If you are a B or C-grade shooter, should you go to the Field & Game Australia National Carnival? The short answer, the best answer and the only answer is yes. Michael Kruger-Davis, psychologist and member of Wagga Wagga Field & Game, explains why you should attend.
In November, as always, the Field & Game National Carnival will be held. This year again it will be held in Bairnsdale. It is easy to think that if you are a lower grade shooter or an average A-grade shooter, the Nationals are out of your reach or that you will perform badly, be embarrassed or humiliated. However, succeeding at the Nationals is not always about shooting a great score.
The Nationals has a lot to offer all shooters but for the lower grade shooters there is so much they can gain from the top competition in Australia.
Firstly, there is always the chance that you may get to shoot alongside some of Australia’s best shots. They may not be in your squad but they may be in the squad before you or on the practice traps, so you can watch how they address the target and how they shoot the target. In shooting magazines and YouTube videos we are often told about hold point, pick up point, kill point and follow through.
At a large competition you can observe some of the best as they go through their pre-shot routine and then their shot routine.
Secondly, there is the opportunity to visit the trade displays. Have a look at and compare guns and gear. Pick up a Perazzi, Krieghoff or Beretta.
Some of these companies even offer gunsmithing services where your gun can be checked and adjusted, springs etc replaced for little or no charge. As well as looking at the merchandise and maybe getting a bargain, there is also the opportunity to meet the people behind the brands. This can be very handy when months later you decide you want a new gun: you can call them up and re-establish the relationship that was formed at the Nationals.
The most important aspect of attending the Nationals was bought home to me personally in 1997. I had been shooting trap for about 18 years and had never been to the Nationals.
In 1997 they were held in Wagga Wagga, which is only 110 km from where I live. At the time I wasn’t intending to go. I didn’t want to take time off work and I thought that as a B-grade shooter there would be no point in going. I was a member of Hay Gun Club and Jack Headon asked if I was going. I said “No”, and he responded with, “Why not?”
Jack was a several-times National Championship and a member of the ACTA Hall of Fame.
His argument became compelling when he said: “It doesn’t matter how you shoot at these Nationals, when you come back you will shoot much better at your local club shoots.”
So, armed with Jack’s words of wisdom and, having Jack as a mentor, I went to the Nationals as a B-grader, finished the Nationals as an A-grade and three weeks after the Nationals, was in AA-grade.
For the Field & Game shooter the premise is still the same. If you only shoot at your club and neighbouring clubs, you do not get to see the range of interesting, challenging and difficult targets that are set at the Nationals.
It is also likely that at the Nationals you will strike a target that is difficult and may even appear impossible. At the Pinegrove Nationals I struggled with some looper targets and seeing that each field had a couple of these targets, it meant I was really struggling. There wasn’t much I could do at the competition but when I got home I sought out a coach and made sure this target wasn’t going to be a problem next year.
The last point is that the nationals give you a baseline from which to evaluate your performance in the future. Each time you go to your club shoot you will be able to say: “That was a target that could have been at the Nationals” or “None of those targets were as hard as the targets that we shot at the Nationals.”
By shooting the more challenging targets and keeping a log of your performance you get to understand what you can and cannot do well. You know what to practise and where you need to put your efforts in when training.
I will be at this year’s Nationals. I go for the competition, the targets, to have fun, the camaraderie and to learn something. I get to meet old friends from years past and meet new ones. If you do not go to the Nationals this year, think about making sure you go in the future, especially if the competition is close to home. I have never shot outstandingly well but I have always had a great time.
Michael Kruger-Davis is a consulting psychologist who has had more than 35 years’ experience shooting clay targets: trap, skeet and sporting. He is a member of the Wagga Wagga Branch of Field & Game Australia. He uses SAGA ammunition supplied by Hunts Shooting Supplies.