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Competing in Shooting Sports

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By Don Mallicoat- As mentioned in last week’s column, I just participated in the North Carolina Sporting Clays Championship. This column is not to provide a blow-by-blow account of my experience, but to share my experience to encourage other shooters to also participate in the shooting sport competition of their choice. Competitive events bring shooting to a whole new level. First a little background.

The National Sporting Clays Association (NSCA) hosts tournaments throughout the country where members can compete and register targets to qualify for classification rankings from M (Master) Class to E Class (beginning shooters). I am an E Class shooter simply because I haven’t shot any registered targets. So my shooting friend, Dale Pennell, and I have been looking for a registered NSCA shoot for nearly a year. We are both NSCA Level I instructors and starting this year are required to shoot registered targets to maintain our certification. Due to schedule conflicts throughout the year, the State Championship was our first opportunity to do so. I guess you could liken it to a beginning swimmer jumping in to the deep end of the pool.

The Championship was held at The Fork Stable in Norwood just south of Albemarle May 29 – June 1. Many of the sub-gauge and preliminary events were held the first two days with the Main Event which we went for was held on Saturday and Sunday. The Main Event was shot over two different 100 round courses: The Cross Country was 14 stations around the perimeter of a horse pasture; the Pee Dee was a 14 station wooded course. Two totally different courses that presented different challenges to each shooter.

We arrived Saturday morning and were scheduled to start on Station 10 of the Cross Country course. Let me just say up front that I did not score well on the Cross Country course. Even though I did not score well I learned more from shooting it than the other course. First, most of my sporting clays experience has been in wooded courses here in the mountains. Target presentations in the open presented problems for me in that it is more difficult to just target speed and distance in the open with no point of reference. Second, I am a morning person. That is when my energy level is highest. Half way through the course I could feel my energy dropping which affected my concentration which is critical to target focus. I also did not account for the afternoon heat and did not properly hydrate before and during the shoot which also affected my energy.

We shot the Pee Dee course Sunday morning. Again, a wooded course with which I am more familiar. My energy level was at its peak and those two factors were reflected in my final score which was 19 targets higher. It would have been 21 had I not forgotten to disengage my safety when calling for targets on the very last station which resulted in two lost targets.

So what did I learn from my first competitive experience? First, practice shooting in a variety of conditions at different times of day. Even on your home range, the angle of the sun can affect your ability to see and acquire targets. Shoot at unfamiliar ranges whenever you get a chance also. It is a definite learning experience. Second, don’t leave out any detail. Had I thought about my energy level and the heat, I would have eaten more prior to the shoot and over-hydrated before and during the shoot. I believe I would have shot better.

Was it worth the travel and expense? You bet and I plan to do it again next year. In fact, I plan on looking for other registered events at different locations. I encourage all shooters: shotgun, rifle, and pistol to find and participate in competition both in your local area and within reasonable travel distance. I know for many beginners it is daunting and you may be concerned that more experienced shooters will not welcome you. Nothing could be further from the truth. Someone at every shoot will be more than glad to help you get involved. There were 231 shooters at the State Championship main event. The High Over All (HOA) shooter scored 193 out of 200. The lowest E Class shooter scored 60 out of 200. But the main thing is they were out there trying. And as the great hockey player Wayne Gretsky once said, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.”

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