All too often I catch myself becoming borderline OCD about my shooting and running the risk of losing sight of the bigger picture. Recent personal events have forced me to take a significant step back from regular competitive shooting and re-learn to appreciate the little things that we all so often take for granted. The break seems to have served me well thus far, so much so that I’m certain finding the correct work/life balance can only bode well for the future.

Those of you who know me will already be aware that my wife Bev was taken seriously ill at the start of June this year with a viral infection to the brain. It came completely out of the blue and knocked us all for six; the majority of daily activities that were previously considered “normal”, now became hurdles to overcome. I became both Mum and Dad for our two young boys, taking six weeks unpaid leave to look after them, allowing everything outside of their needs to fade into insignificance.

Without a doubt this was the hardest task I have ever undertaken and it’s fair to say that I have a completely changed view on how hard it is to juggle running a household, the school run and the multiple other tasks that stay-at-home mums attend to. The upside of this equation however was that I can hand on heart tell you that I really know my kids. I shared their laughter, I comforted their tears and we road the rollercoaster of life together. We all kept me going through a very difficult time.

Throughout this period I have been constantly taken aback, by a mixture of offers of kindness and/or support as well as by the sheer amount of genuine concern sent my families way. Broken friendships were rebuilt and people whom I never expected to hear from spoke up, whilst equally some also showed their true colours and never said a word. Neither groups actions will be forgotten.

Fast forward twelve weeks and Bev has made fantastic progress thus far, interacting more on a daily basis with the boys and slowly but surely returning to her former self. Home life continues to be demanding and the flipside of returning to work in mid-July is that weekends now harbour precious opportunities to spend time with the kids and Bev and enjoy that time together. Things that I never imagined possible a month ago are now a reality and we are all excited about what the future now holds.

So what does this have to do with shooting? I’ve always been passionate about my shooting; whether clay or game, and willingly invest my time, money and effort into improving and consequently enjoying the sport that gives me so much in return. Aside from taking part in shooting, I have been a member of the CPSA North Region Committee for the past four years as well as running Just Choking since early 2012. The bottom line is that my cumulative involvement in shooting was simply too demanding time wise and something had to give.

Fortunately the decision was made for me, coincidentally happening the weekend prior to Bev’s events occurring. A minority of members in the North Region are under-appreciative and overly vocal about airing their opinions. I guess that some might speculate that you would get that regardless of location, but they finally got to me sufficiently for me to want to resign from the North Region Committee and allow them to realise their dreams of trying to do a better job. I wish them every success in moulding the future of clay shooting up here.

The past three months have forced me to re-evaluate everything in my life; what I do with my time, how I spend my income and what is ultimately important. Whilst the old adage of time is money may hold true in many circumstances, I was victim of always rushing around trying to cram too much into whatever amount of time I had, never stopping to fully enjoy the experience. I couldn’t maintain that pace any longer and realised that I was missing out on a lot of the great content that my life had to offer; all of which was instantly accessible, I just had to want to prioritise it and get things back into perspective.

Shooting understandably has taken a back seat. I know that it will still be there when I am good and ready to return fully, but for now I have the luxury of making any time that I have with my gun the most relaxing and enjoyable time possible. Gone is the forced necessity to chase a CPSA average, shoot certain grounds in order to qualify for a specific team or shoot with certain people. I shoot where I want, when I want and with whom I want and my shooting is flourishing because of it.

Quality, as opposed to quantity, is now of prime importance so instead of rushing to do two registered shoots in one day, as I would have eagerly tried to in the past, I’d prefer to pick one and shoot it to the best of my potential. Well thought out and well presented targets that combine to make a testing yet enjoyable round rule the roost and I have no qualms about travelling a little further afield to find them. Incidentally Gloucestershire seems a hotspot with the likes of Prescott Shooting School and The Lovatt’s establishments becoming well renowned for ticking that particular box, not to mention very welcoming and pleasant hosts to boot.

The work/life balance is one that is all too easy to get wrong. I’m not for one second hinting that I get it right every time, or even most of the time, but when I do it is very noticeable that I am 100% in the present and thoughts of everything outside of shooting like work, family, home don’t even enter my head; it’s solely about shooting. Ironically, at the time I least expected myself to be able to do this I seem most capable.

The remainder of my clay shooting calendar is already planned and fast approaching with the finale of the Prescott Summer Series the only remaining commitment to finish an already enjoyable year. With the game season getting ever closer I made the decision to join a small local partridge syndicate for the 2014/15 season. The shoot hosts 7/8 days and it will afford me the opportunity to enjoy another change of pace and appreciate what’s on offer close to home. Shooting wise the birds are rumoured to be well presented and testing, so it’ll be challenging, but it’s the camaraderie and chance to share experiences with the boys as they grow up that is equally appealing to me.

The events of recent months  engineered a process that has actually revitalised my enthusiasm for shooting. When I shoot it is a luxury. It’s selfish “me” time where I’m not bothered by the constraints of life. It is pure, undiluted enjoyment. It feels refreshing to fully appreciate the social side of shooting.  There’s so much still to learn about this game, but in essence that’s all it is; a game. It doesn’t warrant abusive behaviour, stress, or the monotony of feeling obliged to shoot. It is there to be played, so break the mould and start getting the most from your time spent behind the trigger, and equally importantly when you’re well away from it too….