Many people are drawn to trap shooting because of the inherent challenge of competing against themselves in a constant quest to be a better shooter today than they were yesterday. By virtue of this, in the game of trapshooting, everyone is a student. Beginners and experienced pros alike know they must continually improve their game to get to the next level and achieve the next goal they’ve set for themselves. Whether you’ve shot 100 targets or 10,000, these five tips will help to improve your trap shooting.
1. Establish proper gun fit
When shooting trap or any other discipline of shotgun sports, gun fit is a key element. The criticality of the proper gun fit cannot be overstated, as gun fit can impact your ability to acquire and break the target. It can also affect how much you can comfortably practice, your endurance during an event, and the way you feel for days after the event due to soreness and bruising from recoil, or lack thereof.
Most guns meant to be sold off-the-shelf are built for an “average” height and build shooter. This means there are few shooters who buy a gun that fits them perfectly without some modification. Fitting your gun may include length alteration, comb height adjustment, or cast change. There are excellent gun fitters all over the country and it’s likely that your local trap club staff can recommend one in your area.
2. Create a routine
As experts on the mental game will agree, it’s never too early – or late – to start thinking about the mental game. One key tenant of being successful at the mental game of trap is creating and adhering to a consistent routine while you’re on the trap line.
An effective routine will help you to keep your mind clear of distractions, prevent nerves from derailing your performance, and encourage repeatable success. A pre-shot routine can and should vary by individual and could be as simple as “Deep breath. Close the gun. Mount the gun high on your shoulder. Find your hold point. Call for the bird.” You can customize the routine to include the key elements of your process you want to focus on.
3. Practice, practice, practice
Practice is a key element to becoming an expert in any hobby you pursue. However, the quality of the practice is significantly more important than the quantity. When you go to the range for a practice session, ensure that you’re intentional with your goals for that day. Some days, it may mean that you focus only on left hand targets. Others, it may be that you load two shells and shoot the target with one, then the biggest chip of the broken target with your second shot to train your body to keep your head on the gun after the shot. Whatever your daily goal may be, make sure that you are using your time on the practice field to achieve it or learn from it.
4. Find a shooting buddy
While shooting alone is often more efficient while practicing, shooting with a buddy can springboard your progress. Often, when you shoot alone, you find a different rhythm than when you shoot with others. Too much solo shooting can lead to a difficult transition when shooting a competition with a full squad. A consistent shooting partner is often the first person to realize if you’ve made an unintentional change in your technique, which can prevent hours of frustration down the road. Have your shooting partner regularly photograph and video you while shooting. Like how professional sports teams reviewing their tapes after a game, you can use these images and videos to review your technique, experiment with adjustments, and pinpoint areas of improvement. This is also a great way to track change over time and to document how your shooting has evolved.
5. Stick with what works
When you find the choke combination that you love, or a favorite shell load, or a vest that fits you very comfortably – don’t change it. Sometimes in the pursuit of perfection, we scrap something great in favor of something good, and it can impact months of progress. When possible, if you find something you like, stick with it. Too often, we see shooters adjust their gun during the week, then post their personal best score over the weekend, only adjust their gun more the next week! If you do need to trial something new, make sure to give yourself enough time to determine if it’s better or worse than your previous solution. Then, make your decision and don’t waver from it until you have a reason to try something else. As the old saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”
Make your next Trap Shooting outing more comfortable with the FalconStrike Hydraulic Recoil Pad!
By Mimi Wilfong
Mimi has traveled the world shooting trap and helice, and has a full trophy case to commemorate the trips. She’s currently president of the United States Helice Association and on the board of directors at the Dallas Gun Club. In her spare time, Mimi volunteers with a number of conservation and youth shooting organizations and tries, often unsuccessfully, to keep her amazing dog, Hoss (Deutsch Drahthaar) out of trouble.