Taking time off from your shooting sport—use it or lose it

Bob and HaleyA year ago in mid-summer, my wife went on a cruise with her parents and daughter, while I drove 5,000 miles to several US clinics and saw lots of beautiful scenery.  Mistakenly I called the time between clinics a vacation.

travel-72870_1280-pixabayMy wife came back refreshed from her cruise and I dove back into work believing I was too. Wrong. In November, even though my business to-do list was a mile long, we booked a cruise and disappeared for two weeks. It was the best thing I’d ever done.

Now that the shooting season is over, most of you are hanging up your guns and taking a badly needed rest, too. There are others (mainly retirees) who head to Florida and other sunshine states for the endless shooting season, but most of you northern shooters are forced into a much-deserved rest by the winter weather. And you need and probably deserve it.

So, why would anyone want to take a rest from their passion as a hobby, competitive outlet or professional dream, especially when they live in Florida or might have had a very successful season?

Let’s explore this from three viewpoints: the social shooter, the competitive shooter and the professional (which includes coaches, Olympians, and Olympic hopefuls):

The Social Shooter black powderFor the social shooter the game is a means to meet and maintain friendships, a way to constructively pass the time and perhaps to recreate one’s youth through “moments of brilliance.” There is generally less pressure and not shooting means not getting out of the house. However, a case could be made here to add some variety in one’s life and to try different things for a part of the year. One of my clients bowls and another curls, both social activities and both activities that lend themselves to friendships.

However, if you insist that it must be shooting, there is a way to have your cake (a rest) and eat it too (keep shooting). As most clubs have a variety of clays disciplines, my suggestion would be to rest by temporarily shifting to another shotgun sport. Trap shooters can shoot skeet and sporting clays for example. Most shooters I know who shoot multiple sports in the off-season say that the variety actually helps them in their own game. The challenge gets them thinking differently. And the break is healthy.

Sometimes they vishooting 01ew taking time off in the off-season as a setback. It means their skills will slip, right? Wrong.

Actually continuing at a blistering pace without a break often results in fatigue and stress that leads to poorer performances and ultimate discouragement.

The Competitive Shooter

Competitive shooters usually have their sights set on the next Grand or World Championship.  They also have their sights set on punches, the more the merrier. often results in fatigue and stress that leads to poorer performances and ultimate discouragement. The results don’t necessarily get better with more practice. Especially when you are tired. Some of your most productive days will leave you feeling kind of unhappy. And it’s your body telling you that you need a break. Taking a break gives your body the opportunity to relax and heal and allows you to get hungry for the next season.

The Professional (Olympian)

Even professional shooters take breaks. Those at this level of skill do have to be wary of Group shotdowntime, as there may be no real end to the season. Even after this year’s US Fall Selection Match in shotgun, for example, the first world cup is in early February so shotgunners may be inclined to start gearing up for it. But as professionals, they, more than anyone, need to plan time off and refresh.

All other professionals have vacation time—lawyers, surgeons, computer programmers—and none of them complains that their skill set will diminish. Even at the professional level, time off creates a rekindling of passion, healing and mental recharging of the batteries, so to speak. With world events placed at strategic times throughout the year, it is even more important to plan wisely and select one or more times off to recharge. As well, just as suggested with social and competitive shooters, many of my professionals “play around with” other disciplines in the off-season and fine-tune their Zone.


Everyone—from social shooter to professional—needs a rest. The length of time you take off may vary but take it. You can do other activities you enjoy or just put your feet up and watch the ocean go by like I did. It is not a reward but a necessity. Your very enjoyment, competency, and sanity in your sport may depend on it. Mine did.

What do you do during your break from shooting?  Let us know in the comment section below.


3 thoughts on “Taking time off from your shooting sport—use it or lose it

  1. Great article! I am an Olympic hopeful and have been on the receiving end of some terribly-timed gun breaks over the last two years of competition. I recently decided to take time off from collegiate competition and study abroad, but my main worry was loosing my edge. I can attest to your claim that it is necessary, as I want nothing more than to shoot when I return to the states in 10 days! First article of yours that I have read, but will be checking others out now. Thanks for the advice!!

    Preston Spainhour


  2. I’m a 67-year old shooter who started shooting competitively in 2012. I never made any school teams and, for the first time in my life, I’m actually pretty good at a sport. At my age, I feel a strong sense of urgency to see how high I can take my average and see what I’m capable of. That pressure makes me want to shoot in cold weather or inside after the sun moves North. But, after reading your article, I realize I am a bit tired and probably read for some well-deserved time off. Thanks for the reminder.

    Bob Petersen


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