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Ground Blind Strategies for Late Hunts

Late season deer hunting is often characterized by harsh conditions. Ground blinds are the perfect solution in so many ways. By Bernie Barringer My son Dawson sat close beside me as we watched two does feed out into the hayfield 40 yards out of range. Dawson was 12 years old and in his hand was the bow he had practiced with for hours all summer. In his pocket was his very first archery deer tag. He so wanted to cut a notch into it. I think I was as eager as he was. We had placed this blind in position on the edge of the alfalfa several weeks before. It took several days for the deer to get accustomed enough to the blind that they began to ignore it. When it came time to hunt the blind, we were both eager and ready. Soon movement to our left distracted our attention away from the does. A forkhorn buck stepped out of the pines and into the field at 15 yards. The buck noticed movement and tensed up as Dawson drew his bow, but it was too late. Those hours of practice paid off; 20 minutes later we were dragging his first buck to the truck. That was not my first experience with pop-up ground blinds and it certainly won’t be my last. I have used them at any time during the season, but lately, I have been relying on them more and more during the last few weeks of the bow season, when the cold wind cuts to the bone. Ground blinds not only protect you from the elements, but they conceal your movements and you can make them very comfortable. An extreme example of this involves the deer my wife Cheri arrowed from one just last December. Cheri has not hunted much, she has been too involved in raising five kids so I was the one who brings home the venison, but now our kids are older and she expressed an interest in shooting one of the deer that had been trudging through the snow to visit our food plot each evening. She had been shooting her bow during the summer and fall, so I readied the ground blind for her like I would for any queen who appreciates the finer things in life. The ground blind offered carpeted floor, a comfortable chair and a small table to place her book and other things she may need. A half hour before she would enter the blind, I walked out and started a small propane heater for her. That evening, I sat there beside her in relative comfort despite the near-zero temperatures and excitedly watched as she shot a nice doe to add to our freezer. Now, that’s hunting in style. Here’s the deal with ground blinds. Whitetails are freaked out by them. Some people do not get past that problem, but there are ways to deal with it. You have to give it time. Get it out early When a big blob shows up right in their living room, whitetail deer take notice. While some animals don’t seem to be too bothered by the sudden appearance of a structure (mule deer and pronghorn for example, whitetails just don’t like it. It takes the deer about a week to settle down and get fully comfortable moving about close to the blind, especially if it is out in the open. Put the blind out at least a couple weeks before you plan to hunt from it. Stake it down good to protect it from blowing away in a strong wind. I also take a piece of 2×4 lumber and block up the ceiling, otherwise it may collapse with a snowfall. Resist the temptation to hunt from the blind until the deer are casually moving about it, or you may have to start the wait all over. Disguise it It really helps them accept the blind if you blend it is with natural materials from the area. Cornstalks, pine boughs and long-stemmed grasses work great for this. You can also use these objects to cover some of the black window openings that seem to make the deer uneasy. The best way I have found to help the deer accept the blind is to position it right neat some object that is already in position. A brushpile works excellent for this. In fact, I have at times piled brush near where I will eventually put a blind, so I can put the pop-up exactly where I want it when the time comes. I have a friend who put the blind up near some abandoned farm machinery in the corner of a field and used a few branches to break up the outline of the blind. He killed a deer out of it that very night. That’s a rare case, but it does illustrate the effectiveness of putting the blind near some sort of “structure.” Put in your time Once the deer are moving or feeding around the blind, get there early and hunt it often. Wear black so you are well concealed within the blind. Only open the windows on the side you expect to shoot through, and do not open them any more than necessary. Too many open windows allow light to get into the blind and allow the deer’s amazing light gathering eyes to see you. Resist the temptation to open a window in the back so you can see behind you. The risk of having a deer see some silhouetted movement is too great. A small heater is not a bad idea to keep you comfortable in harsh conditions. A piece of carpet or a pallet can get your feet up off the frozen ground and an ozone generator will go a long ways towards limiting your scent and containing it within the blind. I have two blinds out right now and I will be hunting in one of them tonight. My confidence in them is very high, and

Bump ‘em and Hunt ‘em: This unconventional tactic might just be the strategy you need to bag that nocturnal buck

By Bernie Barringer It was early in my career as a serious whitetail bowhunter and I was checking out some public land in Northern Missouri. It was the first time I had hunted in Missouri and I was just figuring the game out. I picked a good looking spot, loaded my stand and all my gear on my back and headed out into the woods. When I came across a thick area, I found a group of scrapes and rubs and saw the flash of a white tail as a deer quietly bolted out of the area, threading his way through the trees. I decided it would be a good place to set up. I put my treestand in a good-looking tree and settled in for the five hour wait until dark. About two hours later, I heard a buck snort really close. I had been winded. I quickly turned just in time to see a huge buck disappear into the brush. His rack was wider than his butt and I knew he was one of the largest bucks I had ever seen in the wild. Suddenly I realized what had just happened. I had busted that buck out of his sanctuary, and he came sneaking back in with the wind in his face, assuming that whatever had spooked him would be gone. I began to wonder if I could actually use what I learned from this experience to my advantage, and over the years, I have. Some mature bucks have the game figured out. You may know of one who rarely ventures out of his sanctuary during daylight, and he won’t be caught chasing does in open areas during the rut. You have scouting camera pictures of him but you’ve never seen him in person. He has become almost unkillable by legal means. This buck has a bedding sanctuary that he trusts to keep him concealed. If you have an idea where he beds during the day, you have an option. It’s a late-season long shot–a swing for the fences so to speak–but it sometimes pays off in a big way. Carefully move into the sanctuary and bump the buck out of his bed, then set up a treestand and waylay him when he returns. A mature buck’s bedding sanctuary is likely to be thick and very difficult to penetrate without spooking him. He has chosen this spot for specific reasons: he can use his senses of sight, smell and hearing to detect danger approaching from any direction. If he detects danger, he will move off. Most times he will return within two hours. This tactic is most successful if done during the middle of the day. Bring your hunting equipment with you so you are ready to hunt. Carefully sneak into the sanctuary from the downwind side. Take your time, move quietly and use good binoculars to glass often as you move. He is likely to be in the thickest, most impenetrable spot within the area. When he becomes aware of you, he may sneak off or he may crash off, depending on how close you are when he detects you.  Ideally you want to see him move off. The more spooked he is, the less likely he will come back that day. Once you have bumped him, spend at least 15 minutes carefully analyzing the immediate area. Find out where exactly he beds, where he moves around within the sanctuary, and analyze all trails that enter the sanctuary. What direction are the tracks leading? On which sides of the trees are the rubs? Gain confidence in knowing the exact spot he will return to bed. When the buck returns, he will circle 75-100 yards downwind of the bedding area to scent-check the area before entering. Then he will enter the bedding area on a trail with the wind in his face. Choose a trail that allows you to set up using this knowledge. You must position yourself to play the wind angle so you are not upwind of the buck when he circles downwind of the bedding area. Do your best to predict which way he will come in. Choose the exact right tree and get your treestand up as quickly but quietly as possible. When he comes back he will be on edge and moving with meticulous caution. You must be in the right place and very well concealed. This tactic is a long shot that is best reserved for late in the season when all other possibilities have been exhausted. It has by far the best chance of succeeding on the first try.  If you do everything right, you may just kill the unkillable buck.