In a rare lapse of good taste I shot a round of Sporting Clays a couple of days ago. It was not only the first time I’d shot Sporting in exactly a year, but also the first time I’d picked up a shotgun in exactly a year. This is not because I dislike shotgunning (although I’d like it better if the targets held still), but because other things, such as rifles and handguns, got in the way.

I had visions of dishonoring myself and disgracing Field & Stream, but I not only shot a few birds better than last year, but came within a couple of targets of the guy who was High Gun for the day. This leads me to wonder: Do you get to the point where you’ve shot so much that you reach a kind of irreducible minimum level of performance? Is it like learning to ride a bicycle as a kid, not climbing on one for 40 years, taking it up again, and discovering you still have your balance and everything else?

I’ve had the same experience shooting trap. Compete in a summer league, don’t touch it for a year, and then start up again at exactly the same level as before. What would happen if I laid off for five years? Ten years? What I do know is that if you want to shoot your best, you do have to practice. Shooting in that same summer league, I do okay on handicap and doubles, but don’t really start breaking them until the end of the season when I’ve gotten my rhythm back but it’s too late to do any good.

Anyway, I prefer rifles. The targets may be a long way off, but they at least stay in one place.