Let’s face it. In our busy lives, it can be hard to do things on a whim. If you’re anything like me, you have the days you’re free to hunt picked out weeks, even months ahead of time. But what happens if, a couple of days before the hunt, a storm moves in and temperatures drop? In that case, I opt for my ground blind over my tree stand.
Hunting from a ground blind is arguably a bit more complex than other hunting methods. It requires some planning and strategic placement, as well as extra camouflage and addressing the difficulties of shooting from ground blinds.
Don’t worry. Although there’s more involved when hunting from a ground blind, even a beginner can take all this into account and hunt successfully. Not only does this guide cover the basics of all you need to know, but it links to my more in-depth articles so you can go into your blind with all the information you need.
Ground Blinds and Their Benefits
A ground blind is a unique method of hunting that has specific advantages over other methods of hunting such as stand and still hunting. Many of these advantages are ideal for certain situations that may make a ground blind a better option. In other words, if any of these apply to you, consider using a ground blind.
- Weather protection: A ground blind keeps you out of the rain and wind. You can even heat it to keep you warm. This is the main reason I opt for my ground blind over my tree stand in the late season.
- Extra room: A ground blind is usually a better choice if you want to hunt with other people like friends or family members. Plus, you can bring more gear like a heater and chair.
- Easy access: It’s much easier to get in a ground blind than climb up into a tree stand, so if you have a disability or safety concerns about heights, a ground blind is a good choice. It’s also better for kids.
- Versatile placement: A tree stand requires a tree, but a ground blind can go just about anywhere. If you want to hunt open fields, you may need a ground blind.
Ground Blind Challenges
Before deciding to use a ground blind, though, you should also consider the downsides:
- Limited visibility: You can only see out of the shooting slits or windows in a ground blind, not 360 degrees.
- Conspicuous to game: A blind is a large man-made structure at eye level. When it first appears, it’s likely to spook animals like deer. This makes scouting and placing your blind an important part of the hunt, which I’ll go over below.
- Difficult bow shooting: Depending on the blind, the shooting slit may be rather small, so it can be hard to shoot accurately with a vertical bow.
Hunting from a ground blind arguably requires more work before the hunt. This is because the blind is much more conspicuous, so you need more strategy and camouflage when placing it. In the weeks before hunting, there are several things you ought to do.
The most important thing is figuring out where to put the ground blind. This is important for two main reasons. First, deer more easily notice ground blinds, so you have to pick a place that best camouflages it. Second, you can’t shoot out of a ground blind in 360 degrees, so you have to make sure to orient it facing where deer are most likely to pass.
In the weeks leading up to your hunt, scout the area you plan to hunt.
First, find their feeding, bedding, and watering areas. These are where deer spend most of their time. You can potentially even find these areas using satellite imagery like Google Earth, though it probably won’t be as up-to-date as visiting the area yourself.
- Feeding areas are usually open fields with tall grass or agricultural crops that deer can graze. You can verify that deer feed in a field by checking for droppings and plants that have been chewed on.
- Bedding areas are places of thick cover where deer can feel safe. They’re often elevated on ridges where the deer can see all around them or are only exposed to danger on one side. You can easily recognize bedding areas because the plants are matted down and flattened.
- Watering areas are places on shorelines or stream banks where the deer can easily access the water to drink.
I sometimes hunt feeding areas, especially if there is still a lot of vegetation left after the rut. In this case, I set the blind up on the tree line to look over the feeding area while hiding the blind in the thicker forest. However, I prefer to scout out a travel corridor, a place where deer move between feeding, bedding, and watering areas.
I look for two things:
- Game trails: If you can find a worn line connecting a feeding and bedding area, you can set up the blind so the shooting slit is facing the trail.
- Pinch points: Since I live in hilly terrain, my favorite place to set up a ground blind is behind a pinch point, a place where deer crossing a wide area will all move towards because it’s the easiest place to walk. Where I hunt, these are valleys and cols moving up the hills to their bedding area, but in the lowlands, water crossings are common pinch points, too.
I recommend setting up your ground blind at least two weeks before you plan to hunt the area. Deer are cautious animals, and when they see a deer blind suddenly pop up, they’ll be wary of it. However, they’ll get used to it after a short period of time and become increasingly comfortable approaching the blind.
A few factors make a difference in how early you might want to set up the blind:
- Hunting pressure: If you’re hunting an area hunted by a lot of other hunters or hunting in the late season when the deer have experienced a lot of hunting pressure, deer will be wary and need more time to get used to the blind.
- Human development: Deer won’t be as spooked by your blind if they’re used to man-made objects. For example, if there are a lot of electricity lines and rural cabins in the area, deer may take less than two weeks to get used to the blind.
- Camouflage and brush: If you’re setting up your ground blind in the woods where you can cover it with a lot of brush and blend it in with the natural environment, it won’t be as conspicuous as setting it up smack in the middle of a field.
