2014 Canadian Championship

2014 Canadian Championship

Congratulations Trapshooting Academy’s

Matthew Van Haaren


Trapshooting Academy at the 2014 Canadian Championship


2014 Ontario Singles SJ Champion

2014 Ontario Doubles SJ Champion

2014 Ontario High Over All SJ Champion

2014 Ontario High All Around SJ Champion

2014 National ATA Singles Champion (199/200)

2014 National  ATA High Over All Open Champion (384/400)


Yee-Haa (3) – Provincials Day 2

Or how to continue a great Championship!

The officials have been a bit slow in displaying information this year (apparently because of some technical difficulties) and so we are slow in confirming some of the amazing results of this weekend.

On Friday, at the Winchester shoot, Garret won the Junior Handicap. His very first win in his very first competition season!

Yesterday, in the Preliminaries – Chloe won her very first real trophy: Lady Handicap. I hope she’ll write something about it, the feelings related to such an event are great!

And today, in the Doubles Championship Phil won the Doubles Class D title – way to go…

Congratulations to all winners!

And to all our competing students: so far you did AMAZING! Matthew shot 300 targets in 3 days and he got better and better each and every day. Today he shot an amazing 76 in handicap, in unbelievable windy conditions. Smokey B. Alex was constantly smoking targets every day and, by the look on his face, greatly enjoying himself. Sacha discovered the joy of shooting in less than perfect conditions and absolutely loved it! Dan was our usual cheerful team member, always finding ways to uplift the spirit of our young ones.

Welcome to the 2009 Ontario Provincial Trapshooting Championships to Gyl, Doug, Alireza, Keith, and Anthony – good work!!

We are all looking forward to tomorrow’s performances.


Yee-Haa (2) – Ontario Trapshooting Championships: Preliminary Day

Or let this be the day when ‘I got my swing back’

One of my favourite movies is ‘The Legend of Bagger Vance’ – I love absolutely everything about it: the director (my #1 actor/director of all times, Robert Redford), the actors (I believe Matt Damon is one of the best in his generation, I love Will Smith to pieces, and I see Charlize Theron as the new Sharon Stone, with more style and finesse – if that’s possible), the photography and, most of all, the message. I first watched the movie long before I was entertaining any ideas about competing, long before I broke my first target. You know how a movie can impress you with one scene the best – and my ‘Legend’ scene was the one when Matt, after being 12 under par, at the beginning of his second 36 hole run gets the ‘See the field’ speech from Smith and then… while Will Smith is still talking everything blurs out and it’s only him and The Field… then even the field somehow comes closer and closer… in focus… Then, when he hits the ball – it is a perfect move, efortless and beautiful. And you hear Smith’s smile: ‘Yup, he got his swing back!’

And that’s exactly what happened to me today: I got my swing back! It is hard for anyone to understand what such a thing means, unless one had walked in these shoes…

I am unsure how to explain – for a while I have been trying too hard to break those orange targets. I still had fun (lots) and I was enjoying every moment on the range. But for some unknown reasons I wasn’t feeling what I used to feel. I was breaking targets, I even broke some very good scores – but something was missing. Like Bagger says: ‘Well you lost your swing… We got to go find it… Now it’s somewhere… in the harmony… of all that is… All that was… All that will be…’ And that’s exactly how it was – I lost something and I had no clue how to get it back.

Then – yesterday it started to click and… today… I’ll let Bagger Vance one more time to explain, he does it so much better:

Put your eyes on Bobby Jones… Look at his practice swing, almost like he’s searchin for something… Then he finds it… Watch how he settle hisself right into the middle of it, feel that focus… He got a lot of shots he could choose from… Duffs and tops and skulls, there’s only ONE shot that’s in perfect harmony with the field… One shot that’s his, authentic shot, and that shot is gonna choose him… There’s a perfect shot out there tryin’ to find each and every one of us… All we got to do is get ourselves out of its way, to let it choose us… Can’t see that flag as some dragon you got to slay… You got to look with soft eyes… See the place where the tides and the seasons and the turnin’ of the Earth, all come together… where everything that is, becomes one… You got to seek that place with your soul Junuh… Seek it with your hands don’t think about it… Feel it… Your hands is wiser than your head ever gonna be… Now I can’t take you there Junuh… Just hopes I can help you find a way… Just you… that ball… that flag… and all you are…

I learned just last year that what he’s describing is The Zone – and, for the ones who have experienced it, it is probably the most amazing feeling you can have. The beauty of the moment is indescribable. All I know is I still dream about that calm and out-of-this-world feeling.

It wasn’t a full zone what I experienced today, but it was a type of zone (I wonder how many they are…). Today I somehow managed to let the perfect shot to choose me. Instead of searching high and above for it, I became calm and I let it come to me. How I did it – I don’t know. I know before handicap I had a determination to be soft and smooth and all the targets I broke were pure smoke (with a few exceptions). Was it effortless? No, I had to work (that’s how I know it wasn’t THE Zone, that one is pure effortless), but I worked with confidence and determination. I worked with joy, knowing what I was doing and what I am supposed to do.

