I began shooting competitively in February of 2010 when I was 13. In the last year and a half I’ve done a large number of NSCA, ATA and charity events. To be honest – it’s become a blur and the exact number was lost somewhere in January of 2011. Since I live in Florida even though there are competitions in the summer I rarely turn out for them. May is generally when I stop competing and then pick it back up in mid to late August. So I cram as many events in as I can from September to May.
This year I received sponsorship and was able to compete in the NSCA Delta Classic tournament in Arkansas. I’ve only had the opportunity to compete at NSCA events in Florida, but I’ve been at State twice and that is conceivably the most difficult I’d seen till September 24th of this year. Making it to the Delta Classic meant a great deal to me and it was the first event I’d been to where the payout was so high for those who placed in the top 10. The Delta had some of the top shooters in the nation make an appearance.
For me personally the two day event was heart-stopping. Day one introduced me to the White Course of Death. It’s appropriate they called it the white course, because that was the color of my knuckles while gripping my gun. It was – hands down – the most difficult course I’d ever seen. I wasn’t the only one. High level, multi-time US Open champions barely made the 70 mark out of the 100 clays thrown on the White course. It was the lowest score I ever made in a competition. I’m fairly certain the closest bird was 60 yards out. So high, so far and screaming at top speeds.
I was leveled on day one by that White course. It knocked the wind out of my sails, destroyed my confidence and made me sick to my stomach. I am by nature a ultra-competitive, perfectionist. I can’t stand to get less than an “A” on school work, a ‘good job’ from my sensei in Jiu Jitsu, which yes are rarely doled out, to not get my PR on the next lift or bend in strength training, it drives me insane to not shoot a 25 out of 25 in skeet and trap and anything under a 90 on a sporting clays course just chaffes my hide. To top it off I was sponsored to go. I felt like I let the people down who’d shown an interest and confidence in me.
Saturday night I thought about the course over and over again. Why I’d shot a certain way, why I’d taken my face off the gun at the wrong moment, my follow through, my mount, why I’d stopped the gun when I shouldn’t have and then it dawned on me that I was letting all the technical points of shooting override the point – Hit the target. It’s really a pretty simple sport when you come right down to it. Clear out the techinical mumbo-jumbo, see the clay, shoot and hit it. It shouldn’t matter how far, how high or how fast. I’d forgotten all that.
Sunday I went in with that mindset and shot with my squad on the Blue course. I faired much better and shot one of the top scores on the course during my flight. It still wasn’t enough to put me in the money. Saturday’s score kept me in 11th place, one spot of the cash, but not bad considering there were 316 competitors over all. I had a hard time coming to grips with the fact that I didn’t place, but one thing was glaringly clear to me – what I learned on the White course on Saturday was invaluable.
The competitions I’ve done in the past few weeks since coming home have been amazing. Keeping in mind what I saw and learned that day, the targets that everyone else complain about look like nothing to my eyes now. It’s changed my perspective and my skill level. I guess sometimes even if you don’t place in the money, the knowledge you gain far outweighs the dollar amount in the long run.
When you’re traveling on the road – sometimes you have to stop and do some fun things too. Like getting in a few rock lifts and stopping in Baton Rouge, LA to get some pics at Red Jacket, talk to a few of the guys and bend some nails for them, because they were nice enough to come out and speak to me. I never miss an episode of Sons of Guns!