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Stage Planning 101

One of the biggest comments heard from newer shooters is about stage planning and remembering stage plans once the timer starts. For a new shooter this is certainly one of the most daunting tasks. There are a lot of parallel between this topic and the topic of mental preparation, conscious and subconscious thought. One of the primary reasons new shooters suffer in the area of stage planning Is lack of experience. Being able to break a stage down and see the best way to execute take time to learn. However, with a few pointers in the right direction this learning curve can be decreased.

First when assessing a stage, the first thing you must do is understand what is expected on the stage, it help little to walk around a stage without understanding the written stage brief. After understanding the stage brief, which will describe starting positions, gun staging requirements and which targets must be taken with which gun and from where, you can now start to look at the stage layout. The first step is to verify that the number of targets on the stage matches the number of targets in the stage brief. This will ensure you haven’t forgotten a target that may be hidden. In a heavy option target stage (multiple targets can be shot with multiple different gun to neutralize) it is important to know any targets that must be shot with a particular gun. One example is that clays are usually not an option target, they typically must be shot with birdshot from a shotgun. This factor reduces option to consider in your plan and starts to narrow down what must be shot from where with that particular gun because of the rules of that target. Once these “required” positions and targets are identified, the next decision is on shooting positions and where to transition between guns. As a rule of thumb, shooting from as few positions and with as few guns a possible is the fastest approach. This is where knowing your skill set as a shooter is very important.

For example, a higher skilled shooter may be able to reduce a stage to a shotgun and pistol if they have confidence making a 50 yard shot on a BC zone target, this is an advantage to remove a 3 second gun transition and not use their rifle. However, a lesser skilled shooter needs to be aware of their limitations and it may be better to take the transition time to ensure the shot can be made. Once an ideal stage plan has been set next is the process of programing that stage into your conscious mind. For this, it is important to identify key positions or shooting patterns. For example, I won’t memorize every single array from every single shooting position, instead, I will enter every position and with the most efficient place to begin the array and shoot from left to right or right to left. Keeping the volume of information in your conscious mind to a minimum and focusing on the critical items is key.

Lastly, most new shooters truly struggle because many of the fundamentals are not imprinted and are taking up conscious space in their mind. Working on fundamentals so that the execution of a mag change, a shotgun reload, putting safeties all happen on instinct instead of conscious thought. A well established set of fundamental skills will go along way to improving stage execution.