And then the Doubles event came – and I had an amazing moment there. We started after 7 PM, the light was awful and I was still sooo happy about finally getting the ‘click’ in handicap that nothing could have bothered me. We took the line, I called for my first pair and I had 2 very good first posts. On post 3 I suddenly remembered how last year I shot this event with Mark Edmondson – a legend of trap shooting, untimely passed away on June 20th. And I will always remember the feeling I had when I got on the line, realizing I was going to lead a squad of amazing trap shooters, me, a brand new shooter with barely 3 years of experience against their decades of excellence. Not only that, but the next day I was to receive the ‘Mark Edmondson’ Award for the most improved shooter in doubles – an added pressure on me. And I will always remember his smile and his pat on the shoulder: ‘You’ll be fine, just have fun. So I tried and I actually managed to pull off one of my best scores today, winning the event in the preliminary. Imagine my profound surprise when, next morning, for the actual Championship Event – who’s walking the line with me? Same squad, same Mark Edmondson and his friends. Now the pressure was tripled – now they knew I can do it, I had to do it – again! Same smile, same pat – and after the first round, when I shot a not so impressive 43 he looks at me and tells me in a matter-of-factly tone: ‘I know you can do better – how about you do it?’ Somehow, from his tone and attitude, all I gathered was no shame but an amazing strength – and I broke an amazing 48 on the second round. He was happier for my score than I could be. And that evening I found out we were two ladies with the same score and it would be a shoot-off. As luck would have it the other Lady was Cheryl Stiby, a good friend of Mark and a wonderful person herself. Mark came to both of us before the shoot-off and told us to make him proud. Then, at the end of 3 hard rounds of shoot-off, he hugged both of us and said we made him proud, indeed.

And back to today, a year later – I am sitting on post 3 and all these thoughts come through my mind in a flash… and I am suddenly flooded with a swirl of emotions… and in a panic, I am looking for an idea on how to channel all this energy into something positive. I cling to the first one that comes through my mind: I am shooting these targets for him, for Mark. And although I did not calm out, there is a change inside that makes me focus and smoke the next 50 targets. I lose the edge of all the emotions exactly when I got them (on post 3) and the relaxation brings also a sudden calm. I am happy and I am still sad at the same time. But I know I can do it because I know there are a few people out there (walking here, on Earth, or up there, in Heaven) that believe in me.

Or, as Bagger Vance put it so eloquently:

Yes you can… but you ain’t alone… I’m right here with ya… I’ve been here all along… Now play the game… Your game… The one that only you was meant to play… Then one that was given to you when you come into this world… You ready?… Strike that ball Junuh don’t hold nothin back give it everything… Now’s the time… Let yourself remember… Remember YOUR swing… That’s right Junuh, settle yourself… Let’s go… Now is the time, Junuh…

For all of you out there looking for a lost swing: you are not alone… just play YOUR game… and let it come back to you. Now’s the time…



Or – What a great start to the Provincials!

Imagine our home club (Hamilton Gun Club) in the morning, with about 150 trap shooters around (and many more just watching)… and 10% of them being LearnTrapshooting Canada’s teams! Isn’t that nice?

It is – and it was wonderful to see the golden people all with big smiles and (at least some, I am sure, if not all) quiet nerves. We gathered relatively late – all ready to classify and squad around 10 am – and ambushed Alan @ classification. After we cleaned all the confusions about who has enough targets and who doesn’t we were ready to pull the squads and we did so in good time. People behind us were really understanding, I thought some of them will start complaining; but either they came to recognize that we are, in fact, doing a good thing for the sport, or simply they got used to our storming around with lots of gold 🙂 Whichever it is – a public and heartfelt ‘Thank you!’ for your patience, gentlemen, it is much appreciated.

After a few moments of confusion about who needs to pay what (I know, those forms can get really really scary!) we met on the west side, under our beautiful white tent. Cars unpacked, guns put together and into the rack, lawn chairs spread around – and then the humming of the day started… Everyone was excited – to shoot, to watch, to simply be out there. The whole day passed almost without a hiccup – we got pretty good scores, we got several decent ones, we got lots of conversations along these lines: ‘Wow, lots of new people… when did they start?’ ‘In March [or May or January]’ ‘What year is that?’ ‘This year’ ‘You mean to tell me they have been shooting for less than 6 months?!’ ‘Yup’ ‘Oh, they are doing GREAT! Keep doing!’. And we got lots and lots of positive comments from lots of people… Everybody kept saying the same thing over and over: ‘This is great – what you are doing here!’.

