What goes around comes around, even with hunting equipment and strategies. Before the advent of the ever-popular tree stands that we see everywhere in the woods today, deer hunters used to hunt on the ground.
Many of the old black-and-white photos of early deer hunters showed them sitting on tree stumps or on the ground with their backs to a big tree. When I started deer hunting, all of it was done by sitting on the ground or standing by a tree.
Of course, there was no camouflage back then, either.
But the trick to catching deer off guard remains the same as always — the hunter must be concealed and to keep still.
That was hard to do when stuck out in the open leaning up against a tree. It didn’t take long, though, for hunters to figure out better ways to hide from game while remaining positioned at ground level.
Ground blinds personified
When deer hunters talked ground blinds 20-plus years ago, the structures were creations fabricated at the hunting spot with available natural materials. Hunters pulled together logs or tree limbs, and then built up camouflaged screens with evergreen cuttings and other vegetation.
The hunters could hover down in behind this cover and be fairly undetected if the wind was right.
Building such ground blinds fell pretty much out of favor when the factory-made tree stands came along.
Today, however, there is a resurgence of the ground-blind concept. Only now they are constructed of heavy-duty synthetic fabrics sewn around collapsible tubing frames just like modern lightweight camping tents.
These blinds sport a variety of window configurations, sizes and heights. Some have special screen windows that can be shot right through.
They are made big enough to hold two or three hunters sitting in comfortable camp chairs. Pickle buckets are out of business.
The blinds can be staked down to handle rough windy days. They are also waterproofed, so rain has little impact on their usefulness and comfort factor.
Some of these blinds are so well sealed that considerable human scent is contained inside the blind, with just one window down to prevent a cross draft.
The exterior of these commercially made stands are full-bore camouflage. Some I have seen tucked away in the corner of a field or woods can actually be hard to spot with the naked eye. The hope is that wildlife has an equally tough time picking out the structure sitting in their living rooms.
An added feature with the more-advanced commercial ground blinds is that the interiors are all blacked out. This helps reduce the likelihood of a deer looking into the blind and seeing a person sitting there. It also helps hide those minor movements inside the blind.
The blinds should be set up early enough in the season so as to “air out” the fabric and allow deer to adjust to their presence.
It probably would not hurt to douse the blind with a scent-killing spray prior to hunter confinement. Hanging some felt strips coated in deer urine scent some distance away would be a good strategy, too.
Ground blind use
Good places to set up modern ground blinds include the corners of open fields or food plots nestled back in the bushes to offer natural cover.
Try to get as many clear points of view as possible. Some hunters like to mow shooting lanes like spokes of a wheel, placing the ground blind at the juncture hub. Add a swivel chair for a 360-degree view of the hunting lanes. Use caution with this setup, though, as deer might recognize something is out of order with this blind placement.
“I like to set up a blind in the thick of the woods, but with a clear sight to well-used funnels, say, coming up and down a ditch bank or along the edge of a cypress slough,” said Seth Adams of Madison. “A corner next to two joining, different types of habitat like field and woods is a good prospect, as well.
“Posting a blind near a well-used food source is a good idea, too — something like a grove of acorn-dropping oak trees, if it is well screened-in.”
Indeed, the use of ground blinds has come full circle over the years. I like hunting from the ground as much as a perch up in a tree, but the truth is I nap better in my camp chair than in a sling-strap seat 16 feet off the ground.
For us older guys, a ground blind is certainly a much-safer option than a tree stand, but it also works great for all adult hunters with child hunters along.
So pitch a ground blind this season and see if you don’t like the viewpoint a lot.