Spontaneity Plus

Incomers from a high tower often dazzle shooters. One way to deal with them is to deliberately not look until the last second, then shoot completely by reflex. In this photo, each shooter used the second barrel to take a flying shard.

by Terry Wieland

One interesting aspect of shotgunning is that it has essentially changed so little over the past century that one can look for answers to today’s problems in articles written in the 1950s—or, for that matter, 1910.

Every so often, rereading the works of Gough Thomas (G.T. Garwood) or Michael McIntosh, I come across the solution—or at least a possible answer—to a problem that has only recently bedevilled me.  I know I read the answer there in the past, but it didn’t stick because I hadn’t experienced the problem back then, or had not recognized it as such.

If I were asked to assess my own abilities with a shotgun, I would say that I am generally passable, with occasional brilliance but chronic streakiness.  The “occasional brilliance” covers the odd good shot I make, to my own surprise and that of others.  If those occasional flashes have one thing in common, it is that they are invariably spontaneous reactions to totally unexpected situations.

During a discussion of different shooting styles—sustained lead versus swing through—Gough Thomas received a letter from a reader wondering why he could consistently hit targets that appeared suddenly and unexpectedly, but when he had a chance at a bird approaching from a distance, in view all the way with lots of time to set up, he almost invariably missed.

It seems that G.T. himself suffered from the same tendency, so he had given the matter lots of thought.  His answer, boiled down to its most basic, was that thinking was the culprit.  Given time to think, time to plot, plan, calculate and prepare, a shooter’s instincts were overridden and, most important, spontaneity was lost.

A few weeks ago, shooting Skeet, I made one of the shots of which I am most proud when they occur.  On station one doubles, I broke both clays with the first shot, then turned to whack the largest piece of the low-house bird as it came hurtling by my shoulder.

In the past, I have been told I’m at my best on the unexpected, and at my worst when I know exactly where the bird’s coming from.  Put another way, by a rather shrewd Skeet coach years ago, “You think too damned much!”

Journalists, and writers generally, are trained from birth to examine things and analyze them, which of course requires thinking, and it’s a habit that, once formed, is nigh impossible to break.