We even tried to ignore the craziness of the doubles event – which started on the wrong foot and continued that way… the only good thing about it is the fact that when the rain starts everyone was completely done 🙂

All in all – a beautiful start to the 4 days of competition. We had fun and we enjoyed our targets. We met some of our good friends and we gained more and more experience.

My lesson for the day? Don’t rush! If I could only be patient enough to remind myself that before each and every shot… 🙂 And it’s not that I don’t know what to do, because I do – but that Mr. Hyde kept popping his ugly head in my mind and disturbing my peace. So for me the simplest of advice today: Stay there until you see the target… everything I missed today could have been smoked if I only had waited to see the target first.

But I am happy – beyond the scores (which were all over the spectrum – I am talking about my own) I had a very fun day, with lots of sun and almost no rain (I got half-soaked at the end, looking for my better half, which, for the record, has been beside me 2 seconds before… and then… simply disappeared!), with lots of smoked targets and this simple realization of how much more some patience will bring to my trapshooting life, with lots of friends – what else is there to be wishful for?

I am looking forward to our Provincial Championships – remember: Relax, Relax, and… Have fun!

And, of course: See, Smooth, Smoke – ONE!

P.S. It’s clear I haven’t mastered this patience ‘thingie’ – rushing to get a few more other things done I submitted this same article twice… oh, well – I can only hope tomorrow I’ll remember to wait and see my targets. Or, as Phil Kiner says in his last Trap & Field article: it’s simple – if you can’t see it, you can’t break it. Truer words have never been spoken… 🙂



Hamilton Antlers & Hunters Association

Given the name of this club, one thinks you will laugh all the time there… but that’s not always true. Hamilton Anglers and Hunters Association is a wonderful small club (4 trap houses), situated in Ancaster. They are much more than a trap club, in fact, they have a pond where one can fish, a handgun/rifle range (quite noisy), an archery outdoor course, a few skeet fields, and whatnot. They host ATA shoots, as well as Skeet competitions, Archery tournaments, and from time to time Cowboy shoots. All in all – it’s a nice little place to be… except if you’re looking for good scores 🙂

Why? As nice as the club is, the background is pretty hard to shoot against – add the setting of the targets (a bit low), and the vicinity to the Hamilton Airport and you got yourself a nice challenge. Again, it is one of the nicest clubs around and I am all for going to as many (and as difficult) clubs as possible in order to gain experience and learn to adapt. Managing low 90s in any event at HAHA, almost guarantees mid-90s at HGC. Rather than using the background as an excuse for their results, one should not be disappointed in a lower than expected score, but embrace it as an extraordinary learning experience.

That being said – my first HAHA shoot in a while was more pleasant than I expected. After a somewhat slow start (the shoot started around 10:30) it picked up the pace and ended pretty soon (4 PM we were all done). We were just a few squads, all trying to follow hard-to-follow targets. I, for one, had huge trouble seeing the targets flying towards the west, on the first 2 traps. But I learned my HAHA lesson a long time ago and I had lots of fun even with missing lots of left birds. 🙂

And how did the rest of the team faired? In my opinion – excellent! They got over the disappointing scores and by the time to shoot doubles they were having lots of fun. We all got a bit tired towards the end, with the exception of Frank who decided to clean the house. Which he thoroughly did, with the focus and decisiveness we all know he’s capable of. We all managed to finish close within our averages on all 3 events and at the end that’s what is most important.

We were blessed with a very nice day – mostly sunny, mostly hot, with a light breeze: one cannot ask for more. It’s true that for the new shooters it was a slight shock after Pennsylvania & Ohio (no, still no TV / Radio to channel onto to check the on-the-ready squad or the scores), but I actually felt good being there. I believe I missed HAHA this past year and I was glad to see the shoot ran as efficiently and competently as before.

Were there any lessons to learn from this experience? Sure thing – quite a lot.

First of all – whether shooting practice or competition, try to stick with the positive emotions. Any negative feedback will hunt you down pretty soon. For one subevent I left my emotions to fill my mind, and they were on the negative side… I worked hard the whole subevent to clear my mind and get myself back on track, and I managed to get everything to normal somewhere towards the beginning of the next subevent. So – always stay positive!

Another lesson – when everything else fails, fall back on having fun. This probably sounds like a broken LP already – but it’s essential. Missing is easy, and we need to work on what comes after a missed target. None of us has been born breaking 100 straight the first time – and each practice, each competition will put us face-to-face to the (dire) reality: at one point or another, we will miss one target. Everybody does, sooner or later. What we do after the miss is what separates the winners from the whiners. And the winners will end up smiling and focusing on the very next target (and only that one).

