There is nothing like having that perfect lofty perch in a nice big, tall and straight tree overlooking a couple of well traveled game trails and maybe even a pinch point to boot. As you sit there with height, visual and scent advantage, you’re getting anxious to know if that big mature “10” you’ve been seeing on your trail cameras will make a daylight appearance! We all dream of having that type of setup.
Ground Blinds Might Be the Only Option
So what do you do if you don’t have those elements for the perfect tree stand? What if your geographical area doesn’t grow that type of woodlands or what if the only parcel you have to hunt is barren of such woods? Have you ever considered using a ground blind?
I have hunted with ground blinds for the past 5 years, that’s about the time they started to get good, what I mean by good is their quality, quality fabrics, camo patterns, ruggedness and roominess. Up until that time, it was spot and stalk or setup a hasty blind out of the natural surrounding; I still prefer this method for wild turkey hunting but this is Deer Pros and we are here to talk about deer hunting.
Setup of ground blinds has become faster with the introduction of the hub style framing. Portability isn’t all that great when you have other gear to carry in, but it’s not impossible to get it all to the same area in one trip.
1 – Site Selection
As with tree stands, site selection is still going to be based on the same factors. Hopefully you have been able to do some early scouting in the area and know how the deer are traveling. Next thing I do is to look for natural concealment areas; this is where I’m going to “tuck” the ground blind up into.
You want to be sure that you can eliminate sky lining, although I have seen successful setups that are just sitting out in the open. What we want is to maximize our chances of being successful not just marginally successful. Also take into account where the sun is going to be. In the morning you don’t want to face due east; you will have problems with glare in your rifle scope, dimmed reticle in your range finder, and poor light levels below tree lines where the deer are.
Are you planning on bow hunting or rifle hunting? Now you have to take into account shooting distances and if your bow hunting, you will need to be up close and have a higher concealment factor to contend with. Currently I have two setups where one is pretty much a rifle setup and one has a maximum 45 yard bow shot. On that particular setup, I have deer out in front of me anywhere from 15- 45 yards. With a setup like this, concealment and stealth become highly important.
3 – Blind Prep
With the introduction of zippers and Velcro into hunting clothing and equipment, the noise from these two items can be a problem in the early morning when it’s very quiet and the sound travels much better. What I like to do is setup the blind with all the windows and mesh in the configuration that I want to hunt that day. If I’m going to hunt the late afternoon, I will set the windows and mesh several hours before hand and back out or just stay put and plan on hunting until dark. If you’re going to film your hunt, I setup the tripod as well in the window I want to use, chair, heater, shooting stick, etc. all go into the blind ahead of time assuming the location is secure enough to do so (not recommended for public lands). If I am planning on hunting the same location in the morning, I leave it in that configuration overnight so I can just move into it with minimal noise.
One thing I learned a long time ago about noisy zippers is to take a plain unscented Chapstick and run it up and down the open zipper and it will be a lot quieter when you go to open it in the morning.
4 – In the Blind
Once you get into position there is very little to do. I put my pack in a place where I can get to all the pockets, lean my rifle, hang my bow, and I’m hunting. I always have my range finder around my neck and tucked into a vest pocket before I leave camp; the same for my binoculars, I use a harness so I’m already wearing them when I arrive.
5 – Eating/Drinking in the Blind
Before I leave camp, I remove all noisy wrappers from their packaging and place them in zip lock bags with sliding closures, not the typical press type. By removing snacks from their wrappers you won’t be fumbling with them in the blind creating unwanted noises and the sliders are quieter and are easy to open with gloved hands. Oh, and never eat crackers while wearing binos around your neck, crumbs may fall into the eye cups and when you bring the optics to your eyes when you see movement you may get an eyeful of cracker crumbs which is painful and will distort your vision for a period of time and you may miss out on a shooting opportunity.
Don’t bring ordinary bottled water into the blind with you, they have a tendency to make loud cracking noises and the plastic wrapping on the bottles is noisy also.
I like to use a drinking bag and tube from my pack, but if you have to bring a plastic bottle, use a Gatorade bottle and cut the wrapper off before bringing it out to the blind. The bottle walls are thicker and won’t make noise like an ordinary water bottle will; I also like to break the seal before putting it into my pack also eliminating an extra noise in the field.
6 – Blind Accessories
I like to use a swivel chair with arm support. Swivel chairs make it easier to get into position when bow hunting, and I like the fact I can just “swivel” around when scanning with binoculars so I’m not turning my head thus creating less detectable movement from the outside. I like the arm rests because I can hang accessory bags from each one and have items like calls, wind checkers, cover scents, and cell phone, all within easy reach requiring less movement from inside the blind.
7 – Leaving the Blind
Hopefully you are only leaving the blind because your big “10” is down and you’re going to claim him! If you get skunked and need to exit at the end of the hunt, I always wait for the moment I can no longer see deer in the area and back out quietly. Gather the things you are taking quietly and leave the things you don’t need to haul back. If I’m returning the next morning, I only close the bottom zipper on the door assuming the blind has a “V” door, this eliminates the need to unzip an additional zipper in the morning and closing just the bottom gives greater assurance a critter won’t be in the blind waiting for you in the morning. Either way, always use a red or green light to peer into the blind prior to entering. If you leave the blind case in the blind, hang it up or place it outside rolled up or you might find something has crawled under it in the middle of the night and may surprise you mid morning.
Some of these tips you may already be aware of and you may be practicing them. If you follow these tips you will be stealthier and have less setup time before your hunt and hopefully more success. You also need to check out the article about filming hunts from a ground blind.