‘Tis the season for spending time on your rear end … hunting out of a layout blind, that is. Layout blinds offer the ultimate in comfort and concealment for hunting open crop fields devoid of cover, where more traditional blinds can’t be used. Across the grain belt in particular, where field hunting is most popular, layout blinds are tremendously popular.
Shooting well from a layout blind can be tricky. Range of motion is somewhat limited by the near-horizontal shooting position, and safety must be taken seriously as hunters rise from their hides.
Long-time Pacific Northwest waterfowl guide, goose-calling expert and accomplished layout hunter Bill Saunders offers five tips for better shooting from a layout blind.
1. Practice from Your Blind
Outside of hunting season, how often do you shoot from the seated position? That’s what I thought.
If you want to shoot better this season, practice better in the off-season by shooting some clay targets while parked on your keister.
2. Position Blinds Carefully
Shooting while seated limits your range of motion. For right-handed shooters, it’s more difficult to rotate to the right, and the opposite for lefties. Therefore, try to position the blinds in a way that maximizes your shots taken on the side with the widest range of motion.
This will vary depending on if you are positioned outside the decoy spread or in it, but a good example is when you are positioned about 20 yards off the edge of the spread and expect the birds to land straight ahead. Rotate the blind so that the “foot end” is slightly to the right of the direction you expect birds to land (for righties). This make it easier to shoot slightly to the right, if needed.
3. Dig In
If you’re a XXL kind of hunter, you might find it difficult to sit fully upright when it’s time to shoot. Saunders says a simple aid is to dig a hole 4 to 6 inches deep where your derriere will be, before brushing in the blind. This puts you in a more upright position from the start. He’s used this trick with several former NFL giants who’ve hunted with him.
4. Cock Your Leg
Increase your range of motion by pulling up the leg on your shooting-hand side so that your shooting-hand foot is roughly under the backside of your opposite knee. This creates a more stable shooting base too.
5. Call Them Close, Move When Needed
The best way to increase your odds of making the shot from a layout blind is to let the birds work in as close as possible, and to move when the wind or other conditions change. Being willing to change and exercising patience in the blind are good tips not only for better shooting, but for becoming a better hunter, too.
SAFETY RULES FOR LAYOUTBLINDS**
1. All Shots Go “Forward”
This rule should apply any time other hunters are directly to your left and right, no matter what kind of blind you’re using. However, it’s especially important when the doors of a layout blind swing open and the action is hot. Set up so your likely shooting direction is out in front, centered before the blinds. Do not shoot over your partners’ heads. Keep all shots and barrels pointed forward. And don’t walk out in front of the other hunters unless all guns are unloaded with actions open. If the wind changes and birds are consistently landing where shots are in unsafe directions, change your setup.
2. Safeties “On” Until the Gun is Mounted
Saunders says he has encountered a lot of hunters over the years who’ve had the bad habit of flipping off their safeties while the birds were working the decoys. This is especially dangerous since the possibilities of a negligent discharge tend to be higher when hunters are moving in a confined space and wearing bulky clothing, such as when in a layout blind. Now, he institutes a rule each morning that safeties remain in the “safe” position until the hunters are sitting up and the gun is shouldered.
3. Use the Gun Rest
A quality layout blind should come with a built-in gun rest designed to keep the gun pointed in a safe direction. Use it. Don’t lay the gun across your lap, where it might be pointed toward your hunting companions.
4. Keep Dogs Out of Your Blind
If you hunt with a canine companion, he deserves his own blind. A dog in the layout blind with you and a loaded gun is asking for disaster. Don’t do it.
-Photos by Final Approach