And the funniest point of the day: a gentleman telling me in a couple of years we’ll have a full squad. It took me a few moments until I got what he meant: he thought we are a family, with Chloe and Garret being my own, and William growing up to fill the squad soon. After an internal ROLF, I gently corrected him and explained that I ‘own’ only one of the kids, the rest are our students. He was taken aback – not sure what surprised him the most: that the young ones are not really mine or that there is a trapshooting school in Ontario?! But then William decided the gentleman’s idea was better and asked me if we could ‘get’ Chloe and Garret to be in our own family 🙂 and quickly added: ‘and Cody too!’

So after a day filled with lots of sun and warmth, some cute dogs to pet, a child totally absorbed by his ‘best girlfriend’ and some very nice coloured caterpillars one cannot ask for too much else, but a quiet dinner in the backyard, with good friends.

Wherever you are – enjoy your summer and have lots of fun!


Ohio State Championhsip

June 22-29, Marengo, OH

Monday morning, after packing quickly, I was really happy to have (for once) someone else doing my job: guiding Florin out of the campsite. Amazingly enough, we were out Elysburg at 2 PM – exactly the time I hoped for. This means we are getting better and better at packing up and moving towards new adventures.

The ride to Ohio was painfully long and I am grateful for Garret’s presence – he played games with our talkative son and he probably was gladder than we were to get to our destination 🙂

We got to Marengo (after a quick detour on the highways; our GPS is playing tricks with us) at about 11 at night, which is, again, a record. We like to pull into Marengo around midnight, even later, and wake Greg (the campground manager) up. Luckily for us, he loves us (still). This time it was no need to wake anybody up (except, most probably, all the neighbours), we knew our campsite number and we pulled right in. Again I was happy to have someone else to guide Florin in (and I laughed a lot the next morning when our left side neighbours came in and I had to witness their wonderful conversation… until a wife needs to help her husband to back up a trailer in a campsite you don’t know if you have a solid marriage or not, trust me!). And as Garret already mentioned – we unpacked really quickly and it was time to relax, have a bite and enjoy the night.

Waking up in the morning I enjoyed the calm and quiet – everyone was still asleep and I could have a couple of hours for myself; a luxury I cannot afford too often, especially when camping 🙂

After an eventful classification – they managed to put me in AA for singles and doubles, based on the only shoot they had in their databases for the year (my best scores for the year so far) so we had to go through lots of fun to have me ‘downgraded’ where I belong, in class B. Then we had to go through some other layers of God-knows-what to have Florin classified, the same lady that was in PA laughing at us and telling ‘see, I told you to keep up the receipt!’… Then we had the kids classified as well and another commotion about the colour of the cards… plus the eternal question of a new shooter: ‘To Penalize or Not To Penalize… this is the question’. After about half an hour all as well, we were classified and we decided to just enjoy the day and not shoot any of the events. A smart decision, considering the amount of sleep we all had and the laziness that I (at least) enjoyed. We just squadded both Garret and me for the rest of the week and walked on the vendors’ rows. After a quick stop by Keith Heeg’s trailer, to have Phil stock fixed, we got back to the campsite. William, as usual, already found himself 2 boys to play with – the other grandchildren of the same grandmother he played at when we were at Cardinal Classic, last August. He had a blast – our camper was parked right at the playground, he could be in the playground all the time without losing sight of the trailer. While Garret and William were enjoying an afternoon of fishing with hotdogs, Cody came by and we were again the big family of trapshooters we’ve been looking forward to all winter long.

At Cardinal Centre there is no time to waste and no time to get bored: this year they added 3 more banks, to a total of 12 (the same number as in Elysburg). They can run it a bit more efficiently because they start at 8 and use all banks at 8. In PA they start at 9 and they aren’t able to use 4 of the banks until around 10 am, because of the position towards the rising sun. This way, although the shoot was larger in OH than in PA (as expected, mostly because of the weather in PA and the economy being what it is this year) – most of the days the shooting was done by 4 pm, the shoot-offs by 5 so basically you had lots of time on your hand. But with all the games, fishing, pool and excitement – each day we found ourselves around 1-2 am still talking, still enjoying the night and our friends 🙂

And then the Ohio State shoot started for us: Garret shot all events except the singles class championship, I shot everything, and Florin picked a few events for himself as well. It’s always amazing when you shoot at different venues how you need to get accustomed to the new background (pretty hard in Marengo), the targets and their setup (very different from Elysburg), the traps houses themselves, and all sorts of conditions. Now in Marengo, everything is excellent, but the background is not the easiest to shoot with. Mind you, Leo the Great (aka Leo Harrison III) was able to miss exactly 4 (as in FOUR) targets out of the 1,200 (as in ONE THOUSAND TWO HUNDRED). And he probably shot all over the place, it’s hard to imagine him or Harlan picking up banks 🙂 But for us, laymen and women… well… background has something to say still. On one of the events, one of the handicaps – I could not even blame the background for my abysmal scores. It was one of those moments when nothing comes together… I looked hard at the poor targets (which, by the way, were flying slow and nicely), I could see the exact same picture I was accustomed to and… now I smoke one, now… I heard ‘Looooost’… oh, well.

