Over-Tried, Over-Thought

It sometimes feels like I’m an AA-class shooter, but only 15% of the time.

I managed to get out for a wander on Sunday evening, a little later than usual. I stumbled upon what looked like a fairly solid flight line, but it dried up as soon as I could get the decoys out.

I still haven’t solved the problem of how one carries poles, netting, magnet and kit bag all at once without it a) being painfully uncomfortable to carry and b) taking forever to load and unload. Vehicular access isn’t great on some of the land I shoot which usually means a long walk to the place I want to set up. By the time I’ve got there, I’ve drawn so much attention to myself that every bird within 100 miles has disappeared in the opposite direction and invariably, little to nothing turns up in the decoys.

Then again, I’ve never been good at decoying and don’t really have the lifestyle to allow for it, so what do I expect? (Or that’s my excuse, anyway.)

After a few attempts in a few different spots, I decided to pack it in and just go for a walk. Since the plotter paper for my next set of pattern testing remains on order but hasn’t arrived as yet, I took the Baikal 12-gauge out again (with the new home loads) in the hope of getting to know it a bit better. I had a few shots, did a lot of thinking, working out and theorizing and missed everything.

Everything, that is, until I was surprised by a juvenile wood pigeon escaping from the hedgerow in front of me which I promptly blew to bits with the full choke barrel at about 20 yards distance.

In a sense, that bird – unfortunately rendered inedible – was a corollary to the 60-yarder of a fortnight earlier: a surprise opportunity where taking the shot involved nothing more than what was essentially a reflex, absent of conscious thought. At 20 yards, the lead coming out of that barrel isn’t so much a pattern as a lump and if I hadn’t have been bang on target, I’d have missed it altogether.

It’s frustrating to realize once again that, if I could only stop analyzing, stop trying to “measure” the right amount of lead and instead just focus on the bird and let my instincts control the act of firing the gun, I’d bring home a lot more birds. (I might have to buy an open-choked 20-gauge for my next gun and then I’d actually be able to eat them too!)

Indeed, this “over-thinking” is the cause of a number of my acquaintance from the shooting association thinking I am much, much better at shooting than I really am, because they happen to have seen me shoot one or two “spectaculars” but not to miss the five or ten easy 25-yard birds in between. Although I do try to correct them, circumstances have conspired to give me an undeserved reputation. (It seems that having absolutely no idea where to shoot usually gives the same result as not having time to think about where to shoot: the bird on the floor and no-one, myself included, having the foggiest idea of how I brought it down.)

I’m my own worst enemy sometimes.

Due to other forthcoming commitments, pattern testing with the .410 will begin again in a couple of weeks.