Top Level Shooting Advice

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That's me with fellow Iowan and Pan Am skeet gold medalist Haley Dunn at last weekend's Aiming for a Cure (aimingforacure.com) Celebrity Hunt in Riverside, Iowa. Haley has just beaten me at sporting clays. There's not much shame in adding your name to the long list of people who have lost a shooting match to Haley Dunn. Besides, she's a sweetheart.

It's always fascinating to spend time with top level shooters. During a break when a thunderstorm rolled in I had a chance to talk shooting with Dunn and Allan Treadwell, who has also represented the US in the demanding game of international skeet. We talked about frame of mind. I've always thought shooters do their best in a tranquil, zenlike state. Surprisingly, Treadwell said he shot best when he was angry. He even set a national record when he was particularly mad at one smack-talking opponent. Dunn agreed: "Being angry makes you more aggressive," she said. "I used to have to get angry to shoot aggressively, but I 've learned to summon the aggression without getting mad."

Later that day I had an opportuniry to try their advice. After missing a fast quartering incomer twice I decided it was time to try some anger and aggression. I thought: "I'm shooting the next one right in the face." I may have even sneered as I crushed the next three pairs.

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One of the hardest things to do in competition is not to think about the match while you're waiting your turn to shoot at each station. You need to occupy your conscious mind with something - anything -- so the pressure doesn't get to you. Said Treadwell: "When I was shooting skeet, If I had to pee when I got on the course, I always shot a 25 straight."

It makes perfect sense: if your conscious mind is completely occupied with wishing you could find a bathroom, it can't think about the score or anything that might make you miss. "It's a distraction that focuses you," said Allan.

So there are your high level shooting tips for today: drink plenty of liquids and get mad before you shoot.