To shoot clay targets well, you have to think only of the next bird.

A short attention span is my weak spot as a shooter, as it is for a lot of people. I’ll be doing fine, running a round of skeet or trap, or a smoking a station at sporting clays, when some little, nagging thought pops into my mind, just long enough to wreck my straight or leave me with yet another 9×10 at a station I could have run easily. If you try to suppress those nagging thoughts, they come back at the worst possible time, just as you pull the trigger.

Instructor Gil Ash, who I wrote about last week, taught me a simple trick. So far, it has worked wonders. “You can’t suppress a thought,” he told me. “That’s like trying not to think of elephants for a minute. Instead, you have think about it, process it and move past it.” I’ve heard this from Ash and others before. This time, though, Ash told me to deal with random thoughts by telling myself: “That’s really interesting. I’ll think about that right after I break these next targets.” For me it works perfectly: it acknowledges the thought, then effectively pigeonholes it in a corner of my mind long enough for me to focus on the task at hand. I pass this tip along here in hopes of helping others like me.

Last week I put Ash’s advice to a tough test. We shot sporting clays, and the foursome ahead of us had left the ground littered with once-fired AAs. For a reloader , it was like walking on money. As I stepped into the cage, the thoughts started: “How many are there? Is that one crushed too badly to reload?

I wonder if there are more in the long grass?” Then I would tell myself: “I’ll think about those hulls after I shoot these targets.” I shot a good enough score to beat my friends and
pocketed a couple hundred once fired AAs. A day of shooting doesn’t get much better than that.

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Online editor Nate Matthews (seen elsewhere on this site doing some ATV wrestling in Canada) sent me this video along with a note: “This thing would f*** you up”:

At a rate of fire of 56 paintballs per second it surely would, unless I was in one of these.