Claybrakn... Preseason Prep (1/11)

Preseason Prep   
By Frank Neumayer 

Question:   It’s a new year, and I’d really like to get a head-start on improving my shooting performance.  I know of a few things I need to work on… but what extra advice can you give me that will help improve my scores right from the start? 


Answer:  It’s been a while now since the last registered clay target season ended.  Many of us switched from our competitive clay target guns to our good old trusted field guns as the fall hunting season started.  For several months now we’ve enjoyed the thrill of live birds, foul weather, trying to keep warm and dry, and the distinct aroma of wet and dirty hunting dogs in the back of the rig.  However, with the holidays behind us and spring in the forecast, our thoughts again are moving toward the up-coming competitive shooting season… and whether or not we’ll be ready to perform as well as we would like.  Some serious questions arise as we contemplate just how ready are we for what’s ahead?  As we all prepare for the upcoming season, most of the questions I’m hearing from my fellow shooters center on three main areas of concern.  Am I physically ready?  Are my guns and loads, new or old, up-to-speed?  What goals and objectives should I set, and what should I be doing now to get properly prepared?  With these questions in mind, let’s look into the details a little more, and try to dispel some of those preseason concerns.

First Point:   You’ll need to honestly evaluate your current physical and mental condition, and then seriously address whatever may be wrong or has changed.  As a senior shooter, I’ve become painfully aware of my long time, nagging aches and pains, and how they can negatively affect my shooting focus, strength, and stamina.  Every year I find myself asking the same questions.  How are my neck, arms, shoulders, back, knees, and ankles doing… are they OK?  If not, what do I need to do to get back on track?  For example, a friend of mine just went through some painful foot surgery just so he can be healed-up and ready to go when the competitive shooting season starts.  Above all, don’t forget about your vision.  My eyes have always been my main concern.  For that reason I have them checked every year to make certain everything is fine, and that my prescription is still accurate.  As in other sports, good performance is tied directly to good physical and mental conditioning.  If you are serious about competing, then it’s imperative that you do whatever is necessary to properly prepare yourself for peak performance and success.  "It's not the will to win that matters - everyone has that.  It's the will to prepare to win that matters."   Paul (Bear) Bryant      


Second Point:   Now is the time to reevaluate your guns, gear, and loads.  If nothing has changed, and you’re staying with what’s been successful, then this part of preseason preparation will be fairly easy.  However, if new guns, new loads, and new lenses are in you plans, then you better allow for the necessary work required to get everything dialed-in correctly.  If this is the case, then getting the proper gun fit and pattern performance becomes critical.  Quality time on the pattern board, along with shooting at plenty of properly set targets, will become the drill.  Remember, once you’ve got everything dialed-in, it will still take several thousand rounds or more through a new gun before you can expect to feel confident and consistent with your results.  At the start of each season, I give all my guns a thorough cleaning and inspection.  Then I promptly fix or replace whatever is necessary.  For reassurance, I also spend some time on the pattern board rechecking my competition loads for proper speed and pattern results.  It’s extremely important you start the season with as much confidence as you can and build from there.  Without it, you’ll be spending most of the season just trying to catch-up. 


Third Point:   Focus your attention on revisiting the shooting basics and fundamentals.  Whether you’ve been shooting for years, or you’re fairly new to the sport, having a solid understanding of the basics and fundamentals, coupled with proper execution, will bring about success more than anything else you do.  Start with revisiting your basic set-up and positioning for each break from each post or station.  Then move through your gun mount, hold points, break points, and follow-through, for each and every type of target presentation.  Having some experienced help or coaching - that extra set of eyes - will certainly help in making sure you’re still doing everything correctly.  Don’t be surprised to find out that you’ll need to re-establish the proper discipline, patience, timing, and movement needed to be breaking every target every time.  Now is also the time to focus on setting your personal shooting goals and objectives for the season.  I recommend you choose no more than three.  All of your goals should be challenging and attainable, with one set aside as being a stretch goal.  This stretch goal is one that can only be achieved if you are willing and able to apply that extra hard work and commitment necessary to make it a reality.    

     Another important factor to being properly prepared for the upcoming season is to establish a good practice regiment, one which you will continue with throughout the entire season.  To make your goals and objectives a reality, you’ll need to make a personal commitment to dedicate enough time each week toward improving and perfecting your game.  A key point to remember is to not waste your time on quantity when practicing, but rather to focus on developing a quality practice routine.  All of your practice efforts should focus on continuously improving and perfecting every aspect of your shooting game.  My primary goal every year is to be at my peak performance level when all the major shooting tournaments unfold toward the end of the summer.  In the preseason, I start by working hard to prepare myself for success, and then as the season unfolds, I continue to work at perfecting and mastering every aspect of my shooting performance.  What will separate you from the rest of the pack will be your level of desire, determination, and most of all, your personal commitment to become the best shooter you can be.    


     If you have a specific question, send me an email at and I’ll do my best to get it answered.  Please keep your questions brief and to the point.  

See you at the club… Frank


© 2011 Claybrakn Shotgun Instruction. All Rights Reserved. 


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