I can remember my first shotgun match ever. It was a club shoot held at the San Gabriel Valley Gun Club in Azusa, Calif. I was just 10 years old and not only was I the youngest competitor, but many of the other competitors were older men. They were encouraging, polite and most of them were really good shots. What helped me in this competition was that I knew the etiquette of the game. Just like golf or tennis, shotgun shooting has an etiquette that is important to follow, especially during a competition so that you are not a distraction to the other shooters. These more experienced competitors welcome new shooters on their squad… if they know and follow proper etiquette.
Safety is number one. Be careful where you point your gun and make sure the action is open. Load your gun only when you are standing on the station and it is your turn. These are very basic things, I know, but very worthwhile to review.
Pay attention and be ready when it is your turn. In a skeet competition, competitors usually stand in a line in the order in which they shoot and are ready to quickly take the station when it is their turn. Be ready when it is your turn whether it is skeet, trap or sporting clays. It makes the stations drag when competitors have to figure everything out when it comes their turn.
Know the rules of the game you are shooting. You may think this is a ridiculous statement, but I actually shot in a National Championship match once with a man on our squad that had never shot double trap in his life! He did not know when it was his turn to move to the next station let alone any of the rules of the game.
Don't argue with the puller/referree! Sometimes they make the worst calls and sometimes they make great calls. Show your sportsmanlike conduct, accept their decision and take your next shot. When you argue all you do is get yourself worked up and upset. Believe me, your next shots will pay the price and this becomes a distraction for the entire squad. Instead, just chalk up the call as experience, shake it off if you don't agree, and focus on the next target.
Never, ever throw your shells and get mad. If you miss a target, getting mad does not help and throwing your shells on the ground only gives a great show of bad sportsmanship to the people watching. It also will affect your shooting. Remember, when you miss you can never bring that target back…so instead of getting mad, forget it and think about what you need to do to hit the next target. Everyone misses and everyone has an “off” day. Again, shake it off as experience and simply complete your round as usual. You must never give up; never get mad. Winning or losing most times is by one target, so your ability to pick yourself up and focus on the next target is so important.
No talking during a competition. The international style of shotgun shooting strictly enforces this one, including any form of communication between competitors on a squad. But in American trap and skeet, talking is the norm. Just make sure that you are quiet when someone else is on the station shooting. It's like golf; o.k. to talk when you're walking from station to station, or to high-five or give words of encouragement when walking off the station, but you should be considerate and not talk when another competitor is shooting.
Congratulate the winner on the squad and shake their hand. It's much easier to be a gracious winner, but remember, no one wins all the time. If you are the winner, be gracious; say thank you. If you are not the winner on the squad or during the awards presentation, remember that a truly great competitor is also a gracious loser. This is a much tougher thing to do and shows real character.
Sportsmanlike conduct and knowing the etiquette of the game make you feel much more comfortable especially during your first competitions. This will help your self-confidence and makes the competition fun for everyone.