On Thursday the rest of the MacDonald clan arrived – with the rain, with a terrible storm, in fact. Luckily for all of us involved the rain poured on us late in the evening – just enough to have the adults (minus the young people’s mom, aka as Alicia) trying to prepare dinner in the kitchen tent while the youngster ate the above-mentioned dinner in the trailer, and watching a movie. Now, mind you, when we left home it was pretty crazy so the only movies we had were William’s movies. Apparently, not an issue for the older ones – all 4 (Chloe, Garret, Cody, and William) watched ‘Cars’ and laughed heartily at MacQueen’s gimmicks. I was pleasantly surprised to see all of them (the difference in age is 10-11 years!) equally enjoying the movie and the evening.

All in all, the Ohio shoot was a success – I know the young ones don’t think so, I for one, was tempted to think otherwise as well… until I compiled the averages. And what do you think? While the whole week I was sure I was shooting poorer than in PA, it turned out that on average I did better…

This brings me to the morale (of course, what will be a blog entry w/o morale?!): never despair! And always look at the big picture.

So what have I learned from Ohio? Never count yourself off a race after you miss one target. Why? Because despair will only make you miss more and more and more and… well, you got the picture. This one comes in handy with the ‘never count your targets’ but we all know it’s next to impossible to do that 🙂 although we all (right?!) try hard not to.

Are there any other lessons? There always are, even when it’s hard to pinpoint specific ones. The main lesson for me would be: be happy. Which I managed to implement for 1,100 targets, but I failed miserably on one hundred 🙂 as we all know – you can’t always have everything. But you can always work hard and try to enjoy yourself. And that’s the most important part to remember: we are in this sport for the fun, for the camaraderie and friendship, for the joy. We are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to enjoy the sport – there are people out there that might be more talented than any of us, but have no opportunity to practice, to buy themselves a gun or shells, or to go out of province and compete with the best of the best.

Just think for a moment: at these 2 competitions we competed along with the best of the best in Pennsylvania & Ohio (which are probably the best 2 states in ATA 🙂 ); we had the opportunity to watch (or simply be in the same competition) with the best in ATA: Leo Harrison, Harlan Campbell, the Ohyes, our own Paul Shaw, Stephanie Sandler, the Vendels, Brad Heathly, and list goes on and on and on. We met and befriended All American juniors (Cody & Daryl and many others); we met and befriended lots and lots of nice people. If for nothing else we should be grateful for that. But there is much more: it’s our own individual progress. We all progressed from what we’ve been shooting at home to Pennsylvania, and then some more to Ohio (for the ones that competed in both state shoots). We shot at the largest 2 shoots in ATA (other than the Grand). We shot at the 2 best facilities in North America. And the experience we gained it’s priceless.

I, for one, am happy: with the progress of all of our students, with my own progress. I am happy I met all my friends again and I made some more.

What are you happy about?!

Until next time – keep your head on the stock and your eyes on the rock. And remember: See, Smooth, Smoke, ONE!


Pennsylvania State Championship

Penn State, June 15-21 @ Elysburg, PA

The day finally came to leave for my favourite trapshooting place: Elysburg, Pennsylvania.

After a somewhat hard start (I decided to get sick on Saturday / Sunday and most of Monday) we managed to get the camper ready and leave Burlington around 5 PM on Tuesday. Which is exactly how Florin ‘loves’ it: to drive the trailer at night 🙂 Not only we had to pass the mountains at night, but we had my old GPS only and at times it decided to take strange, non-existent routes. Add to that some detours (it’s road fixing season everywhere) and you had a very nice mix. All in all, we arrived at our campsite at the beautiful hour of 1:40 in the morning. Like the seasoned campers, we are we had everything in order in less than 2 hours… which left me with about 4 hours of sleep.

The first day of our PA adventure arrived with some clouds and high spirits – there is something in the Elysburg’s air that makes me happy no matter what the conditions are. I haven’t decided yet if it’s the air or the people, but I tend towards the people. I barely left our campsite, walking with William towards the clubhouse, when we met some friends. And once we got to the clubhouse I started to stop every 2 meters to greet someone. I managed to classify and squad myself for the day and then I lost William to some friends, but that’s pretty much how our lives go while we are camping: the child is always finding some people to take care of him 🙂

The events of the day went pretty well, I remembered the feeling of being on the line in Elysburg and I enjoyed my day a lot.

On Thursday the rest of the team gathered and our campsite became the ‘base’ of all operations. As the day advanced it became crazier and crazier, and we were still having lots and lots of fun, on and off the line. Mother nature was nice enough to keep the day cloudy only, without any showers or storms. At one point we tought the rain will come, as the left-side valley disappeared in a gray cloud; it proved to be not a storm cloud, but some fog. One has to learn where the storms are coming from and we had learned last year for both Ohio and Pennsylvania how to ‘predict’ the immediate local weather.

