I’ve been working my way up the NSCA classifications for the past 2 years now. My opportunities to shoot NSCA competitions are peppered through out the year so it takes a while when doing it that way. Particularly if some of the shoots have only so many shooters per class – if you win your class you get a punch, but coming in 2nd or 3rd gets you nothing. You need to have more than 10 shooters to get a nice punch grouping.
I’ve been in B class for a while trying to earn the eight punches I needed to move up to “A” class. I very much wanted to be in “A” class this year when I went to State competition. FishHawk Sporting Clays has some great events and have a good number of competitors show up for their NSCA shoots. On March 10th I was hoping to secure the win in “B” and with the existing seven punches I had already, I just needed one more to move to “A.”
At the end of the event I did with “B” and was awarded four punches given the number of competitors in my class, but what I couldn’t shake was the irritation with my own score. I had done alright scoring an 89 out of 100, but station 16 was my downfall. I had gone all day only dropping six clays. By the time I reached station 16, my last and final set of the day I was sporting a 94. I was pretty darn happy with that!
Station 16 was a beautiful pair with a great challenge! As Steve Middleditch says with his British* accent, “It’s exciting!” One was a far Teal and the other, a powerful launching Chondelle. I love that stuff! I decided to use my cylinder choke for the 10 yard and a full choke for the 50 yard. Sounds logical right?
The calls went like this:
Me: Pull! (bang, bang)
Trapper: Dead, loss
Me: Pull! (bang, bang)
Trapper: Lost pair
Me: What the?? How did I miss those? Both of them? Are you sure? Doah! *grumble* PULL! (bang, bang)
Trapper: Lost pair, shooter out with a one.
A one? A one! I was livid! I’ll admit it, sometimes I may have a John McEnroe reaction to my errors, though I don’t throw my Beretta, because quite frankly it costs more than a tennis racket and I adore my shotgun. I stood, dumbfounded, staring at the field and traps. I looked down at my gun and realized I had the barrels set wrong. I always shoot the top barrel at the first bird. It’s just the way I prefer to do it. My lever was in the reverse position. I had in fact shot the full choke at the 10 yard bird and the open cylinder at the 50 yard bird. No wonder I didn’t hit them. Quite frankly I still should have smashed the 10 yarder every time, but only did once. It was obliterated – smoke, but dropped five clays at that one station from a very minor, rookie error.
I will never again mount my gun in station and just assume the lever is in the correct position as it is 99% of the time. It’s that one percent that can cost you your score, place or worse – if you’re in purse competition – the winning spot for the cash. Lesson learned and I’m thankful I was far enough ahead in class that I still placed and was able to win class and concurrent classification in Sub Juniors, but till they announced scores I thought for sure I was sunk.
Simple mistakes can be made at any time whether you’re nine competing for the first time or 65 shooting in the Lifetime Masters division. Never assume everything is as it was at the last station or become comfortable in the assumption, “but it’s always set this way.”
- Check the barrel you put your choke in twice to make sure you didn’t switch it if you’re shooting a double barrel.
- Check your lever that determines which barrel fires first (if you have one).
- If you change your ammo depending on the bird, make sure you’re grabbing from the correct pocket and read the shell to make certain.
Small things make the difference.