Question: I sometimes see shooters riding around the course and looking at the targets before they actually shoot the course for score. I also see them watch shooters shoot the targets before moving on to spectate at another station. Do you recommend I do a recon of the course before shooting it?
Answer: I don’t have a strong opinion on this one. I neither recommend nor discourage my students and competitors from reconnoitering a sporting clays course before shooting it in competition. Taking a quick ride through the course can be helpful as it will give you an idea of the basic layout of the course and perhaps reduce some uncertainty and stress during the tournament.
If you are competing in a large tournament and have the time, conducting a recon of your first station on each course might not be a bad idea, particularly if you have only a brief interval of time between events. From an etiquette standpoint, you should maintain a respectable distance from the squad actively shooting each station and avoid “buzzing” the station with your golf cart.
With that said, the targets may look quite different from a distance than they will look while standing in the station or immediately behind the shooter in the stand. Visual and mental fatigue are common enemies for competitors. The process of observing each target and developing your shot plan for every pair over twelve to fifteen stations is sufficiently taxing on your eyes and brain. To go through the process twice might be a bit much.
I do recommend watching some of the top shots shoot when you have an opportunity. You will learn a great deal by watching them and if you have the opportunity to squad with elite shooters that’s even better!