The evening brought everyone around the campsite and hopefully, we haven’t bothered our neighbours too much (we have learned that lesson as well, last year, in New York). And from then on the days are a blur: lots of shooting, lots of friends, lots of caring for the ones new to Elysburg, and lots and lots of fun.

Some of us shot better than others, some enjoyed it more than others, but all in all, I believe it was a wonderful trip for everyone. I was impressed again with the youngsters’ shooting and in particular with Matthew. With a gun almost as big as he is and at his very first competition he acted like he’s been doing this for decades. He’s barely a decade old! And because we all were in our gold attire I got numerous ‘Oh, you must be a proud mother’ whenever I watched from the walkway. I was indeed very proud of each and every single one 🙂

Everyone wanted to know what’s with the Gold T-shirts and we explained lots of time who we are and what we do. And most of the time people were very impressed we brought the teams with us.

What did I learn from the events of the week? That once you have the technique you only need a strong mind and a very disciplined one to go forward. I cannot remember the number of occasions when my mind wondered in places it shouldn’t and I still mounted the gun. My best one was when I shot down-the-hill for the first time and on trap 10 B: I had a left target and this is what went through my mind: “oooh, look at the hills, how beautiful they are! And look, some cute butterflies! And look – what is that orange thing… oops… “. What do you do after such a target? You laugh!

But everyone can miss targets (none of us need a lesson in that!) – so how do we break them? By first judging the environment properly – light, wind, height, and speed of targets and adjusting our gun- and eye-hold accordingly. And after that – but being disciplined and following the routine each and every target. Remember – we don’t really need to have to be focused and disciplined for an hour, we just need it for a few seconds, one target at a time. One – it’s always one, the very next one. That’s all we need to focus on: smoking the next target. And how do we smoke ONE target? Well – we all know that and we all did that a number of times before: we get ready, we call, we wait to SEE, we move SMOOTHly, and we SMOKE the ONE target that flies nicely before our eyes.

What else did I learn? That shooting from 24 yards is not impossible! They penalized me (for not having enough targets in the current year) and while I don’t care much about class (penalized to A instead of my usual B), when they send me 2 yards farther it wasn’t a pretty sight (score-wise). My very first impression at 24 was: ‘wow, why is the bead so big? It’s bigger than the target! By the way, where IS the target?!’. My second thought about 24 was: ‘and how does one break targets here?!’ By the end of the competition, even if my scores weren’t stellar, I managed to squeeze a 23 and so I believe that given the proper time I will figure out how to master the 24. After I master the 22, of course!

And what else did I learn? Not really a lesson, not a new one, for sure, but as valuable as any: friends are very good for your health and spirits! The number of people we have laughed with is unbelievable, and the happiness they brought to us is priceless.

The last day of our Elysburg adventure came – the Marinaches gained an extra-son (we kept Garret with us between PA and OH) and the LTS teams gained tons of experience. Because nothing compares to a perfectly ran big shoot and absolutely nothing compares to Elysburg!

So we said our goodbyes, we hugged everyone and promised to see each other again. I then left Florin to check emails while I visited Knobels with my 2 ‘kids’ 🙂 I still have to find out how did Garret enjoy our trip to the amusement park 🙂

Thank you all Learn Trapshooting students who could come and compete – thank you all parents and families for your unfaltering support.
And a huge CONGRATULATIONS to all first US competitors! What a wonderful way to start your trapshooting ‘life’!

We’ll see you back in Ohio or Ontario. And to all who couldn’t be here: we have missed you and we hope you’ll be able to make it to the next competitions.

Thank you, Pennsylvania for having us! See you all soon.

P.S. I got a couple of Jones Sodas from the MacDonalds (they always have an endless supply) and although I didn’t get the name of my gun yet, what do you think my messages were?!

One I am still trying to figure out: “The rainbow’s treasures will soon belong to you”.

But the second one speaks of a true trapshooter: “You have a yearning for perfection”. Of course – and for the perfect score 🙂 And who doesn’t? Just ask any trapshooter you know!


First ATA registered shoot of the season – amazing trapshooting!

LearnTrapshooting.ca athletes shot their first registered tournament of the season at Hamilton Gun Club. Five athletes shot their first ATA competition ever! Welcome to registered shooting. The team performed amazing, personal records got blasted and extremely high scores were recorded: 99, 98, 95 in singles and an amazing 95 in doubles, Learntrapshooting Canada athletes broke a record of NINE 25 straights in one single day! Congratulations, your coaches are very proud of each and every one of you.

Hamilton Gun Club

The first competition of the season (for me, at least, since the actual season began about a month ago) started with some clouds, a few raindrops and a lot of hope that the fair weather will hold… luckily for all of us, it did.

