Skeet Shooting – Skeet Season Preparation: by Russ Naples, JCTS Skeet Chairman

Skeet Shooting – Skeet Season Preparation:  by Russ Naples, JCTS Skeet Chairman

Hopefully, everyone had a nice holiday season and with the start of the new year comes hope, excitement, and anticipation.  Following up from last month’s article “Skeet Season Wrap-up”, this month’s article is focused on preparing for the upcoming skeet season.

Please refer to the previous month’s article for the details of what you were supposed to do, however, to start this article off we will list the topics and the expected outcomes followed by the preparation for the new season.

Skeet Season Wrap-Up Review:

Clean and Service your Equipment: Expectation is that all your equipment is clean and ready for use.  This includes any service and adjustments to your gun.  (For questions and scheduling, please contact Gunsmiths Inc. onsite at Jacksonville Clay Target Sports, (904) 757-4584)

Review your scores and notes:  We did and have some notes suggesting what to focus on in practice.

Review of Skeet Shooting Materials: We did and have some ideas that we will incorporate into our practice.

Consider the Mental Aspect: We did and will work to incorporate some ideas into our shooting – perhaps our shot routine.

Shoot for fun!: We did – but since we are going to work on improving our skeet scores and shooting some tournaments, we will focus our “shoot time” on skeet.

Physical Fitness:  We did, and as we practice, we will see if the few exercises and stretching that we do now are helping us move smoother and be more consistent.

Consider Equipment Changes: Equipment changes are complete and we have started by shooting some rounds utilizing the new equipment and are locking down the final adjustments.

Consider Routine Changes: We will focus on this area in the remainder of the article below.

2019 Tournament Schedule: Floridians have the website https://floridaskeet.com/  saved and ready to use to view shoot flyers and register for a few shoots here at the beginning of the year.  We have selected a few tournaments such as the Fish Fry, held right here in Jacksonville, February 22nd– 24th.
Practice: If you are preparing for a tournament you need to practice.  Depending upon your level of commitment you will practice 2 – 5 times per week shooting 4 – 10 rounds as your budget and physical fitness allows.  At the more frequent amounts, it is good to have a variety of routines that you go through in order to keep the practice and shooting in general effective and fun.

Knowing when your tournaments are, you can work backward and figure the number of times you will have to practice and outline what you do at each practice.  Ex. Shooting the different gauges, station work, shooting rounds, and doubles work.

Types of Practice:

  • Shooting only incomers around the field for a box

This is great warm up for beginning shooters similar to some of your first lessons where you selected the end stations and shot the incomers to get used to seeing, tracking and shooting a target that has a long flight path to your position.

  • Shooting only outgoers around the field for a box

The next step for beginning shooters is a warm-up where you now shoot the outgoers at each station and get used to shooting the targets moving away from your position. Some of these targets, namely High 2 and Low 6 can present some challenges as they appear to be moving very fast as they emerge into your look point.

  • Station work – pick a station or two and shoot the entire box 

Shooters having a problem with a specific target and or station should spend some practice time focusing on that station.  This is the opportunity for the shooter to experiment with changes to foot position, hold point, look point and then to practice getting your breakpoints into the proper area. Once the tradeoffs have been explored, and each of the variables has been determined, the shooter should go on to practice and be precise with using their selected foot position, hold points, look points and breakpoints for each target or pair. This practice is one of the most effective to improve your technical skills and ultimately your confidence with each target at each station.

  • Shooting regular rounds and keeping score

This is the most used practice method and certainly is required in order to develop the endurance to move through a round handling the setup and execution of all the different types of targets. This is also a practice method that “fits into” shooting with others who may be at the range.  When shooting regular rounds and keeping a score for your journal entry, this is the time to run your shot routine with each target and be precise with your setup and execution.

  • Shooting a regular round of doubles

For those shooting doubles at a tournament shooting regular doubles rounds where you travel from station 1 – 7 and then back to 6 – 1 is an important practice point since this and shoot-off doubles are the only events and shooting activities where the shooter moves backward through the stations.  Having familiarity and confidence to keep your hold points, leads and breakpoints sorted out takes some time.

  • Shooting doubles at stations 3,4 and 5

Shooters that compete and shoot some high scores will eventually find themselves tied with one or more competitors and be involved in a shoot-off.  The shoot-off takes place at stations 3, 4 and 5 with only doubles being thrown.  This is a “miss, and you are out” event that decides final positions overall and by class, so the pressure is high.  Shooters practice this progression shooting doubles at station 3, 4 high house target first, 5, back to station 4 low house target first, 3, back to station 4 high house target first, 5 and so on.  Shooters practice their focus and ability to be precise with their hold points, breakpoints, keep their head on the gun and follow through!

  • Shooting any of the above practice routines using the different gauges

Shooters that have the equipment to shoot the different gauges will benefit from practicing using the different gauges.  In theory, changing gauge should not make much if any of a difference since if you are on the target using 12g on down through .410 you will break it.  With that said, there are both a variety of factors around pattern size, shot string length, recoil feel and shot noise that are different however it is their impact, even in the slightest on our mental state, raising a doubt during our prep or execution that causes one or more lost targets.

Making the same Mistakes:  Making mistakes is going to happen, making them often may also happen because of a particular challenge on that day.  However, shooters coming each week and making the same mistakes on the same target or station nearly each round, regardless of challenges will find improving difficult until they become committed to determining the issue, and then practicing the options to solve using one or more of the above methods starting with the practice method “Station Work”. This also may involve asking for help, writing down some notes and then implementing some changes into a practice routine until you are comfortable with the solution, you are breaking the targets consistently, and your confidence has improved.

Keep a Journal: One of the best methods to improve shooting, without actually shooting is to keep a journal of your shooting experiences in both practice and tournaments and then refer to it often.  A journal entry for practice will include the time, date, location (filed number), weather conditions, what was practiced and with what gauge and scores if they were kept.  Write down notes of how you felt regarding shooting particular targets both breaks and misses.  Write down any station work and experimenting with foot position, hold points, look points and practicing early and late target breaks.  Look over past journal entries for commonalities and see if there is a “bigger picture” that you can learn about yourself – what you do well, what needs more work.  All journal entries should be written with a positive tone which is easy when you are shooting well.  For the times or stations that are not going well, describe what you think the issue(s) are and then focus on what you believe the solutions are that then become items to focus on at the next practice.

Practice and Get Ready to Get Better!

Russ Naples
JCTS Skeet Chairman
NSSA Certified Instructor
Four-time NSSA First Team All American