A few years ago, a botched surgery changed my style of hunting forever. I’ve bowhunted from tree stands for more than 50 years, but no more. During what was supposed to be a simple ablation procedure for a rapid heart beat, the doctor cut the nerve to my right diaphragm, and I lost half of my breathing capacity. Adjusting has been a major effort, but since there is no cure, I try to move on as best I can. For a while, I thought I might never hunt again, but giving up deer hunting is just not going to be an option.
The summer following the surgery, I realized that because I am light-headed, probably because of inadequate oxygen supply, I don’t have the strength or dexterity to climb into trees safely. I’d have to hunt from the ground. Not only that, but walking very far was also not possible, so I began to plan exactly where I’d have friends help me erect ground blinds.
I’ve used ground blinds for hunting turkeys, and I’ve sat in a blind or two while deer hunting, but with this new change in lifestyle, I’ve learned a whole new way of approaching the use of blinds, and have given lots of thought into where to place a blind — the blind spot, if you will.
There are two ways to use a ground blind to hunt deer. One is to haul it out before daylight, find a good spot, and quickly erect the blind and hunt. In some situations that might be your only option, but my discussion involves putting the blind up ahead of time and leaving it there for a while. This assumes that your area is secure enough that you don’t need to worry about the blind being stolen. If you aren’t sure about security, to get the deer used to the situation, put up a 3- or 4-foot-high camo netting where the blind will be placed. Then right before the season, put up the blind.
What attributes should you look for in a blind when using it to hunt deer? Obviously, the blind needs to very sturdy, because it’s going to be out there through all kinds of weather. You also want one that goes up in a hurry, and that’s one reason I really like the five-hub-type blinds. They’re sturdy and go up in a flash, and the hubs keep the walls and roof taut so there is no noise from wind flap. What follows relates to the hub-type blinds.
Tie-down loops at each ground corner and outer tie loops in the middle of each side panel and the roof will help secure the blind. Strings attaching these loops to nearby limbs or brush will keep the blind erect and in place no matter what the weather. I like lighter blinds, simply because they are easier to carry and maneuver. You’ll also want a blind that provides more than about 65 inches of head room and one that is 60 to 70 inches wide. The result is plenty of room for either bow or gun hunting.
Some blinds offer 360-degree shooting windows, and these can be handy. Shoot-through netting is available on many blinds. That can be a distinct advantage for bowhunters who need to set up fairly close to where they believe the deer will pass. You can draw and shoot without being seen.
Quietness is especially important when on the ground. You want a blind that is quiet in the wind, quiet when brush rubs the outside of the blind, and quiet when you accidentally touch the inside. Check out the inner and outer shell material when purchasing your blind and satisfy yourself that it’s not too noisy.
If you can get a black, scent-protection lining, all the better. The scent liner will help eliminate human odor and the black lining creates a dark interior for better concealment, especially when you have to move to shoot.
You can find blinds with or without an outer leafy camouflage cover. Either way, brush the blind in so that the deer can’t see it. Deer adjust more quickly to the presence of a blind if it is brushed in, so do this as early as possible in the summer.
When you position the blind, be especially aware of your path to and from the blind. Odor on the trail can spook deer before they get close to the blind. And most important, be aware of the prevailing wind direction. Even though you’re in a closed blind, and even if it has a scent-proof lining, human odor is still something to consider. Make sure your blind is downwind of where you believe the deer will move. If there is a trail behind the blind that deer might take instead of the one you want them to use, place brush or tree limbs to block it. Do this in the spring, so that the deer get used to walking where you want them to walk. It sounds simple, and it actually is.
The blind on my Ohio lease is located inside a pine plantation, which is a travel corridor from one hardwood stand to another. Twenty yards from the blind is a scrape that gets hammered year after year, and there is a rubline as well. We checked the prevailing winds before we put up the blind, which has brush loops below the shooting windows on each side panel. This is a handy feature.
When placing your blind, consider natural funnels to and from feeding and bedding areas. Often such funnels do not have trees big enough for stands, which makes them ideal spots for a blind, especially if you can brush in the blind early in the summer.
You’ve been in tree stands for years, and most of you have seen bucks using trails or areas where tree stands just won’t work. Now is the time to rethink your approach, and find that spot where a ground blind will do the job.