Open-country real estate calls for the flexibility to toss traditional turkey tactics out the window and use the terrain to your advantage. Admittedly, open country dominates the topography of the states I hunt most, including South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana. Surprisingly though, I’ve found myself using the same setups on hunts in Georgia and Alabama. Depending on the terrain and the situation, getting in a traditional setup with your back against a tree isn’t always possible. Don’t let a treeless landscape end your hunt. To leave the field smiling instead of muttering curses, follow these steps.
Assume the Position
Most turkey enthusiasts sight-in their shotguns by shooting from a bench using sandbags, or they sit against a tree and lock their elbows on their knees. Don’t change a thing when you sight-in, but add another step to your session. Shoot from the prone position in case you find yourself lying face down during a hunt. Turkeys dictate when and where your prone setup will take place, but you control your body position. Since most turkey guns have substantial recoil, it’s best to position your body at a 45-degree angle to your target. Some coaches recommend a 10- to 20-degree angle to the target, but they are usually shooting .22-caliber firearms with little recoil. The 45-degree angle allows your body to soak up recoil and disperse it, without it driving down the full length of your body.
Your legs should be spread loosely and without tension. In a fast-moving hunting situation, place your feet so your toes are pointing away from your body. This plants the largest surface firmly against the ground and provides additional stability.
Arm placement is also critical for sturdy support. When using the prone position, more than 90 percent of the firearm’s weight is supported by your off hand. Make sure your elbows are shoulder-width apart in front of you. Your right elbow may be drawn in a bit for the best shoulder contact with the shotgun. With your right hand, grip the shotgun in such a manner that you can pull the trigger directly to the rear.
Line Up your Shot
Finally, place your head against the shotgun to aim. Bring the stock of the firearm to your cheek; don’t slide your face into the firearm. This will help you gain a straighter line-of-sight picture of the target. If you use a scope, keep in mind that most of us have a tendency to creep our face forward on the stock, putting it closer to the rim around the ocular lens. When the shot goes off you could find yourself bleeding more than your target. Don’t creep forward.
If you find yourself prone, don’t wear yourself out. Lay the shotgun down, pointed toward the anticipated arrival site of the gobbler. If and when he does arrive, you’ll have to pick up the shotgun and ease it into position when his view of you is obscured.
Remember safety when you’re contemplating a ground-hugging maneuver. Don’t risk crawling for birds in public areas overrun with hunters. If you’re calling from the grass with decoys in front of you, your low profile may not be easily recognizable. Keep a sharp eye for others stalking your decoy and identify yourself in a loud, clear voice if you spy another hunter. Follow these steps and fire a few practice rounds prone, and you’ll be in a better position to take a tom, no matter what the situation or terrain.