My mate is a pretty average shot.

Like many of us he’s often better than average, in fact sometimes he can be surprisingly good – but on other days he’s rubbish!

This guy produced a typically un-spectacular practice round. Coincidentally we met up in our local pub that evening and, after a swift half or three, the conversation inevitably turned to ways in which he might improve his scores.

We talked about all the conventional tried and tested techniques for hitting more targets but we also discussed a few ideas that are not usually mentioned.

One of the biggest handicaps a shooter can inflict upon themselves is the psychological desire NOT to win! In the case of my mate mentioned above, I genuinely believe he could be a pretty good, consistent shot.

However, I doubt it will happen. As long as there’s a spare cartridge in his pocket, he’ll never get on the winners’ podium, simply because he doesn’t take it seriously.

There are two sides to this argument.

From his point of view when he goes out to shoot a few clays with his mates it’s not really meant to be a competition, it’s all part of his day off. It’s a time to relax and unwind from the pressures of work. If he does well he’s pleased.

If, on the other hand, he misses a few more than usual it’s a case of ‘so what’? He’s had a nice day out, a good craic with a few friends, so who cares what it says on the scorecard. In fairness to the bloke, though, I know his approach is completely different when it comes to game shooting.

My view is completely opposite, though. I reckon he’s just being lazy!

Anyone, and I really do mean anyone, can be a better shot if they put their mind to it. The adage of ‘put your backbone where your wishbone is’ has never been more true.

When you walk onto a stand you’ve got to want to kill that clay, so much so that it’s as if your life depended upon it. (If that clay pigeon was a pheasant, and you had just one cartridge – and a starving family to feed – I’m sure that would concentrate the mind!)

Watch any of the top shots that are competing at National or International level. While they’re usually pleasant to other members of their squad they rarely indulge in chatter and banter – and they’ll never let their minds wander from the job in hand.

Olympic athletes – including our shooters – talk of being ‘in the zone’. In layman’s language this simply means that they’re 100% committed and their concentration is total. At our (club) level of shooting I’m not suggesting we walk around like robots ignoring everybody. All I’m saying is concentrate when you’re getting ready to shoot.

Watch the bird, know exactly where you’re going to bust it and visualise the breaking clay in your mind. Take it seriously… remember the feeding the family scenario.

I promise your scores will improve if you do!