By Bob Robb
Every year, more and more deer hunters are discovering that you do not have to spend day after day perched 20 feet off the ground to take deer. More hunters have discovered ground blinds can work just as well—and sometimes even better. This is especially true when you find a red-hot travel corridor that doesn’t have a good tree in the same zip code.
However, if you’ve never bowhunted from a ground blind, there are some little things that you need to consider.
• Bigger is Better: You need a lot of room inside the blind to be able to comfortably draw your bow and release the arrow without hitting your elbow on the back wall, having the shaft stick out the front or having the limbs strike the blind at the shot. No good can come from any of this! Bottom line: Check any blind out in the store to make sure it is big enough before buying.
• The Dark Side: A blind should be completely dark inside, even with a window or three open. The ones I like are lined with a black fabric and allow you to sit inside a black hole. If light shines on you, you’ll be busted.
• Adjustable Windows: The windows must be large enough to allow you to shoot through them without risk of the arrow hitting the fabric. Some blinds have small windows, while others have windows that are too high making it near impossible to shoot from a sitting position. Also, the windows must be easy to close and seal up completely and quietly.
• Tie it Down: Unless you've been in a pop-up ground blind in a wind storm it is hard to imagine how easily these things can blow away if not properly tied down. The best have double-stitched grommets, heavy-duty cord and tent-type stakes that make tying the blind securely down easy as pie.
• Barcalounger: You need a comfortable seat that both makes waiting for hours on end comfortable and pleasant, but also allows you to draw and shoot without hitting the chair arm. The chair must also be the right height so when you do come to full draw you are shooting out the window using perfect form and not aiming at the blind wall.
• Hang the Bow: There are few good ways to rest a bow inside a blind with an arrow nocked and within easy reach. There are stakes you can drive in the ground that hold the bow upright that work OK. I’ve taken to hanging the same kind of large bow hook I use in a tree stand from the center section of the blind at the apex of the roof. You can usually jury-rig the hook into the centerpiece.
• Fabric Woes: All commercial pop-up blinds are made from a nylon fabric that is inherently noisy. This is one of reasons that the blind has to be large enough inside so you will not accidentally jab the fabric. Also, when it gets really cold, the fabric will get extremely stiff and brittle and be amazingly noisy. Use caution in the depths of winter.
• Set it Early: A common tenet is that you must set a ground blind a week or more before hunting it, so the deer can get used to it and not be spooked. This is a good rule of thumb. I personally like to set my blinds two weeks or more ahead of time when I can. But I have set ground blinds in a hot spot and killed deer that same evening. An example was a good buck I shot in a hay field in Nebraska one year. I watched the deer walk past some hay bales every evening for four days, then set the blind where it was camouflaged among the bales. He never knew what happened.
• Practice Makes Perfect: You must practice shooting from the blind before hunting from it. Then, once you understand how to set up shot angles, practice sessions must include lots of shooting from your blind seat. It’s the only way to dial it in.
• Mind Games: Sitting for hours on end in a ground blind can bore you to tears. I never sit a blind without a paperback, my iPod, a notebook and pen and, of course, my smart phone. It’s the only way I can sit still and stay in the game.
• Know Your Limitations: Ground blinds are excellent deer hunting tools. I rarely, if ever, travel without one. However, like all deer hunting tools, including tree stands, blinds are not a magic wand that make up for poor scouting and lousy woodsmanship.