I hunt for a lot of reasons: food, sport, connection with nature, and sometimes, bonding with friends and family. That makes it pretty hard to decide which methods are better than others because so much comes down to my goals for that specific hunt and the situation surrounding it.
For most situations, I consider a tree stand to be more effective than a ground blind if all you care about is getting your kill. However, ground blinds can be better for enhancing other aspects of the hunt and, in certain situations, can actually improve your chances of success.
The best hunter doesn’t limit themselves to one or the other. Instead, they understand the pros and cons of each and how they compare to choose one or the other on a specific day.
Tree Stands | Pros and Cons
Most whitetail deer hunters use tree stands. This reflects the general consensus, and my personal opinion, that they’re the most effective method for hunting, all else being equal. That isn’t to say there aren’t situations in which a ground blind may be the better choice.
Tree stands sit high up in a tree, ideally around 20 feet, giving you a wide view of the surrounding area and any game that may wander into it. I categorize them into four different types:
- Built-on: Usually DIY—which comes with safety issues—these stands are built right onto the tree like a tree house.
- Hang-on: These stands wrap around the tree and then hang off it. You normally get in with climbing sticks.
- Ladder: A ladder tree stand can fit on the tree in a number of ways, but the defining feature is the ladder you use to climb in.
- Climb-up: A climb-up tree stand attaches to the tree at the base, and then you can use the stand itself to scale the tree, usually in a kind of inchworm motion.
Understanding the pros and cons of tree stands helps you understand why they’re the preferred method, but it also helps you pinpoint situations where you might not want to use one.
Tree Stands | The Pros
- Farther visibility: By far, the biggest pro of a tree stand, and the main reason why tree stands lead to success, is that you can see much farther in 360 degrees. Not only can you see farther to the horizon, but you can see over low obstacles like brush and hills.
- Better shooting angle for bowhunters: For rifle hunters, it doesn’t really matter, but for bow hunters, a shot from a tree stand is easier because the arrow travels in more of a straight line and less of an arc.
- Out of game’s line of sight: A tree stand puts you up high where a deer is unlikely to look.
- Scent control: Since you’re up high, your scent disperses more before it reaches the level of the deer’s nose, providing a moderate amount of odor control.
Tree Stands | The Cons
- Safety concerns: Around 3,000 hunters have tree-stand accidents each year, usually falls. However, you can avoid these with proper safety precautions like a line and harness.
- Setup and carrying hassle: Even the most compact tree stands are bulky and hard to carry into the woods. Sometimes I go with a ground blind just because I’m feeling lazy.
- Limited places for use: A tree stand requires… a tree. And one big and sturdy enough to hold your weight. Hunting in a desert or prairie isn’t an option.
- Cramped space: A tree stand can get rather cramped. Not only is that uncomfortable, but it can make it harder to take an accurate shot, especially with a bow.
- Cost: I’ve been impressed with the affordability of tree stands in recent years, but they still require an investment.
Ground Blind | Pros and Cons
Although there are some expensive versions made of a hard shell that you could probably live in, a basic ground blind is just a tent with a small window or two for shooting through. In some situations, I find this a superior method to the tree stand. Consider the pros and cons to see why.
Ground Blinds | The Pros
- Complete concealment: The blind completely covers you, so the deer can’t see you, even if it can potentially see the blind itself.
- Protection from the elements: A good blind shields you from the rain, snow and wind, inclement weather that’s common during the hunting season.
- Scent control: I mentioned that tree stands help control your scent, but I’d argue that ground blinds do an even better job, simply because they prevent many of your scent particles from catching the open air.
- Space and comfort: You can get a decent amount of room to stretch out in a ground blind. Mine has about 25 square feet, and some are much bigger. You can potentially even bring a buddy or two with you.
- Easy access: People who can’t climb into or fit in a tree stand can still use a ground blind.
Ground Blinds | The Cons
- Limited field of view: In a ground blind, you can only see out of the provided windows, which tend to be small. This severely limits your field of view.
- Camouflage concerns: A deer can’t see you in a ground blind, but it might be able to see the blind itself if it isn’t effectively camouflaged.
When to Use a Tree Stand vs Ground Blind: My Recommendations
|Dense forest environment
|Hunting water sources
|Hunting in a group
|Hunting public land with no setup time
Give Ground Blinds a Shot
As you can see, ground blinds certainly have their uses. I may hunt with a tree stand more often, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t situations where the ground blind is the better choice, either for hunting or success or just my own enjoyment. Next time you find yourself in one of the ground blind situations above, give it a shot.
For more, check out Ground Blind Essentials | Strategies for Stealth and Success.
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.