Of course, you can only set your blind up early if you’re hunting on private land. If you hunt public land, you don’t have much choice but to set it up on the same day. This isn’t ideal, but it is doable. You just need to focus on camouflaging the blind with plants and brush.
Additionally, pay extra attention to scent. Even if you’re setting up your ground blind the same day, take several days beforehand to eliminate any residual artificial odor. My favorite method is to stuff my blind—and the rest of my gear—into a box with leaves, pine needles, and other brush. This makes the blind blend into the woods to the nose as well as the eyes.
The Day of the Hunt
When the day has come, and you’re ready to hike out to the spot you’ve strategically placed your ground blind, there are a number of things to think about. Of course, you need to take the same care you would when stand hunting to eliminate your scent and keep quiet while walking through the woods. However, there are some concerns that are ground-blind-specific.
When to Be in Your Ground Blind
The timing for getting in your ground blind depends a bit on where you’ve placed it, but generally, you should be situated 30 minutes before sunrise for morning hunts and an hour before sunset for evening hunts. Deer move at dusk, going from feeding areas at night to bedding areas during the day. Following these rules of thumbs will better catch them on the move.
That said, if you’re hunting their feeding or bedding areas themselves, you can be a bit more flexible. Just plan to be in the blind before they get there. If you’re late and entering the blind when they’re already nearby, you’ll spook them.
What to Take
Naturally, you need the same basic equipment when you hunt a ground blind as hunting a tree stand or still hunting: clothing based on the weather, food and water, binoculars and a rangefinder, your cell phone, your weapon and any accessories, and any extra accessories like deer calls.
But remember how I said one of the benefits of a ground blind is extra space? That means you can potentially bring some other things you normally couldn’t:
- A space heater, assuming your blind has proper ventilation and heater is safe
- A cooler with foods, as long as the food isn’t too smelly or loud
- A comfortable seat
- A friend or family member
What to Wear
There is a bit of debate in the hunting community about what to wear when hunting a ground blind, but you should at least stick to black or camo. I recommend black if you can since this will minimize visible shadows and silhouettes within the blind.
However, if you’re like me and all your hunting clothing is in camo, don’t worry about getting additional black clothing. Camo should be fine.
Clear Your Shooting Lanes
If you’re following my advice and setting your ground blind up at least two weeks before hunting it, there’s a good chance the woods will change in the meantime, especially in the early season. Grass grows, trees fall, etc. You could get in your ground blind only to find that there’s something blocking your view from the shooting slit to the game trail.
Before you get in the blind, check and clear the shooting lane.
Entering the Ground Blind
When you get in the ground blind, do so as quietly as possible. Open and close the flaps and windows deliberately, and make sure that everything is secured tightly afterward. Set up your gear quietly and make sure it’s situated so that you can shoot without knocking things over and making noise.
Shooting From a Ground Blind
Most ground blinds on the market have specific shooting slits or windows that are fairly simple to shoot from with a rifle or crossbow. When you see your quarry come into view, slowly push the barrel through the mesh and wait until the deer moves into an appropriate position for shooting.
Shooting a vertical bow is a bit more complicated. The biggest issue is having enough room to draw the bow without making noise. You should take some measurements before you get the blind.
Similarly, you’re almost certainly going to have to shoot from a seated position, which is much more difficult to do accurately, especially for traditional bows. I recommend practicing shooting like this beforehand.
Should I Hunt From a Ground Blind?
A ground blind is an effective way to hunt. I mainly recommend them for situations in which you can take advantage of their unique benefits. This could be bad weather, hunting in a group, or if you can’t or don’t want to climb into a tree or walk around still hunting.
Just keep in mind that hunting from a ground blind can be a bit more complicated than other methods. It takes more strategy and more planning ahead. Yet all this adds to the enjoyment of the hunt and the feeling of triumph when you harvest your quarry.
Ground blind hunting offers a distinct and adaptable approach to the sport. It’s a method that can cater to diverse conditions and hunter preferences, blending comfort, accessibility, and adaptability into one package.
Whether you’re seeking shelter from harsh weather, hunting with companions, or navigating terrain unsuitable for tree stands, ground blinds provide a versatile solution. With thoughtful preparation and strategic placement, they can significantly enhance your hunting experience. Remember, ground blind hunting may require extra planning and adjustment, but the rewards can be just as fulfilling as any traditional hunting method.
Embrace the challenge, and enjoy the unique advantages it brings to your hunting adventures. Thanks for reading!
Main photo courtesy of Tina Shaw/USFWS
Christian grew up in the Ozarks where he spent much of his childhood on his grandparents’ homestead learning about guns, hunting, and the great outdoors.
An avid traditional bowhunter, much of his writing covers this and other similar topics, but he also covers just about everything from history and economics to motorcycles.
See more of his work at ChristianMonson.com.