Zen and Skeet Shooting (as Therapy)

Life’s a bitch, then you die…. or so the saying goes.  Tough times come to everyone at some point, and nowadays, it seems like times are getting tough for a lot of us, even Skeet Shooters.  But we have one thing the rest of the world doesn’t; we have Skeet.  Skeet Shooting may be the ultimate in stress reduction, mental relaxation, and personal therapy. 

First, the obvious - Ever get just so frustrated and fed up with the insanity of the world that you just wanted to punch a wall or take a baseball bat to your (or someone else’s) car?  No matter how satisfying the idea may seem, neither of those actions is going to end well.  But take a couple of hours out at your local Skeet Range and you can smash all of the targets you want…trust me, you’ll feel better and you won’t have any repairs to make or damages to pay for.  What could be a better reliever of stress and frustration than blowing clay targets up with a shotgun?

But Skeet Shooting is far, far more than just an outlet for venting your frustrations.  Skeet Shooting can be magical, even mystical.  Skeet Shooting can take you to a place where all of the bad things in your world don’t even exist.  To shoot Skeet well requires concentration and focus.  By necessity, to break the target, you must block out all external thoughts and distractions.  You’ve got to concentrate solely on the target; see nothing but the target; be alone in the universe with the target (that’s the Zen part).  Now, the longest shots on the field, the slow incomers at the end stations, only take about two seconds from ‘pull’ to ‘bang’, but for those two seconds, the magic happens.   Your mind clears completely; you think of nothing.  You hear nothing of the sounds around you, and you see only the target floating gracefully before you.  Your body moves without conscious thought, swinging the gun to track your target’s path.  At the exact proper moment, without your even being aware of it happening, your finger pulls the trigger and BOOM!  You watch over the still flowing barrel as the target instantly disappears leaving a cloud of black smoke in its place.  For a brief shining moment elation washes over your entire being, angels sing in perfect harmony, and all is right in your world.  It is a fleeting moment to be sure, but even as the feeling fades, a small piece of it remains with you as you walk off the pad and back into the real world.  And each time your turn comes up, you get to travel back to that magical place again.  And the feeling is cumulative; each time you smash a target, your step is just a little bit lighter.  By the end of a good round of Skeet, life’s troubles and tribulations don’t seem quite so insurmountable.  Just knowing that magical place exisits is enough to bring a ray of light and hope into a world of darkness.

Skeet has a third therapeutic feature as well, it is simply the atmosphere at the club, the camaraderie and fellowship of spending time with other shooters.  Even when you’re not actually on the field shooting, just hanging around the clubhouse, laughing and joking with other club members or swapping laments about how the wind pushed that target down at the very instant you pulled the trigger just lifts the spirit and lightens the burdens of your soul.  It’s better than hours on the therapist’s couch.

While Skeet Shooting may not actually solve all of the ills and evils of the world that you’re dealing with, a couple of hours at the gun club can certainly improve your perspective and provide a much needed attitude adjustment.  Maybe if more people started shooting Skeet, a whole lot of overpriced therapists would have to sell their couches in order to make rent.

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How to look like a Skeet Shooter

So, you’re planning your first trip to the gun club to shoot Skeet.  Terrific!  Now, let’s get you properly outfitted –  you’ve probably already guessed that you’re going to need your gun and some ammo, but if you really want to fit in at the club and really look like a Skeet shooter, there are a few essentials that you’ll need to have. 

The standard of dress at a Skeet club is decidedly casual; here in Florida it’s shorts and T-shirts 80% of the year.  Basically, you’ll want to dress comfortably – keeping in mind that Skeet is an outdoor activity and that you’ll want to be able to move freely when mounting and swinging the shotgun.  But looking like a real skeet shooter isn’t about how you dress, it’s about wearing the proper accessories!  Sure, you could just walk out to the Skeet range with your shotgun in one hand and carrying a box of shells in the other, but there is no quicker way to identify yourself as a “rookie”.  To truly fit in at the club, you’ll need to be properly outfitted from head to toe, and this post is here to help with that!

Start at the top — the first thing you’re going to need is a good cap, preferably with a sports team logo, but hunting or fishing logos are perfectly acceptable.  A cap serves a far more important function that simply keeping the sun out of your eyes; it is a tradition in Skeet Shooting that upon your first perfect score (yes, you really will get there one day) all of your squadmates will celebrate your accomplishment by tossing your cap into the air and blasting it full of holes!!!  There are those superstitious souls who believe that the great and powerful skeet gods will never allow you to shoot well until and unless you are wearing a cap worthy of such sacrifice.

Protect yourself — On a far more serious note, safety is always the prime concern for every trip to the club.  Proper gun handling is all about protecting those around you, but you should also take the proper precautions to protect yourself.  Foremost among these precautions are eye and ear protection.  You have a wide variety of both to choose from, from inexepensive safety glasses available in department stores to high-end ‘systems’ with interchangable lenses in a variety of colors, tints, and prescriptions.  To protect your hearing from the repeated blasts of the shotgun, you can wear inexpensive earplugs (from the same department store) or ‘earmuff’ style protection.  Most shooters prefer the plugs, but whatever you choose, wear something — your sight and hearing are obviously far too important to put at risk, and a shooter without protection might as well have “NOOB” tatooed on his forehead!

How to carry your ammo – the other dead giveaway that it’s your  first time on the Skeet field is to walk out carrying a box of shells in your hand and stuffing a few shells into your pockets before each station.  To carry your shells, you have two choices – vest or pouch.  Again, you’ll find a wide variety of choices and price ranges from inexpensive pouches from that same department store, to very expensive brand name apparel or hand made leather goods.

The finishing touch — While not exactly a pre-requisite for Skeet shooting, if you want to really be part of the “in” crowd, you’ll need to get yourself a toe pad.  A small leather pad that snaps onto the laces of your shoe and provides a convenient rest for your barrel while waiting your turn to shoot.  All of the really cool kids are wearing them.

Of course, if you try hard, you can find many other accessories and gadgets for the Skeet range, but these are the basics and will get you started at just about any respectable gun club.  But of course, you will certainly be welcomed at the club even if you don’t have any of these (okay, you pretty much have to have the hat, but that’s it).  And always keep in mind that you can be as stylish as you choose, but your fellow shooters will never look down upon a cheap shell pouch nor be impressed by a hand stitched italian shooting vest.  Be safe with your gun, be a bit personable, and you’ll easily be accepted and welcomed as ‘one of the gang’.

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