Trap Stuff

Dear Lonestar,

I shot in my first Trap competition two weeks age. Loved it, and won the 16 yard “D” class with a 89. I also entered the handicap event and was placed at the 20 yard line. Everyone told me that the extra 4 yards didn’t make any difference. Well…I completely fell apart and came in with a 70. What gives? Was it just me or should I have made an adjustment in my sight picture? Any words of advice would be appreciated.


David C.

Dear David,

Congratulations on your first trophy – you can nail it to the hood of your truck & brag on it all week ’till your lil’ lady complains!

First off, there *is* a difference between 16 yards and 20 yards in trap. You’ll find it right between your ears, mostly. Trapshooters just shouldn’t think. It’s bad for us. We should have our brains put on hold for the duration of all competitions, ‘cuz when a trapshooter starts to think, only bad stuff happens. That 70 of yours is quite normal. I shot a handicap this summer that went like this: 24, 23, 18, 12. I got to thinkin’ I was hot stuff, better than jalapeno bean dip, during the first 50. I started rehearsing what I was gonna say to the media when I got done breakin’ a 98. Crashed and burned in the last 50. Take your brain outta your head and leave it in the truck when you shoot trap. Do not look at the scoreboard. Do not look at the trophy case. Do not rehearse your speech to the media. Do not think, period. Enjoy the day. Smell the grass. Count the creases on your boots between shots, but do not think.

Engrave this on your stock. The name of the game in trap is *not* to go straight. The name of the game is to break one, just one, every time.

There *are* some emotional and technical differences between 16-yard and handicap events. Generally, unless you can approach breaking all 100, you can’t win a 16-yard event. And you are lucky to win your class, because of all them varmint sandbaggers out there. Ya gotta wonder sometimes when D class goes to a 98. So treat 16-yard as practice, and fun, and grooving your moves, and controlling your head. One day the lightbulb will go on, and you will break them all. But if you force it, you won’t, so enjoy.

Handicap is altogether different, emotionally. You *can* win it. If you are at short yardage, and the day is really awful – say wind, sleet, snow, terrible heat, rain, darkness – you can even win it with a lousy score. It isn’t entirely even – but it’s as even and as fair as it gets in trap. Not at big shoots – the professionals are there and will win usually, because it’s what they do for a living – but at a regional or a club shoot, you do have a fightin’ chance. That, of course, works on that goofy brain of yours, because there is always money in winning handicap, and glory at the bar later, and a gold-plated duck decoy lamp for a trophy. That’s what makes you shoot 70.

The technical differences between handicap and 16-yard really start at about 24-25 yards. Probably 24. It isn’t your gun, and it isn’t the load you are shooting. The difference is in the patience and the precision required. At 16-yard, you can make awful gun move mistakes, you can completely misread the angle, you can even start your move in the opposite direction – and still recover and break the bird. You just flat have a lotta time to mess up, and then fix it. At about 23-24 yards, you start to need to be real quiet about how you move. And smooth. And you need to pay attention. Your gun mechanics need to be solid, and you need to really *see* the target correctly before you move. If you misread the angle, only slightly, you will miss. If your gun mechanics are sloppy, you will miss. If you are not ready mentally, you will miss. It’s not *radically* different from 16-yard, but enough so that you just have to be a lot more solid about what you do. The angle of the sun matters also – most long-yardage folks don’t do well shooting in the early morning when the target looks smaller than it does with full illumination in early afternoon.

Try this for practice. Stand at the 16-yard line. Shoot 5 birds. Step back 2 yards. Shoot 5 birds. Etc. to the 27 yard line. Do that for 100 shots. That will give you a good sense of the concentration and timing necessary for 25-27 yards, and it will also convince you that 20 yards is technically the same as 16 yards. But you have to do it. I didn’t believe it either until a coach I had made me go through this exercise. Handicap is a kick. It’s fun to almost be even with all those old coots back at 27.

Break ‘Em All & God Bless Texas,


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