You finally found it. The spot, filled with fresh rubs, scrapes, deer trails like highways, but what if there aren’t any trees large enough, tall enough, or in the right position to hang a stand? Ground blinds are a great tool for success if used properly.
The biggest mistake I see, and have made for that matter, that reduces the chance for success when hunting from a ground blind is the lack of proper concealment. The best camo patterns out there do not change the fact that you are adding a big box to a deer’s home that wasn’t there yesterday. Whitetail deer know their territory down to every tree or bush. They will notice sudden changes whether it be a treestand or a blind and so efforts must be made to limit how conspicuous your set up will be.
The first time I hunted in a ground blind I was taking a friend on his first hunt. I received an Ameristep Blind as an early Christmas present and couldn’t wait to try it out during Maryland’s late muzzleloader season. We set up in a creek bottom used as a travel corridor to a bedding area. Sure enough, just as the sun was starting to rise to relieve us from the cold, heavily frosted, December morning, three does appeared in the middle of a hayfield about 300 yards out. When the farmer fired up his tractor, the does spooked and ran down a fenceline in our general direction. I told my friend to get ready. Although they could have gone anywhere, experience told me that these does would eventually head past our position. It wasn’t five minutes later when they appeared at 50 yards. As they turned to enter the creek bottom, they suddenly froze in their tracks, did a quick head-bob and were gone! Picked us off. We had set the blind next to a tree that morning before light but made no effort to brush it up.
I learned a valuable lesson that morning and felt as if i had let my friend down by blowing an opportunity for his first deer. Today, I tuck my ground blinds back in to natural cover as much as possible. Low hanging tree limbs, vines, mounds of brush, are all great for breaking up the outline of the blind and helping it to “fit” with the existing vegetation. Cutting branches, briars, cattails, etc. and stacking them against the blind to add that little extra touch is also great camouflage. Just when I think I am over doing it, I add a little more. I clear off the ground inside the blind to minimize sound while shifting positions or to prevent getting my equipment fouled when preparing for a shot. Once I have my blind “brushed up,” I get inside and trim any bits and pieces needed for clear shooting lanes.
The general practice of leaving the blind for a few days before hunting from it, to allow the deer to become accustomed to its presence, is a sound one. But if it is well concealed, I will sometimes hunt it as early as that afternoon or the following morning.
There are a few other precautionary measures that I take before I ever bring my blind into the woods or begin to clear the forest in my attempts to hide the hide. The first thing that I recommend is setting the blind up in the backyard to become familiar with how it works. The last thing I want to be doing when getting the blind ready for the hunt, is reading the directions in my hunting area. Once I have the blind up, I leave it as well as its carrying case in my yard for several days and spray it with a scent eliminating spray inside and out. This will help mother nature in eliminating that artificial or plastic smell that the blinds have straight from the package or any scent remnants from earlier use.
I take this time to practice hunting scenarios. I bring all my gear that I would have on a hunt and set it up in the blind including my captain’s chair, pack, tripod and video camera, and placement of my bow or rifle. Then I will practice drawing my bow and taking the shot from a sitting position. There are enough variables to worry about on a hunt. Not knowing how I, or my equipment, is going to perform due to lack of preparation should not be one of them.
Once I am ready to hunt, my scent control practices apply to my blind and set up the same as they would for myself. I always wear rubber boots to and from my hunting area and spray down with scent eliminating sprays. When I have the blind positioned after clearing the ground of debris, I spray the blind again, inside and out, with more scent spray and begin adding my natural camouflage.
I wear only dark camo or even an all black shirt or jacket while hunting to blend with the dark interior of the blind. I also do not open the windows behind me. This prevents me from being silhouetted inside the blind and helps capture any scent downwind.
What if I do not have an artificial blind, or have to clear the forest just to find enough cuttings to brush it up? Mother nature often provides natural blinds that are very effective. The deer associate these blow downs, logs, stumps, clusters of briars, etc. as part of their territory and so part one is taken care of for me. My total concealment may need a few touches of added brush but in many cases they can be ready to go as is. I still clear out a place on the ground so that I can shift my feet to change position without making any noise. My first deer was taken behind a cluster of briars, and I have taken several deer with my bow from behind a fallen ash tree. While bow hunting in Maryland from behind a fallen tree covered in Virginia Creeper, I once had a fawn feed on the grass and leaves that I had cut and used to brush up the tree! I also do a lot of firearm and muzzleloader hunting from the ground, especially in the mountains of Virginia or the hills and swamps of Georgia. I always look for these natural blinds for my set up.
Ground blinds are effective tools from which you can harvest whitetails. They give you a new perspective at eye level then what you may be used to peering down from treestand. It is a thrilling change to be facing a buck at 10 yards, staring into his eyes and watching steam from is breath rise like smoke into the air. Ground blinds are also a great way for anyone who may be handicapped or can’t twist their way 25 feet of a tree to experience the great sport of hunting. Young children, fidgety wives, novus and avid hunters alike benefit from the added concealment of movement. Ground blinds are also a great way to share a hunt in close proximity with a friend or family member and allow you to pass the time sharing stories, jokes, or guidance on hunting or life in general. This is especially important for children and beginning hunters who do not have the decades of experience and need help knowing when to move, when to shoot, where to aim, and calming their nerves.
Yes sir! Ground blinds can be one of the most valuable tools in a hunter’s arsenal.
photo on right courtesy of MJCdetroit via Wikipedia