Fickle confidence and the shooter whose opinion matters most

I don’t know how it happens. I teach, so I have summers off, but somehow my days of sun-filled freedom succumb to some of the most mundane tasks.

The other day I was staring at my endless to-do list when I was overcome by common sense: Why the hell had I not gone to the shooting range in more than a month?

Let’s see, eff laundry, eff dishes, eff sweeping, eff vacuuming. Double-eff the stupid weeds in the front yard.

I had to seize the moment before drudgery yanked it back. I opened the safe, pulled out my shotgun, grabbed the last three boxes of target shells sitting in my cedar hope chest, checked my shooting-range bag for ear and eye protection and headed for the door.

But only after I wrote “shoot skeet” on my list so I’d have something to cross off when I was done. Hey, I’m an anal retentive obsessive-compulsive Dutch Virgo. Leave me alone.

Fortunately, despite my long absence, the guy at the counter of the shooting range recognized me and smiled when I walked in the door.

“Is the voice-activated thingie available?” I asked. If it weren’t for that awesome little system, I’d probably never get out to the range because I’d always be waiting for a partner who could be as spontaneous as I could.

“For skeet, right?” he responded. “It’s on No. 4.”


I walked out, unsheathed my gun, grabbed the voice controller and headed to Station One, which was – mercifully – in shade. I popped one in the chamber.

“Pull!” I yelled into the microphone.

Nothing flew.


Nothing flew.

I unloaded, and as I walked to the coin box to see if it was stuck on trap mode, I felt in my pocket and realized I’d never dropped a token in the slot. Talk about out of practice!

Laughing at myself, popped my three coins in, went back to Station One, loaded the gun and yelled, “Pull!”

This time I heard the clay being launched right over my head. Gun to cheek, find it, find it, find it, ba…?

Good Lord. I’d safetied.

Oh well, it’s never a bad thing to be thwarted on the range by overzealous safety measures, right?

Now let’s try this again. “Pull!”

On it! Oh shi…

I’d safetied AGAIN. That’s not overzealous caution. That’s just dumb.

I looked around furtively to see if anyone had noticed. No one was close enough to see, but I’d already convinced myself I was an utter moron, and I’m the person whose opinion matters most when it comes to my shooting.

So of course, once I got the clays flying and my safety off at the same time, I proceeded to shoot like crap. My routine is high, low, double on every station through Station Seven, and I was hitting less than half of the clays – unusually bad. This didn’t bode well for dove season.

Then when I got to Station Four, I nailed all of them – high, low and double. I grinned. Nothing like making the tough shots when you’re missing the no-brainers.

On Station Five, I did it again.

“Yes!” I yelled defiantly to the shooting gods.

Then I quickly admonished myself: “Don’t be a cocky bitch!”

That was good for a giggle. Taken literally, those two words just don’t go together.

Walking to Station Six, I realized my arms were getting tired. My shotgun has a solid-core adjustable-comb stock, which makes it pretty heavy, and the voice system isn’t that light either. But seriously, my arms were tiring out before I’d made the complete circuit? Lame. But come to think of it, I hadn’t crossed “work out” off my to-do list for quite a while.

At stations Six and Seven, I did OK – not great. Then it was time for Station Eight.

I’m a little obsessed with shooting well at Station Eight, because when I nail those shots with an audience of strangers watching, it just plain feels good. “Yeah, guys, I can shoot.”

High house first: Miss!

Low house next: Miss!

I looked around … good, there still wasn’t anyone watching, besides my own worst enemy.

I was going to head back to Station One when I remembered what had happened on an outing this spring. I’d taken a total shotgun newbie to the range, and when we got to Station Eight, she asked why I didn’t do doubles there.

“Uh, because that would be ridiculous?” I ventured. Then I said, “What the hell,” and had her pull doubles. I missed both.

This time, I found myself saying “What the hell” again.

I hit the doubles button and yelled, “Pull!”

To my astonishment, I pulverized both clays, and I laughed maniacally as the shards crashed down around me. That felt really good. Why the hell wasn’t anyone watching now?

After that, I did better. My shooting wasn’t perfect, but it was reasonably good. Good enough that next time I came to Station Eight, I pulled doubles again.

And NAILED ‘em.

Again, no audience. Except for the person whose opinion matters the most. Things were looking up.


    Leave a Reply

    XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

    Shotgun Life Newsletters

    Join an elite group of readers who receive their FREE e-letter every week from Shotgun Life. These readers gain a competitive advantage from the valuable advice delivered directly to their inbox. You'll discover ways to improve your shooting, learn about the best new products and how to easily maintain your shotgun so it's always reliable. If you strive to be a better shooter, then our FREE e-letters are for you.