Not every successful deer hunt takes place from a tree stand. Here’s how to level your playing field
Not every hunting situation or location lends itself to shooting deer from a high, distant perch. In fact, pursuing deer from the ground, on their level, can add an entirely new adrenaline rush to bowhunting. But there’s a right way and wrong way to find success from a blind. Here are a few things to keep in mind prior to your next zippered hunt.
Today’s blinds are technological marvels. Space-age materials make them light, rugged and user-friendly. They’re compact enough to carry into virtually any setup and can often be put up within minutes, if not seconds. But all the technology in the world won’t help if you don’t consider how and where you place them. Pay attention to the following details.
When using “shoot-through” windows, test your broadhead to make sure it’s capable of passing through the material without being slowed or deflected. Many animals have been given a reprieve when a broadhead was thrown off course by window material.
Ground blinds have a sharp, contrasting outline against their surroundings. Eliminate this outline by brushing them in with cut limbs and leaves. Tie lightweight branches to the top and push a pile of leaves along the bottom edge to blend it with its surroundings. If you intend to keep the blind in a spot for some time, periodically replace the dead brush with a fresh brush. Don’t over-trim foliage immediately around the blind; excessive trimming in close proximity to the blind looks unnatural to the game.
When setting up a blind on uneven ground, you’ll have a line where the blind isn’t flush with the ground. Make sure to brush this line with leaves.
Make certain you stake your blind down on all four sides. More than one hunter has arrived at the spot where he swore he put his blind, only to find that it had tumbled away in the wind.
MAKING THE SHOT
Now that you’re set up, you need to be sure you understand how to make the shot from the blind when it comes time. Remember these tips.
Before drawing your bow on an animal for the first time, make sure there’s ample clearance in the blind. Practice your draw cycle while sitting in the blind. Check every angle and direction from which you might have to make a shot, ensuring you have plenty of space to draw a bow all the way and maneuver if necessary.
ADJUST DRAW WEIGHT
If you’re struggling to draw your bow each time during open practice or from a tree stand, you’ll be doomed in a ground blind. The confines of the blind won’t allow you to pull your bow back without bumping the side and making noise. Drop your draw weight so that you can make a comfortable shot.
Getting positioned in a ground blind to execute a shot is tougher than most people think. Shooters must align themselves in the right shooting direction when seated prior to an animal’s approach–waiting till the animal draws near is too late. Keep in mind also that, when seated, you’ve got much less bow strength. Practice shooting from a seated or kneeling position before going hunting in a blind.
KNOW YOUR SHOT WINDOW
Most blind windows are small. Remember, the longer the shot, the higher you hold your bow. When shooting longer distances through small windows, keep your shot aimed through the screen. Striking the blind itself or its bracing will send the arrow off-target.
Ask any bowhunter what the best shot to take is and you’ll hear “broadside.” In most instances, I’d agree. However, when flinging arrows from the confines of a ground blind, the top shot from ground level is one in which the deer is quartering away. Work with me on this one.
On the level ground, a broadside shot offers roughly a pie-plate-size target. Many hardcore bowhunters will argue that this shot is the only angle that can deliver a broadhead through both lungs and heart. Yep, I wholeheartedly agree.
However, actually shooting an arrow through both lungs and the heart is harder than you think. Center a shot a bit high or low and you’re out of the game. Have your arrow drift a bit left or right, and once again you’re out of the game. A true double-lung-and-heart shot is rare.
I prefer this shot. A quartering-away shot elongates that pie-plate target laterally along the entire side of the animal. A ground-level quartering-away shot gives archers the advantage of being able to send an arrow along the entire length of an animal’s core. The arrow-path length of a broadside shot is approximately 11 inches on a medium-size whitetail (150 pounds). The same shot quartering away is twice that, some 22 inches of arrow travel.
A quartering-away shot offers all the vitals–femoral artery, spine, kidneys, liver, carotid artery, lungs, and heart. No broadside shot can offer you these harvest options from ground level. You do, however, have to remember to shoot just slightly farther back to strike all of these vitals at that angle.
Slinging arrows from ground level requires more attention to detail in terms of your equipment. Here are some considerations.
Shooting a bow in the confines of a blind is much noisier than in open air. Try adding a couple of extra silencers to your rig. Lay carpet in the bottom of the blind to absorb shot noise, and opt for soft chairs over plastic buckets or patio furniture.
IN THE DARK
It’s dark inside a blind. Finding shot pins through a conventional peep is nearly impossible. To remedy this, install the largest-aperture peep you can find.
If necessary, drill the peep out, even more, to help with pin acquisition. If you do, make sure to use a countersink on both the front and back of the new, larger hole. If you don’t, your peep will be very blurry. After drilling it out, practice in the backyard to make sure you’re still able to place your shots where you need to.
SEE THE LIGHT
Because getting enough light into your peep is already an issue, don’t wear a hat. A hat’s brim shades the light and makes finding your pins that much harder.
Consider wearing tennis shoes or other comfortable footwear in your ground blind. Hunting boots are uncomfortable inside a blind. Soft shoes make moving about much easier and quieter.
Wear a face mask or camo makeup. Faces shine brightly from inside a blind and are a dead giveaway to animals that trek within bow range. Also, sit toward the rear of the blind and keep the back windows closed to avoid creating a silhouette.