By Tracy Breen
-- Not long ago, many diehard hunters scoffed at the sight of pop-up ground blinds. Most serious hunters believed the blinds would be a short-lived fad. However, instead of going away, ground blind companies are popping up everywhere almost as fast as the blinds themselves.
Photo: This Oklahoma trophy was taken while hunting from a pop-up ground blind.
Double Bull Archery has been in business since the beginning of the craze. Brooks Johnson, co-owner of Double Bull Blinds, admits hunting from a ground blind can add an extra element of difficulty, but the blinds do offer advantages. Here is a list of do's and don'ts to follow when hunting from a pop-up blind.
Keep the Blind Scent Free
First and foremost, a pop-up ground blind is made of fabric. Although ground blinds can help contain human odor, they can smell like foreign odors that can spook deer. If you plan to be a serious ground blind hunter, take care of your blind the same way you would your favorite hunting clothes. When it isn't being used, it should remain in the original bag and should be stored in a place that doesn't have strong odors.
Placing your blind in your wife's closet next to the potpourri is a bad idea. To eliminate foreign odors from my blind, I spray it down with Scent-Killer spray. If a ground blind is scent-free and the hunter inside is as scent-free as possible, it will contain human odor to a certain extent, thereby fooling the nose of a whitetail that much easier.
Smaller is Better
Johnson often hunts with a cameraman, which is why he uses the Matrix 360 Blind. However, he says the T2 blind is a great option for bowhunters.
"If a hunter is hunting alone, a small, one-man blind is a great option. Small blinds are easier to conceal and don't have the same boxy look that larger blinds have," Johnson said. "Although large blinds are roomy and allow two hunters, I like the smaller blinds."
To trick the keen eyes of whitetails, most successful ground blind hunters often disguise their blinds to make them look like a pile of brush in the woods. When using a small blind, you only need a few limbs to make the blind disappear in the woods. The small blinds are extremely lightweight, so they're perfect for bowhunters who like to travel deep into the woods.
Concealing a Large Blind
Large ground blinds can be concealed with more work. The work is worth it if you want to bring a friend into the woods or if you enjoy having lots of room to stretch your legs. Remember, however, that you can't kill a deer if you are asleep!
According to Johnson, when brushing in a blind, tree limbs with an abundance of leaves or pine needles on them make the job easier.
Photo: With a little brush and a few trees to break up the outline of the blind, a second look is required to notice this blind.
"When hunters are brushing in a blind, using large limbs with lots of branches and leaves is the best way to break up the outline of the blind and fool deer. Skimping on the amount of limbs or using a few limbs won't work well," Johnson added.
Some hunters use a few small limbs and a twig or two and call it good. To fool deer, a blind is required to truly blend in. The goal is to have it disappear into the landscape.
Public Land Hunting
Cutting branches is often against the law on public land, and you are often required to hunt from the blind shortly after setting it up. The best option, according to Johnson, is finding a large tree with lots of low-hanging branches.
The other option is to place the blind in an open area where approaching deer can see it from a long distance.
"Over the years, we have noticed that when deer come around the corner of a field and see a blind in an area that was empty yesterday, they will often turn inside out trying to get out of that area. On the other hand, if the blind is sitting out in the middle of a field and not moving as they approach it, they will often walk right by it," Johnson said.
Trick 'Em With a Decoy
Johnson increases his chances of success in the open field by setting out a deer decoy to lure in a dominant buck.
"During the rut when bucks are crazy, decoys are great accessories that entice the bucks to come within range. If a buck decoy is used, they will want to beat the crap out of the imposter. If a doe decoy is used, they will want to check it out. Either way, the presence of a deer near the blind often puts the buck at ease," Johnson explained.
When using a decoy, calling can help. It adds a touch of realism that deer can't resist. In states where it is legal, decoys with a wagging tail or a wireless caller are other options. When using a Phantom Hunter caller, I place the speaker under the decoy and keep the controller in the blind with me. When I see a buck, I start calling. When the sound comes from the decoy, the buck is convinced that the decoy is real. The more realistic the setup whether a caller, wagging tail, or scented deer urine pad is added to the rear of the deer, the better chance you have of fooling a buck.
Dig a Pit
If all else fails and you can't find a good spot to put a popup blind on the property you are hunting, dig a pit blind. When I was a kid, hunting from a pit blind on private property was common. A pit in the ground contains human odor plus the majority of your body is below the ground so deer never see much movement. Pit blinds work especially well in open fields. Very few hunters hunt from pit blinds anymore, but they still can be a great tactic when hunting from the ground.
Ground blind hunting works great when you invest the time and effort into placing the blind in a good location and concealing it properly. I've seen more than my fair share of hunters who said their ground blind won't fool a skittish monster buck. They go on to tell how the blind spooked one. Often, they are spooked because the blind wasn't properly concealed or it was sitting in the back of a truck while the hunter fueled up his truck the day before, leaving a foreign odor on the blind.
Last year, my friend's wife took a 150-class buck while hunting from a ground blind. I took a couple does from a ground blind last year as well with a bow. Ground blinds have black interiors and shoot-through netting and are just the ticket for bowhunters. Since deer can't see in the blind, they never see you as you draw a bow.
Brooks Johnson has taken numerous trophy-class whitetails and several other critters from pop-up ground blinds. If you want to be successful, use his techniques. Be as scent-free as possible, brush in your blind, use a decoy, and hunt hard. Hunting from the ground adds excitement to any hunt and makes it more challenging. Failing to do everything right often results in another deer tag that is ready for the fireplace.