Drive to the Target - Shooting Tips from Frank Thompson
Frank Thompson is at home on the range. The skeet range. He is a Nebraska cattle rancher, a member of Team USA and Team Winchester … and one of the top skeet shooters in the world.Thirty-one-year-old Frank is a two-time Olympian who has also participated in the Pan Am Games and World Championships in skeet. Having begun shooting with his father at age 10, Frank’s connection to the sport goes back to his birth when he was delivered by the former team doctor of USA Shooting. Other athletes in his extended family include second-cousin Patty Durkin, a multiple medalist in Paralympic wheelchair track and field. With more than 20 years of skeet experience, Frank has learned a number of tips and techniques that any clay target shooter can use.
First of all, move your body! If you swing your shotgun on a target with only your arms, you risk setting up changing angles.
“You should feel the movement to the target,” Frank says, “from the bottoms of your feet to the top of your head, all working together in time with the speed of the target.”
This will hold your face in the same position on the stock and ensure you are maintaining the proper sight picture to keep your gun pointing at the right place with every shot.
Be in your right mind. Frank has taught himself to “Drive” to the target by focusing solely on moving to the bird and letting his trained subconscious take over the mechanics of firing and breaking the bird.
Frank puts it like this:
“The easiest way to explain it, is to remember how you act-feel when you shoot at your best, and keep developing and building that to the point where you shoot in that same state one-hundred percent of the time.”
Don’t sweat the small stuff. Shooters can get lost in the weeds of minor adjustments or some novel method they may have heard of, but there’re often good reasons for an old dog not to learn new tricks. You can practice dozens of different drills to sharpen your shooting; but simply breaking it down to the bare-bones of the mechanics and attitude that hits targets will give you what you need to underpin you when the pressure mounts.
Then, in the words of Mike Tyson, “Everyone has a plan ’till they get punched in the mouth.”
In the words of Frank Thompson, when you find yourself in the stress of the middle of a competition, or only a round with friends, “Have this simple setup: Feet, Hold Point, Eyes, Drive–and that Drive we talked about earlier, will come to you effortlessly.” Every shot, set your feet to the position to break the target, move the gun to your hold point, settle your eyes, and drive with your body–make this the core of your shooting.
Frank’s last two tips are more cerebral than mechanical. One is to think big.
You may only focus on winning the match and find yourself in the middle with a lead, then just coast through and lose in the end. Concentrate on a larger goal: Shooting a clean round, breaking all the birds, or turning them all to dust when you break them. Envision the best outcome.
Have a goal, Frank says, “that can keep you interested and your energy level up to a point where you can perform at the highest level.”
Finally, accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative. Listening to negativity at the range–the light’s bad, the wind’s wrong, the birds are too fast or too slow, I can’t find my sight picture–can affect your shooting. Don’t listen. To shoot well, says Thompson, above all, “Surround yourself with positive talk, thoughts, people, and you will skyrocket your performance in a very short time.” And Winchester® AA®’s are a positive step in that direction, too.
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