Well, it may come as no surprise to many readers that I have been shooting clays for over 40 years man and boy (ouch). I love the the sport and have tried most forms of it, I started with a hand flinger on my grandmother's farm in Kent without the luxury of anyone else to operate it. Happy days! Anyway, without digressing into too much nostalgia, I have come to that stage in life where you tend to say more or less what you think and damn the consequences. Your friends will still love and your enemies will continue to snipe.
You know what? I don't think enough people enjoy their clay shooting. I think many have the wrong attitude, and I don't think enough of us realise that the fundamental competition – when there needs to be one – is with yourself. Nothing else counts for much. Our sport has two fundamental goals in my view: developing shooting skill and having fun – that smile that comes on your face every time you crunch a clay. It can be used for other good purpose too. Shooting can be a great confidence builder (especially for those who may not have succeeded at other sports). It can become a vehicle for self development both mental and physical. It gives one the opportunity to mix with like minded-souls regardless of class, creed, age and gender. But, right up there at the top of the list are the sporting challenge and the sheer joy of it.
The flip side is that one can get too serious and obsessive (and I hold my hand up to having done it on occasion). Serious competition is just that, and has its place, as most wonderfully illustrated by Pete Wilson recently. But, clay shooting is for most who participate in it, a recreational activity and there is sometimes a danger of forgetting it. For example, too often, you see people getting stupidly worked up when they shoot, worrying about all sorts of useless stuff – blaming gun, chokes, cartridges, targets, the weather, and just about everything except their often all too miserable selves when they miss the odd bird.
So you missed a target or two – so what? We all do. Do you think anyone else is interested? Of course, not, so don't spoil their day and let yourself down with petulance. Take pride in your shooting by all means, but learn to enjoy it too, misses and all (and, one might add learn from the misses if you can). Whilst some shooting sins are just about forgiveable, some aren't. Don't become bitchy, unkind, or mean-spirited. Don't bully young scorers or intimidate fellow shooters. Don't cheat – you're only cheating yourself. Don't damage the shooting experience of others by your own immature behaviour or anger. Don't run off to an internet forum to post some spiteful bile from behind the anonymity of a silly name. Behave like a sportsman, and NEVER lose your sense of humour.