–Ground Blinds offer Advantages of Comfort and Safety
-Low cost, Protection from Weather
By Jim Low
A while back, a friend invited me to hunt deer on his property. When I asked if he had a tree stand I could hunt from, or if I needed to bring my own, he said he didn’t use tree stands anymore. He had gone to all ground blinds. Having never hunted out of a ground blind, I decided to give one of his a try. It was an eye-opening experience. So much so, that I got one of my own. Here are a few things I have learned about ground blinds and hunting from them.
Hunting from a ground blind has disadvantages. The most significant to me is visibility. Being 10 to 15 feet off the ground puts you above forest undergrowth, providing a clear view of approaching deer. Elevation also gets you above minor undulations in the terrain, extending your field of view even farther.
The visibility factor is particularly important when bowhunting. Even a twig can deflect an arrow, so after setting up a ground blind you must ensure clear fields of fire. In my case, this involved a couple of hours of cutting bushes, brambles, saplings and sprouts with lopping shears. The spot where I put my ground blind was in second-growth forest, so I also used a chainsaw to take out some of the smaller trees.
This wasn’t a bad thing in terms of forest management. The area around my blind was overcrowded with small trees, so my work amounted to a timber-stand improvement cut, which needed to be done anyway. The area is more open now, and the remaining red oaks will be more vigorous and produce more acorns, which means more food for deer and turkeys.
Another plus to ground blinds is safety. I love hunting from a tree stand, but climbing up and down to and from them can be dicey after a snow or ice storm. Older hunters, whose strength and reflexes are reduced, are at particular risk from falls, making ground blinds an attractive option for them.
Ground blinds also offer comfort. Having four walls and a roof around you makes hunting more attractive when the mercury plummets. You can’t shoot a deer if you aren’t in the woods, and ground blinds allow you to stay in the woods much longer than you would if you were 15 feet in the air, exposed to wind, rain, sleet or snow.
Being in a ground blind also gives you the freedom to stand up and stretch and otherwise move around without the risk of being spotted by deer. Outdoor retailers also sell chairs made specifically for use with ground blinds, further increasing the comfort factor.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
One of the first things to consider when buying a ground blind is weight. This isn’t a big deal if you can drive to your hunting spot, but if your chosen site is a mile from the nearest road, a 5- or 10-pound difference is significant.
Durability is the most important factor in my book. Look closely at the design and materials used in struts, hinges, zippers and other stress points. Consider the thickness of fabric and look for double stitching on seams. If you buy your blind online, go to a brick-and-mortar store first, and examine the one you are considering. Ask the clerk to let you take down the display model and then set it up again, so you find out how easy or difficult it is. Better to learn now if you can’t set a particular blind up without damaging it. This is also an opportunity to check for durability.
Consider the field of view from inside. You don’t need 360 degrees of visibility, but 270 degrees is handy for spotting deer coming from behind. The ability to open and close window panels is handy, since it permits you to exclude wind and precipitation from different directions. This also permits you to darken the area behind you, so as not to be silhouetted against a light background, making movement inside the blind visible to deer.
Be sure your chosen blind has camouflage netting to cover the windows. This enables you to see out, while hiding what’s inside from deer. Bowhunters should be sure to get a blind with shoot-through window netting. To work, these must be fastened at both top and bottom. Otherwise, even a sharp broadhead can catch loose mesh enough to deflect the arrow’s flight.
When choosing a chair for your blind, be sure to buy one with adjustable legs, so it can be leveled on slanted or uneven ground. Again, if you plan to buy online, try to find a store where you can test-drive your chosen model to check for comfort. If this isn’t possible, don’t hesitate to send an uncomfortable chair back for a refund or exchange. You are going to be sitting in this thing a lot of hours. It needs to be well-suited to your body.
My blind is a Blackout Hybrid from Bass Pro Shops (http://www.basspro.com/BlackOut-Hybrid-180-Hunting-Ground-Blind/product/2215666/). I got it with Bass Pro’s companion Black Out hard-arm chair (http://www.basspro.com/BlackOut-Swivel-Hard-Arm-Chair/product/1302280931/?cmCat=CROSSSELL_PRODUCT_HU_VTT1). On balance, I like them a lot. The blind only weighs 14 pounds and is ridiculously simple to set up. All you do is pull on the strap at the center of each side panel to pop them into place. It is tall enough to allow all but the tallest hunters to stand upright inside and has plenty of room for two chairs, day packs and other gear. Multiple-panel windows provide excellent field of view and versatility, and the shoot-through camo netting is easy to install and remove. The zippers are sturdy and function smoothly. The ground anchors are sturdy and have step-on braces that make driving them into the ground a cinch. Built-in side pockets are handy for stowing small items. The blind is rather heavy, but I don’t have to go with it, and the sturdy nylon canvas has a shoulder strap to facilitate carrying.
I am especially pleased with the chair. I have back problems, so I’m really picky about chairs. Not one in 100 pieces of inside furniture are comfortable for me to sit in. The Black Out chair is so ergonomically perfect that I can sit in it for
hours without the usual need of pillows or other stuff to make them comfortable. The locks on the adjustable legs are easy to operate and lock positively. Wide, circular plates prevent the feet from sinking into any but the softest ground. The chair swivels smoothly and silently. Like the blind, it comes with a carrying strap.
The Blackout Hybrid blind and chair’s faults are few and very minor. The pull cords on the zippers are flimsy. However, when they break – as they inevitably do – they zippers still operate easily without them. I honestly don’t know why they even bothered including the string pulls. The upper portion of the chair slips down onto the base, which is very convenient, but there is no locking device to keep it in place. This has not caused me any problems yet. A thumb screw on the mounting sleeve would ensure that the chair stays on the base. However, that would interfere with the chair’s swiveling. Clearly, I’m grasping at straws when it comes to finding anything wrong with the chair.
I haven’t used my ground blind for turkey hunting yet. It isn’t compatible with my run-and-gun style of hunting, but it will be great when I introduce fidgety youngsters to the sport, or years from now, when I’m too old and decrepit to chase gobblers all over god’s half-acre.
One thing to remember when you move from tree stands to ground blinds is that you lose the automatic back-stop effect. If you miss when shooting down from a tree stand, your bullet or arrow goes straight into the ground, not across the field or over the next ridge. It’s important to remember this when choosing a location for and using a ground blind.
In Missouri and many other states, there is a requirement to wear blaze orange when deer hunting. This rule has saved dozens of lives and prevented hundreds of injuries since it went into effect more than 30 years ago, but wearing hunter orange does no good when you are inside a ground blind. To alert other hunters to your presence, hang an orange hat or vest on the outside of your blind, or sew a piece of orange cloth to the top for permanent protection.