When it comes to hunting and shooting, your success doesn’t come from just having good equipment, it comes from having good shooting form, and confidence in your equipment and in your abilities. It’s the Mind, Body, Equipment trilogy working in sync that spells success. We may think we have our mind, body, and equipment working in harmony with each other, but if our shooting success is absent, or even just tardy, there’s something wrong, and tweaking of one or more of these facets is in order.
The mind is more powerful than we give it credit for. If you believe you really can do something, you generally will achieve that goal. If you’re not sure you can do something, and doubt yourself during the entire process, success will generally elude you. Ask someone who is highly successful what they think the key to their success is and they’ll probably tell you that confidence was the key. Someone I know said to me, “If you doubt yourself, you’ve already set yourself up for failure.” And it’s true. What builds confidence? Success. What builds success? Confidence. So where do I start? You start with your equipment.
You don’t need a $10,000 rifle to shoot well, but good-quality equipment is essential. Get yourself a gun and populate it with good-quality components. You need to rely on that equipment, so get to know it. I shot sporting clays side-by-side with someone using a $7,000 shotgun. I was embarrassed that I used my old, beat up $200 shotgun that looked like it had been dragged behind a pickup truck on a dirt road for 50 miles, but by the end of the day, the guy with the $7,000 shotgun was the one who was embarrassed, not be, because I out shot him 2 to 1. At the end of the day he ogled my well-worn shotgun and said, “I watched you shoot, and it was as if that shotgun was an extension of your body.” He was right. It was. All I said was, “We’ve been through a lot together; we know each other well.” As korny as that sounds, it’s true. I watched my father take three shots at pre-dawn wood ducks zipping past our duck blind at 50 mph, and downed all three with his 40-year-old, well-worn $50 Model 12 Winchester pump shotgun — and he did it with a full choke, no less. Watching him shoot was like poetry in motion. I was in awe of his skill. That man and his shooting machine were as one. If you want true shooting and hunting success, the best advice I can give you is to get to know your firearms — intimately. Have a relationship with them. Date them. Take them out, have a good time, but get to know them, their individual quirks. Only then will you become “One with your gun." World War II fighter pilots who followed that philosophy and became a living part of their fighter plane were the ones who came home alive.
Becoming “One” with your gun means your body needs training. Just as any physical trainer will tell you, “Form is key.” The same holds true with shooting. There is a right way to hold, aim, and shoot a firearm, and there’s a wrong way. Muscle memory is a very powerful thing — muscles don’t care if it’s wrong, just as long as it feels good. And all too often, the wrong form feels better than the right form, at least at first — but that’s only because we’ve been doing it wrong for so long that we’ve gotten used to it. Yes, it’s hard to break old habits, but it is well worth the effort. My wife and I purchased exercise equipment from a physical fitness store some years ago. The best advice they gave us was that they recommended we hire a physical trainer to teach us how to use the equipment we’d just purchased — because, they said, using proper form on this equipment will give you better, more consistent results much faster. And they were right. We both were ripped in no time. So if you apply proper form to your shooting training, you’ll develop skills that will serve you well on the hunt, and your chances for success will be much higher.
Okay. So we’ve covered the equipment component, and we’ve talked about the body component. So how much of a role does the mind play in successful shooting? The main role. I’ve seen athletes with crappy equipment achieve great things. I’ve seen hunters with just basic equipment harvest trophies that would make your grandfather cry, and all because they had confidence in themselves, and a persevering, can-do attitude. Mind over matter, they say. Training with quality equipment, and training your body with that quality equipment are both important, but if you can’t visualize your own success, and don’t have confidence in what you are doing, you may as well just stay home. Confidence in your equipment, confidence in your abilities, and confidence in yourself are essential to success. Success breeds confidence. And confidence breeds more success. You get confidence by achieving small successes, and then building on those successes, one on top of the other, like layers on a laminated gunstock. Each layer strengthens the other, supports the other. Mind, Body, Equipment — get these three to work together in good synchronicity, and you, too, will "Become one with your gun."
But first, get yourself a better, more-accurate Boyds gunstock. It’ll give you a big boost in shooting success, which will help breed confidence. :-)
by Richard Hoffarth