appreciate that we shoot for fun. Like other sports, shooting is an escape and we shouldn't become too intense about it. But we all know that sickening, or at least disappointing, feeling we get when we miss more than we hit. It's not a competition but we owe it to our quarry to shoot straight, and we want to enjoy the day. Also, being perfectly blunt, it doesn't come cheap, so we want to make the most of it.
You might argue that as a professional instructor I am bound to say that. Not at all. It is fact. Another point to consider is that most sports are played the year round. They don't stop at the end of January for seven or more months – a bad patch could write off half of your season.
Any form of practice with your gun has to be good. And shooting grounds are now much more sophisticated affairs, and practically any type of target can be presented – more importantly, they can replicate the bird or combination of birds which has been giving you trouble. You can practice it over and over again until you get it right and feel more confident.
In addition to practice and lessons, there is another option: simulated. Initially made popular through the Really Wild Clay Company, this replicates a full day's driven shooting, but with clays. A line of eight Guns (sharing), several drives… everything but the feathers, to quote the Really Wild slogan. They are a lot of fun, and there are now several operators running similar days. Raisthorpe Flyers in Yorkshire have a number of open events at their East Riding farm.
My advice would be twofold – use these occasions for practice and keep a lid on the adrenaline. Take your time, concentrate on stance, timing and focus. Basically shoot less, break more.