The Mental Game


Please talk a bit about the mental aspects of shooting competition and what a regular type guy like me who’s obsessed with clay target shooting can do to get into and maintain that “zone” of focused competition.

I’ve been shooting clays for almost exactly two years now and have won a few events which feels great. I’ve tried to remember and recapture the same state of mind I had during a win but with only limited success.

I just returned from Nationals in San Antonio after several weeks of the best practice shooting of my career. I was unable to maintain that state and do well over the four days of the main event (50 easy targets a day), but surprised myself by shooting my high score ever and subsequently winning a shootoff in my class for first in the 20 gauge event! What gives here? All I can figure is that I had absolutely no expectations for the 20, so was relaxed and unworried.


Dear Will,

One of the problems with the mental aspect of shooting is that it is so very different for each person. I always find it helpful to remind myself that I am bound to miss some birds during the match, but I am just not going to miss this next one right here. If I do miss it, I try to forget about it and never look back.

No matter how poorly I seem to be doing, I try never to give up. After shooting competitively for over 25 years, I can absolutely guarantee you that it isn’t over ’til it’s over. This is especially true in sporting where you really don’t know what the other guy is doing until it is up on the board.

Many people try to concentrate on their mental processes, but I concentrate on the technique and technical side- things that I can get my hands on. I find that if I get those ducks in a row, the other will follow. When I try to force myself into a certain state of mine, it is like trying to hold smoke in my hand. If I can say to my self “If I do step one, two and then three, I know that the bird will break.”, I can deal with that approach better than something more ephemeral. Works for me.

When I am in shoot offs, I try to enjoy watching the other guy sweat and like to think about how nervous he must be feeling. Just making it to the shoot-off is an honor and with only a few shots to go, you might as well pay attention and not give up.

One final thing for sporting clays: Never, ever take the “easy” ones for granted. You absolutely must put them in the bank.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid
(Often in error, never in doubt.)

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