Our mornings are as hectic as possible, and competition mornings tend to be even more chaotic. Who’s going to walk the dogs? Who’s going to put some snacks together? Who’s going to chat with our over-chattery son, while trying to dress him up? That’s why ‘the boss’ insists on having almost everything ready the night before. And that’s when our competition day starts: the night before. With us checking the guns, tighten up screws, and chokes, getting our bags ready (especially my bag, which must hold all sorts of emergency and not-so-emergency items for all those ‘mommy, I need !’), checking the pockets of the vest, cleaning earplugs, making sure glasses and all lenses are in and clean, making sure we have the ATA card, the OPTA card, the average card (all tucked safely in their nice leather wallet), getting the shells ready at the door, getting the guns all oiled up and cleaned… and going through everything one more time, just for the sake of it.

I have to be honest, in the beginning, I found this ‘ritual’ kind of annoying and I suspected that Florin is quite ‘gone’… but trust me, once you get on the line and find yourself without the earplugs (which are nicely drying out on a towel in the bathroom about 150 km away) or, even worse – without the glasses… well, that teaches you a lesson you tend to never forget. Unfortunately, it’s human nature to learn through hard lessons, but hopefully, some of you, reading this, will be a little more disciplined and learn the lesson the easy way: by creating your own pre-competition day routine.
If nothing else, the routine will bring you in competition ‘mood’ (and that’s no small accomplishment either).

After all is well and dandy with the equipment after clothes have been chosen for the next day – always check the weather report and bring extra with you; the old adagio “better safe than sorry” had never held more truth than in this case; you are usually miles away from home, most of the time in a remote place and on a Sunday when stores tend to be closed in the country… – so after all the preparation it is time to relax and get to sleep sooner than later. The resting part is paramount: there is no amount of talent and passion in the world that will replace a well-rested mind and body. A good rest could make the difference between winning and not winning since in this sport one target is almost always enough to make or break a winner. Even if one is just beginning and cannot entertain thoughts of actually winning an event (yet) – one should want to do his/her best. And you can’t do your best if you are tired, no matter what kind of super-man / -woman you think you are.

Now – with all the equipment ready and one being well-rested… what’s there left to be? Just one more thing: a sunny disposition. You wake up in the morning, butterflies in your tummy (I really don’t care what anyone says: if you don’t have the slightest butterfly fluttering around in your tummy, you have the wrong attitude. This sport is meant to be fun and joy and most of all passion!), and no matter what else is on your mind, you fix a bright smile on your face. That way you somehow direct yourself to be happy and to enjoy the day. Then you travel to your destination and start the drill: register, pay, find out what bank you’re shooting on, go there and wait for your turn.

And that’s how our first competition started – on a day that turned out to be beautiful, even hot in the afternoon, with a gold, sunny, and bright team – T-shirts and attitudes alike. We met in the morning… the whole LTS family, we had lots of fun squading everyone and then figuring out who’s who (note to self: write down the names on top of the first registration paper, those ‘copy’ tools won’t display names on the top paper… that’s how we mixed up Keith’s with Frank’s… and we had to fix it back 🙂 ), then we had lots of fun confusing the lady at the cashier desk (her first day on the job! and she had to deal with all that ‘junior / not junior’ info), then we had lots of fun trying to adjust our guns and attitudes with just 9 shells before coach Florin had to sent us in a hurry on the other side – they are calling for our squads already!

And the real fun began, with the second competition ritual: the right-before an event ritual. When one should get his/her gun ready, briefly check everything again, load the proper number of shells in one’s bag (add some extras), glasses on, plugs on, gloves on, sign up, breathe and wait for the squad’s turn. This being a relatively small shoot we didn’t have to wait for long and soon we got into the next ritual: the on-the-line ritual. Get into your stance, breathe, check if everyone is on the line, put a shell (or two if it’s the doubles event) in the gun, and breathe again.

If you’re the squad leader – [1] Squad ready? Puller ready? Let’s see one! Target! Everyone is OK? No? – check whatever is not OK and fix it (if need be). Then repeat from [1]. Yes? Proceed to [2]

[2] For everyone, when it’s your turn: Wait for the previous shooter to finish his round. What does that mean? Usually is enough to see him/her dismounting the gun… sometimes (depending on conditions) it means knowing his/her shell has been ejected. [3] Mount the gun – is the mount perfect? No? Dismount, breathe, repeat from [3] until OK. Breathe, focus eyes, wait for eyes to adjust, and call. Then – wait to see the target, move to it smoothly (no rush, there is lots and lots of time to get to it), when you get to it – smoke it! Follow-through, dismount, breathe. Wait for your turn and repeat from [2].

