Well the stateside hunting seasons are over and spring is beginning to bring things back to life after the winter slumber. We enjoyed meeting all of you in our seminars at convention in Reno and thanks for the comments about our articles and books and DVDs. The reactions to our new HD animations from our new web site were nothing short of phenomenal and the results we are getting from teaching with them are equally as incredible. Our research shows that when a person has a clear picture in their mind of what it is they are about to attempt, learning accelerates. It’s that clear picture in your mind that we want to talk about in this issue because on the surface shooting a moving target by shooting ahead of it sounds quite simple but the simplicity stops for most when the gun comes into the picture.
Most shooters are trying to get the gun three feet in front of the bird and pull the trigger and “not look at the gun,” which makes the effort conscious and stressful. That is caused by the fear of missing, which makes shooters check the lead more than once during the shot, and especially just before they pull the trigger. The situation can become quite stressful, especially if there are people watching and, God forbid, keeping
score! We call this fear-based situation, “shooting not to miss.” All stress ultimately comes from within. We may face challenges in our lives but it is not until our minds assess a situation and identify a threat that our defense mechanisms swing into action. Well-learned motor patterns are nearly as fast and reliable as inborn reflexes, and they are very resilient to stress. If you have practiced drawing and shooting your pistol a thousand times on the shooting range, the chances are good that you will also be able to draw and shoot flawlessly when an attacker is running at you with a raised hatchet. This goes out the door though when the stress is social in nature because, in an attack of acute self-consciousness, even exceptionally well-learned motor patterns go haywire.
Thinking while performing is a distraction. When experts perform in any arena, if they begin to pay attention to what they are doing, they undermine the automaticity that gives them their expertise. In his book, Extreme Fear, Jeff Wise describes an experiment done with expert golfers while they were putting. The golfers were to think about three words while they were putting in two different tests. In the first test, the words were; arm, head and weight–words that had something to do with what they were doing. In the next test, the three words had nothing to do with what they were doing such as colors. Add to the exercise a cash prize for who did the best and bingo you introduce stress. During the exercise, while thinking about irrelevant words in the high anxiety setting, their performance didn’t suffer. When they were paying attention to their swings by thinking of the words that had something to do with what they were doing, their putting declined. Self-consciousness plus pressure equals bad news.
In clays shooting or wingshooting, fear always puts the gun between the target and the eyes. Regardless of how much you try not to look at it, you just can’t stop because you can’t “not do something.” Prior to doing something, you have this mental picture of what you are about to do and, for most, when shooting a shotgun at a moving target, trying not to see the gun is at the top of the list. Now lets see, can you visualize not seeing the gun?
If thinking was the culprit in this dilemma, then the solution would be to think less, but you see that is impossible because you can’t “not think.” In fact, trying not to think about the gun will likely only make the problem worse. If someone tells you, for instance, not to think of a pink ladder, you can try for a while, but it’s bound to pop up into your consciousness sooner or later, and probably sooner. When we try to perform a mental task, another part of our brain, which has been described as “the automatic process whereby we monitor control failures,” is meanwhile checking in from time to time to see how we’re doing. As we’re trying not to think of the pink ladder, the monitoring process pops its head through the door to ask: “How’s that not-thinking-of-a-pink-ladder coming along, then?” Ooops pink ladder!
The more we try to ignore what we’re doing with our body, the more our attention lingers over it. Just as a person suffering from a panic attack feels his heart racing and wonders if he is about to have another attack, the barrel checker notices his body doing the wrong thing and thereby sets up an unwanted feedback loop, amplifying the symptoms until his expertise is tied up in knots. Which leads us right back to the before mentioned question, how do you visualize not seeing something?
We deal with this preconceived notion on a daily basis and another one that facilitates the first one. We see especially in women the tendency to want to shoot with a mounted gun so they don’t (in their minds) have to take the time to go through the exercise of learning to mount the gun. Trying to learn to shoot a shotgun without learning the basic fundamental of how to move and mount the gun it is like wanting to fish but not knowing how to cast or wanting to play basketball and not knowing how to dribble. The paradox is that shooting with a mounted gun actually wares you out sooner, because the gun is mounted to the shooter’s shoulder more than twice as long, and guess what keeps getting in the way of the shooters vision? You guessed it, the gun. So you can see what a tangled web we weave when we don’t put our time in learning to move and mount the gun, and when we try not to look at the gun during the shot. Some shooters even think that they can mount the gun, check the beads, and then refocus their eyes away from the gun to pick up the bird. Let us assure you of one thing that we prove to shooters all over the world, if you are muzzle aware in the set up, you will be muzzle aware in the shot, and muzzle awareness in the shot makes the shooter stop their swing and keeps them from following through!
There is one thing that predicates all shooting methods in wingshooting and clays shooting–the shooter must have the capability to focus on the target past the gun. The good news is that can be done in the privacy of your own home just by practicing the move and mount with the flashlight in the barrel and moving and mounting the gun to the right and to the left of an object while keeping your focus on that object. That’s right, just simple gun mount drills make this problem go away, but we can’t get shooters to do even that. In fact, we have said that if you will do the OSP Flashlight Drill and the OSP Three-bullet Drill twice a day for10 minutes for 21 days you will improve your shot/kill ratio by 50%. We have yet to have someone call us on this as not being factual, and we have had many contacts with shooters who are amazed at what a difference this makes in their shooting. In the coming issues, we will talk about where your eyes need to be when shooting different shots and we will use stills from our Knowledge Vault animations to illustrate clearly where your eyes must be when the gun inserts in front of different targets. So between now and then, get that gun out of the safe and do your gun mounts, if you want to get better that is.—Gil and Vicki Ash