These are trapshooting tips that have worked for me. Your mileage may vary. I am still not as good as I can get but by following these tips I continue to improve.
- Wear light colored glasses
Light colored glasses cause your eyes to dilate less then dark glasses. Your vision is sharper the less dialated your eyes are. You should also wear a hat with a brim that will help prevent squinting on bright days.
- Think positive thoughts
This is probably the most important thing I have done to improve my shooting. The subconscious brain cannot distinguish between a negative and a positive. So if when you call for a bird you are thinking “Don’t miss”, your subconscious is hearing “miss”. If you think “Don’t raise your head” the subconscious hears, “raise your head” and as a result most of the time you think this you WILL raise your head. So by thinking postive thoughts your subconscious only hears postive thoughts. The key words I focus on when I call for a target are, “Hit the target”, “See the bird”, “Head down”, “Slow and smooth”, “Wait for the target” (this last one is very effective if I have a bad puller).A good book on this subject is Mental Training for the Shotgun Sports by Michael J. Keyes
- Stand correctly
This one is so easy, but so misunderstood. A lot of trapshooters stand incorrectly at each station on the trap field. They line up in relation to the concrete on the ground instead of in relation to the traphouse. This causes you to have 5 different views of the target in relation to your body. At one station the targets are always going to come out to the left of the center of your body, at other stations they will always come out skewed to the right. As a result instead of having to learn one way to shoot targets you have to learn five ways. This is often why shooters have trouble with a given station, especially the end stations.By always setting up in relation to the traphouse you only have one view of the target that is consistent at all stations. For me I always setup so that my left foot is parallel to the path a hard left target would take. What this means is that at station 1 I am standing so that I appear perpedicular to the station’s centerline and at station 5 I am standing almost parallel to the centerline. The following picture illustrates how I place my feet.I will sometimes adjust my position depending on how I’m shooting on a particular day. If I’m having trouble with right-hand targets I will rotate clockwise slightly, visa-versa for problems with left-hand targets.
- Look at top of the trap house
There are a lot of differing views on this one, so select the one that works best for you. For me watching the front edge of the traphouse where the bird comes out helps me tremendously. This allows you to see the bird very early. All you will see initially is a streak of orange (in fact a lot of shooters call this shooting the streak). By seeing the streak so early you have more time to react to the target and can shoot it closer to the traphouse. The only disadvantage to this method as is that it increases eyestrain because you are constantly having to focus between the front edge of the trap house and the target kill zone. But if you follow the next tip this is minor.
- Don’t look around
Watch the trap house even when you are waiting your turn, don’t look around at the other shooters or the scene in the distance. By watching the trap house you are not having to constantly refocus your eyes. The only time your eyes refocus is when you call pull and the target comes out. Your eyes will then track the target. As soon as you shoot (and hit the target), refocus your eyes back on the top of the traphouse. This helps reduce eyestrain.
- Don’t move the gun until you see the target
A lot of shooters are aware of this but stop paying attention to it. If I shoot a lot I tend to start anticipating when the target is going to come out and start moving the gun when I call for the target. This results in missed birds and frustrating times. To correct this I work on it often during practice. I get a friend to pull for me and tell him to occasionally not throw a target when I call for one. This helps teach me to keep the gun still until the target has actually left the house, if I don’t keep the gun still it is very obvious as the gun barrel moves even though no target was thrown. For variations of this I will instruct my friend to also give me slow pulls, this again causes me to wait until I see the target before shooting. It also has the side effect that slow pulls no longer affect me in competition. Since I don’t move the gun until I see the target it doesn’t really matter when it comes out, so if it is a little slow I shoot it anyways. If the pull is very slow(>2 seconds) I will turn it down because my mind can’t stay focused for that long. But for slow pulls under 2 seconds I shoot them and haven’t missed one in over a year.
- Be consistent with your equipment
It takes me 5000-10000 rounds and 6 months to get proficient with new equipment. This includes a new gun, new shells, even minor adjustments to the comb or butt pad. I only make changes once a year starting in December and ending by January or Feburary. From then on I stick with the load and equipment I have and practice a lot until I’m proficient with it. This consistency pays off in that I never go into long slumps. I may have a bad day but since I started this routine I’ve never had 2 consecutive bad days.A lot of my trap shooting friends are changing guns or loads every week. They might shoot good one week but lousy the next week so they change something and keep changing things until they have a good day. But then a few days later they are shooting poorly again. They don’t understand that the changes they have made in the past days/week/month is what is causing their inconsistent shooting.
- Practice shooting 5 rounds at a time
When practicing I shoot five rounds of trap in a row before taking a break. This is to build my stamina and prepares me for competition. In competition you often don’t get any breaks between each round of 25 targets and move directly from the end of one round to the beginning of the next. If you don’t practice shooting at a 100 targets in a row, you will tend to get tired by the 3rd or 4th trap. If in practice you only shoot a single round then take a break, your body gets conditioned to this and when you shoot in competition after the first trap your body is expecting a break. When it doesn’t get it you start to get tired and make mistakes.
The reason I practice 5 rounds in a row as opposed to 4 which I would see in competition is to make sure that my body is conditioned to keep going all the way through the end of the 4th round.
- Hydrate your brain
Your brain’s reaction time decreases when you are dehydrated. A slow reaction time makes it harder to hit targets, you can still hit most of them but a few are going to slip away. So to make sure that your reaction time is quick be sure to drink plenty of fluids before and during a shoot. When I’m shooting I tend to drink 2 liters of water on cold days and up to 6 liters on very hot days. Give it a try.
This technique is used in every sport and for good reason it works. The idea is simple. Before any trapshooting event, mental visualize the entire event. Go through each step, imagining walking up to the station, positioning yourself, calling for the target, tracking the target, shooting the target, etc. Repeat 25 times, one for each target (or 100). The more detailed your visualization the better the result.Before a big competition I would do this in my motel room the night before. To be even more realistic I would actually hold my gun and go through the motions for every target, including pulling the trigger (using snap caps for shells). It worked well for me. All of my 100s in competitions always occured after going through the visualization process the night before. Give it a try.