by Naomi K. Shapiro
When it comes to whitetail hunting, lots of hunters like to be elevated in tree stands. The human scent is above the deer, you're out of the direct line of sight, and you've got great vision all over. But, using a tree stand is not always possible or indeed even necessary. There are many instances when you need to make use of a ground blind.
Here are just some of the reasons for using a ground blind – not all of them mind you, but these are the most common that we've found.
*Some people suffer from vertigo - -a fear of heights, or are just physically unable to climb for any variety of reasons. Lots of hunters fall into this category - -more than you think.
*Where you're hunting simply may not have a suitable tree for you to anchor or set up a tree stand.
*You may be hunting a known specific area that has a lot of deer, and you know the deer go through the area, but it's not big, safe, or thick enough, or doesn't have any big trees for concealment when using a tree stand.
*On public land (this is the reg for Wisconsin, which may vary or may not be applicable in your area), you cannot damage any trees. Therefore you cannot use any screws for setting up a tree stand. You can't even use screws for tree steps, so some hunters bring their own climber or ladder. These have been found to be heavy and cumbersome to lug around. They're bulky, and can make a lot of noise from your movement when you try to set them up and even use them. Bye-bye trophy buck, if that happens.
The secret to overcoming these situations or difficulties is to build a ground blind, and it is very surprising as to how few hunters even consider this option. What you need to do is build a ground blind that will TOTALLY conceal you - -and that while necessary during gun season, is absolutely critically essential in bow season (just reflect for a moment on the need for movement when using a bow, and you're in the deer's line of sight, to-boot).
So, you can keep it simple, by building a ground blind out of natural materials like twigs, branches, grass, brush piles and leaf cover. And we hope we can convince you not to tear up or cut trees or other natural materials - -it is often not legal to begin-with, and why would anyone be so uncaring as to destroy our precious environment (that's a rhetorical question!).
You can buy a portable ground blind - -will run $100 plus or minus, or you can build one out of 2 x 4s, plywood, paneling, etc. - -some of them are very elaborate. And yes, we know – you'll only want to build one of these elaborate blinds if you hunt your own, or a "partner's" property. If you hunt someone else's property, you're not going to want to build that landowner an elaborate blind. And on public land - -you can build a "permanent" type blind, using stumps, fallen logs, old rotted trees, ground cover - - and we've seen some nice ones. And please—don't worry too much about someone else "stealing" your blind, because it's on public land. Guide Phil Scweik tells us that in all the many years he's deer hunted, he has never once seen a constructed permanent type blind on public land, abused by another hunter. There's that wonderful "unwritten code" that all good hunters adhere to.
OK - -you've got all your materials, and you're ready to build - -where do you want to locate? Remember, when you're on the ground, you're in the direct line of sight and scent distance of the deer. Make sure your blind is downwind from where the deer will be coming, and that you're really well concealed. Another little hint is that, let's say you're in hardwoods, but without a suitable tree or location to erect a tree stand. Find a real big tree- - lean up against the tree and use twigs and branches to conceal yourself. Remember how Rambo did it?! It really does work if done properly - -and that includes good camo, all over, including bare skin areas, like your face.
After you've totally blended in with your surroundings, then meticulously cut yourself a couple of narrow shooting lanes - -not more than 3 to 4 feet wide. This is particularly important when hunting in tag alder swamps where there are few if any big trees, and where the deer have major runways. So, as an example, if you are in tag alder (tag alder is considered a tree by some, and a large shrub by others), cut the two small/narrow shooting lanes through it -- making sure that your cuts are so well done that no deer will recognize that things are "out of order," as they move on their travel runways. Optimally try to be 15 to 20 years downwind from the major trail where the deer are coming from, and whatever you do, don't set up right on the trail. Stop laughing - -there are lots of hunters who do just that, if you can believe it, and then they wonder why they never see a deer, let alone get one. Simply put – if you cut a lot of tag alder or any other natural cover, the deer will spook, knowing that something or someone is there.
As time goes along, there seems to be a growing awareness among deer hunters of the need to be able to use a ground blind in the right circumstances. Being aware of how/what/when/where to use one is going to help you get that trophy, when tree stands are not feasible. Talk it over with friends who are experienced in using ground blinds, go to a seminar or one of the deer hunting shows - -plenty of information readily available from experts, or talk to staff at your favorite outdoor outfitter. All will be able to give you some good pointers- - which means more "points" on that big buck you're going to surely nail if you know how to use a ground blind