Sunday was ‘Round 1’ of the Lincs winter series. We hadn’t actually planned to go to Lincoln, but being the fair weather shooters that we are, we were chasing the sun and that’s where it took us.
A tough day, but some important lessons learn and I still had a good time learning them.
Recently I’ve been starting to feel like I really need to pick some specific aspects of my shooting to work on each week. Turning up and shooting has been great, but now I want to improve. In order for any of us to get better, I think we need to look back at our previous performances and select areas where improvements can be made.
Based on the last shoot at Nomads HFT (SEE HERE) I chose to work on my head game this week. Specifically ‘mindfulness’. In the context of HFT this means focusing 100% on the current target. You need to forget about the previous shot and not be anticipating the next one. The thinking behind this is to improve concentration, and reduce anxiety. That will keep your muscles loose and breathing regular. In the psychology world, there are proven links between these:
High Anxiety = Increased tension/increased heart rate
Low anxiety = Decreased tension/lower heart rate
Obviously there are some exceptions to this. For example range finding. If you are confident with your range estimation of the previous target, and it happens to be visible from the next peg, of course you are going to use that to help. Also if two targets are close to each other and exposed to the same wind conditions. Again you would use this information to help you. The main thing is to take the information you need but leave the emotion behind. And trust me when I say this is easier said than done!
So how did it work out? Well ignoring what my scorecard says (39), I think it went really well. Compared to the last shoot, I was much more focused on each target. There were two methods I came up with to help with this:
- Stop looking at my scorecard
I’m usually a sucker for this. When I’m not shooting I’m looking at my scores. Working out what I might be on track for, seeing how many knock downs I got in the last 10 lanes or how many targets are left etc. It’s easy to see now, but this is a surefire way to increase anxiety. Literally piling on the pressure for no benefit.
However for this shoot, I tried not to look at my card at all. When I was scoring, my partners card was on the top (hi Frank). After I had written his score down, I swapped the cards round then handed the clipboard over straight away. I resisted the urge to start totting up, and left that until every lane had been shot.
- Have a routine for each lane
The thinking here is that by introducing a routine, you are focusing your mind completely on the task at hand. This then stops wandering thoughts about other targets, what you’re having for lunch, what the weather is doing etc.
My routine was simple and probably very similar to other peoples but going through it methodically definitely focused my attention.
If I could go back and shoot the last course at Nomads like this, I am positive I would get a better score. As it happens my score went down. Last week was 74% (of the highest score), yesterday was down to 70%. What went wrong? In a word, ‘Wind’.
Although I’m sure I was shooting with a better mindset, I have very little experience shooting in anything more than a light breeze. This lack of experience really showed. According to the forecast, gusts would be over 10mph but I have no idea how much it actually was. Some targets I thought there would be loads of wind, so I gave lots on my aim point and the pellet went almost dead straight. I was lucky to plate these as I was almost aiming off the plate. Other targets I though would be quiet, so I aimed just at the edge of the kill. Again I was lucky to plate these as the wind blew them almost all the way off.
However there were some positive shots too. Between lanes 8 and 13 there were a couple of exposed targets at a decent distance (maybe 40 yards). One in particular I estimated to be about 40 yards. That’s 1 dot holdover for me. The string was also very visibly bowing in the wind. At this range I guessed 1 mil-dot windage to the right. Now I was aiming off the target which is something I struggle to do. If it doesn’t take the wind it’s a guaranteed doughnut! Committing to this shot was not easy but what better way to learn than to take risks and make mistakes.
Actually it turned out not to be a mistake at all. A solid thunk and a the target fell. Easily my best shot of the day. As a bonus, I now had a better understanding of what the wind was doing, which set me up for a few more 2 pointers (until the course changed direction again at least).
I like a good quote, and here’s my current favourite. It’s a bit cheesy but I’ve got it stuck on the side of my gun as a reminder whenever I need it. And I needed it yesterday! The point is you can’t do well if you don’t try. Take the occasional risk because what’s the worst can happen.
You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take
– Wayne Gretzky
(p.s If you haven’t heard of Wayne Gretzky I would definitely take a few minutes to look him up).
(p.p.s If you get the chance to shoot at Lincs then take it. I will definitely be back. It’s gone on my list of places I’m determined to go and shoot well at)