Sounds simple? Because it is really that simple!… You have to have the proper stance (to be able to rotate to the target), you have to see the target (which means: first your eyes must be focused where the target is, not anywhere else; and second – you have to wait for the target to get out of the house before moving), you have to move as smoothly as possible to it and you have to pull the trigger when you ‘touched’ it… To shoot 100 targets takes about an hour. People think it’s a lot of time to be focused on targets. But it’s not the whole hour you need to be focused. It’s just about 10 to 30 seconds for each target. Think about it: 10 seconds for each target…

There are a few important tips: first: never ever count your targets. The goal is to smoke one. Then the next one. Then the next one. Until you hear ‘All out’. You don’t want to smoke 25 or 50 or 100… You just need to smoke one. If you focus on the ritual of smoking just one, you’ll be able to smoke them all. But still – one at the time. This is probably the hardest for every trapshooter – to be patient, to get them one by one.

Second – be disciplined. Create a ritual that works for you and follow it no matter what happens. If everyone in the squad shoots really fast and you are a slow shooter, don’t try to keep up with their pace. That works the other way around: if you are a fast shooter and you have a slow one in your squad, don’t rush yourself even more, but don’t slow yourself down either. Keep your pace. Keep your ritual. You have paid for your target, they are your targets – mind them 🙂

Third – don’t watch what the other people in the squad do and don’t get ’embarrassed’. This one is hard to follow and I should know first hand. When I first started competing I will always squad with Florin and Frank and because I was such a beginner I had to concentrate on my targets, having no time to do anything else. Once I started to get better scores – something really interesting happened. I started to watch what my friends were doing. And wondering – why did Frank miss that one? Guess what? 90% of the time I would miss the next one as well (I use Frank because he was on my left, shooting right before me, while Florin was on my right, shooting right after me. If he would miss, I had 4 posts to clear my mind and try to focus, while if Frank did so – I really didn’t have enough time or experience to clear the brain). Soon enough I started to the squad without them – to try to ‘mind my own’ business. And after a while – I learned to be disciplined enough to break my own targets and discuss each other’s funny moments after the event. Which meant – I could be back on the same squad with my friends.

As some of you found out yesterday – the squad is really really important. At least until you master the ‘discipline’ of the ‘one shot’. Even after that – a good squad can help one to win. I had the honour last year to be on some really great squads. At the Canadians, we had 2 of our teammates getting close to breaking their first 100. One on position 3, the other on position 4. And I can tell you that on positions 1 & 2 we both started to work harder and harder to help them, we tried our best to keep calm and smoke each and every target that was thrown at us. And when both broke their 100 we were all beyond ecstatic! In Pennsylvania, when I broke my infamous 99 in handicap (missed the very last target!) I felt the energy from the rest of the team. I know for a fact that both gentlemen on my right and left started to try harder and harder to smoke the targets. I do owe the gentleman on my left my targets from 86 to 95… when I realized I could ‘do this’, and mind went wandering places it shouldn’t… and, instead of the steady smokes I had until then, I started to chip each and every target – those exact same targets he started to smoke like there was no tomorrow… you feel people you don’t even know trying hard to help and you gather energies you never knew you had… And at the Provincials – where I’ve been on a squad with a ‘Straight 125’ – one of the singles sub-event when all 5 of us broke all 25. And again – you could feel the energy. It’s a positive energy and you can feed on each other’s without draining each other. It’s an amazing feeling and for me, it’s one of the reasons I keep coming to the range. That camaraderie, that beyond-word friendship is something deep. You can be friends with people you don’t know and, more interesting, you compete against, in fact. And that’s something amazing!

And yesterday was no different: the young who kept their cool under unusual circumstances (great job, Chloe, really great job!), the adults who were able to smile even when those frisky targets eluded their well-intended swift movements, the even younger who delivered again under the added pressure of all the large and unknown audience – the LTS team once again demonstrated we have what it takes to be great athletes.

I do have to thank Frank for keeping his cool and being the great friend he is; Chloe for smiling even when she missed a few in a row; Phil for being a great team-mate and for asking questions; Dan for being extremely consistent in all 3 events; Garret for doing a wonderful job as a first-time squad leader; Anthony for giving all his best; Ed for following his routine each and every shot; Keith for not getting too upset about the mix-up; Matthew and Ben for being such wonderful young athletes; and all the parents and visitors for taking their time to come by and check our teams. And last (but definitely not least) – to Florin for his dedication. I know he would have loved to shoot those doubles but graciously gave his spot to the lone gentleman that would have had to shoot in a squad by himself. We need more coaches like Florin; we need more supporters like our wonderful supporters to have laypeople understand what a great family sport this actually is. As usual – it’s not about winning, it’s about friendship, and patience, and a great attitude. This is one of the few sports I know (if not the only one) where one young child can be around 2-3 different generations of shooters, from beginners to top athletes; where generations of wisdom can be passed seamlessly to the new-comers.

I hope you all had fun! I, for one, had one of the best days of my on-the-range life!