Getting Grounded: Bowhunting from Pop-up Blinds
It’s a wonderland — while making the twists and turns of most Texas ranch roadways, you see great bow setups around every corner, it seems. Each one looks ideal, and, if not, there is nothing a little brush cutting couldn’t remedy. For me, thick underbrush within oak canopies, gnarly cedar breaks, and fencerow overgrowth immediately conjure up images of approaching daybreak and sunset bucks. I find myself looking down rather than up because of the crooked and angled trees inherent in most sections of the Texas deer woods.
Have you ever discovered the ideal bowhunting spot only to realize it lacks good options for an elevated perch? Even in areas with straight-trunked trees, you often find the problem of bare trunks offering no relief to your profile.
I prefer ground blinds. Don’t get me wrong, I hunt in tree stands of different varieties, but for me, there is nothing like looking whitetails and other game animals squarely in the eye. The popularity of hunting from the treetops is at an all-time high. The trend seems to be to get as high as you can. The current fascination in saddle hunting has added to the craze. I have to admit it sounds intriguing for run-and-gun style deer hunting. However, with most of my hunting taking place on private grounds of varying sizes, it’s not particularly warranted. Plus, there are so many benefits of ground blinds. Here are a few good reasons to bow hunt with your feet firmly planted on the earth.
The weather doesn’t always cooperate. It’s unpleasant to get rained or snowed on while waiting in a tree for a shooter buck to show. No gear can completely shield you from wet and cold conditions. Commercial ground blinds keep you, your bow, bow site, and other accessories dry. To be fair, pop-up blinds can get uncomfortable during hot weather. Still, it’s a worthy trade-off with proper clothing and good placement.
Of Sight and Smell
Regardless of height, you can find yourself on display in a tree stand perch. There are ways to minimize your exposure, but it can be quite an exercise. A ground blind affords you much more flexibility regarding movement – you know, when you’re nocking an arrow, glassing, or checking your phone (come on, you know you do it). No silhouetting here. It’s still a good idea to manage movement in a pop-up blind, though it’s much more forgiving than in open space. Taking the proper steps to stay quiet while hunting and, more importantly, while trying to make the shot on an animal is still extremely important.
Perhaps the bowhunter’s biggest nemesis is scent control. Luckily, pop-up blinds offer outstanding scent suppression as most of your scent is confined inside your small but spacious lair. Try that sitting in the open air.
Drawing a bow takes space. And let’s face it, we bowhunters have a lot of gear. Most tent-style blinds are a minimum of 5-feet by 5-feet square, which is adequate for a solo hunter and gear. However, there are a ton of options on the market sporting a footprint of 6-feet and up. The bigger, the better, in my opinion.
The spaciousness of a ground blind also affords room ample room for video equipment, a cameraman, or extra hunter. It’s also an effective and more forgiving way to hunt with youngsters.
The transportability of a pop-up ground blind is outstanding. When folded up, they’re reduced to a small, lightweight form perfect for travel afoot, even mobile hunting. Throw in the rapid speed of assembly, and you’ve got a winner. This equates to a minimal disturbance in your hunting area.
Avoiding the Ruckus
Hunters today know the value of effective entry and exit from their hunting setups. If placed correctly, ground blinds are much easier to quietly slip in and out of compared to climbing up and down a tree. It’s no contest.
Ground blinds come in all kinds of great camo patterns to blend into your surroundings. You can add to their effectiveness by attaching brush (many come with brush loops) and positioning it within live structure and vegetation. Likewise, bowhunters must blend into the blind’s interior which is black. Hence, ditch the camo and wear black (or at least very dark) outer garments.
Setup and Take Down
Before hitting the woods, practice set up and takedown. It’s simply a dry run that can easily be done in the yard or at hunting camp. While you’ve got it up, practice drawing your bow and determine the type of chair you need. Pop-up blinds are not difficult, but there’s no reason to waste precious time in the field messing around with it. It’s always good to be able to seamlessly and quietly handle placement. Unless you’re already familiar with the particular brand and model, you’ll be glad you took this step.
Additionally, once you find your spot, set it up and leave it alone as long as you can stand. This allows area deer to get accustomed to it. Also, it can’t hurt to spray it down with scent eliminator.
Hot Spots for Placement
Ground blinds are no different than others when it comes to positioning. First, if possible, find spots that will usually offer prevailing winds that are in favor. Further, avoid being patterned by deer by making your entry and exit routes as smooth as possible.
There are all kinds of features to seek concerning ground blind location. Food sources such as plots and feeders are great choices. Others include natural funnels, trails, and staging areas (one of my favorites). A great example of a common staging area is amid a brushy area just outside a food plot or agricultural field. These stretches come in various sizes and can be as little as an acre. One benefit of this setting is it’s easier to leave after dark as the deer have already passed you (hopefully undetected) and are on the plot.
Of course, there are times when you need to take the hunt to a buck’s bedroom. If you’re part of the “no guts no glory” crowd, go for it – but exercise caution and tend to the basics such as scent control.
As a bowhunter, I can’t think of a bigger rush than having a mature buck come in mere yards from where I sit – at eye level. If well-placed, ground blinds make these coveted confrontations possible. And there is no safety harness required.
Based in Texas, Jerald Kopp is President of 1st Light Hunting Journal. His articles cover a variety of topics about hunting and the outdoor lifestyle. Jerald is an avid outdoorsman with deer hunting and whitetails being by far his greatest passion. He was introduced to hunting and fishing at an early age and has been enjoying it for 40+ years. In 2005, he established the Empowerment Outfitter Network (EON) – a faith-based non-profit organization that provides hunting opportunities for disabled and terminally-ill children and youth. When not hunting, he spends his time traveling and enjoying life with Amy, his wife of over 30 years. Jerald and Amy have two adult daughters and a son-in-law.