How Clay Pigeon Shooting is Teaching Me Life Lessons

Annie Oakley famously said, “Aim at a high mark and you will hit it.”   Let’s be honest, I am not the first person you imagine spending Sunday afternoons with a shotgun in hand.

It Doesn’t Always Have to Be About Being Perfect

Like many women, I’ve always put a lot of pressure on myself to be “perfect.” Who doesn’t right? And, when I wasn’t good at something, I simply quit.  Playing sports was one of them. Instead, I focused on things that I knew I could 

18485808_10158665418095057_3381367612618931247_n

do, which is why I focused less on physical activities and more on things like – Yearbook Club and Model United Nations in High School and writing for the newspaper in college. I knew I could be successful. In my 20s and 30s, I got a little more adventurous, but still continued to struggle with being perfect.

When I turned 40, I decided that after all these years something had to change. Fearing failure was no longer option and I needed to find something to help me overcome this challenge.

When my boyfriend and a couple of other friends decided to give clay shooting a shot, I tagged along with the idea not knowing what to expect. On a Sunday afternoon, we rolled up to
Cavalier Sporting Clays in Montpelier, Virginia. Montpelier is a lovely town once home to James and Dolly Madison.

Having never held a shotgun before,  Henry Baskerville, the club’s program director and chief instructor, provided me with a courtesy lesson. Shooting a .410 shotgun I shot a few clays  with the assistance of Henry,  but boy did it feel AMAZING to see the clays burst in smoke.   Each Sunday, we found ourselves at Cavalier Sporting Clays and for those first few weeks, I struggled hitting the pigeons (and at times was a little frustrated), but one day, it clicked with me. All of a sudden I was hitting more and more of them. To gain confidence, I spent time hitting ones that I knew I had a better a chance of hitting rather than ones outside of my comfort zone.  And for the first time, I found a sport I loved

5 Lessons I have Learned

  • Keep both eyes opened –  When I first started shooting, I always closed one of my eyes before I took a shot.  It wasn’t until recently that I learned from  Kate Ahnstrom,  Master Instructor at Cavalier Sporting Clays & Paragon Professional Associate  ( and now great friend) that you never shoot with one eye. You don’t close one eye to focus in life so why do it shooting. Strategize first then shoot.  You’ll be more confident in making that shot.
  • Don’t fear instruction.  When someone tells me what I am doing wrong, I have a habit of trying focus on that one aspect rather than looking at how to improve myself holistically. During a recent shooting lesson with Ahnstrom, rather than “telling” you what was causing me to miss that clay, she helped me think about what I could to adjust my form and breaking strategy.  So when it came to nailing that one fast clay, I could nail it.  
  • It’s empowering.  There’s nothing better than hitting one of those clays and knowing before you do it, is even better.
  • The sense of fear is starting to fade. As I mentioned earlier, the biggest challenge I faced was with myself and my sense of failure. I never let failure discourage me to fulfill my professional dreams.  Clay pigeon shooting has taught me that. So, I miss a shot or two,  It must be because I am not following the process that will enable me to hit that clay.
  • It’s not about being perfect. Clay pigeon shooting is something that Bryan and I do together and it’s fun. It’s fun going out with our friends, hitting a bunch of clays and having a good time.  

It’s Been Nice to Discover the Country Girl in Me

Shooting clays has taught me to be adventurous. I still have some ways to go, but life is a journey and shooting is one of the paths that I am taking.  And while I still love putting on my favorite pumps and hitting the town, I ram starting to like the country girl side of me.

Interested in trying sport clay shooting or taking a private lesson? Visit Cavalier Sporting Clays.

Photo credit – Cavalier Sporting Clays