by Steve Bartylla

I’d watched the ancient buck slowly, steadily feeding into range for so long that there was no excuse for not being ready. When he finally decided to shoot the gap my ground blind was covering, and I thought was. Unfortunately, he zigged instead of zagged. I needed to readjust my position and fast, as he was a mere 15ish yards away and about to slip from my life.

Shifting in my seat and reposition my feet, all I had left to do was grab the bow and come to full draw. Shifting my hand just a couple inches, I snatched my Mathews, which was sitting just off my left knee. Clipping the release to the loop, I achieved full draw in one easy motion. For as deadly quiet as every move was, on that calm evening, the old timer heard my Easton slipping across the rest. Now staring a hole into directly into me, it was too late. I was already settling the pin.

Over the years, I’ve been able to take a good number of deer from ground blinds. For many of the early years of my hunting from blinds, I’ll admit that I wasn’t a fan, wishing the entire time I was enclosed on the ground that I’d found a tree I could be eagle eyeing the surroundings from, instead.

Redneck Blind's Hay Bale Hunting Blind

Do enough of the little things and it’s like you’re not even sitting in the blind.

As with anything, do it long enough and you’re bound to get better. I’ve always refused to skip a spot just because one stand type or another won’t work there. If it’s THE spot I’m going to find a way to MAKE it work. So, ground blind hunting continued, begrudgingly in those days, yes, but continued all the same.

Somewhere along the learning curve, the worm turned and success began coming. The more little tricks I learned the more the success occurred and the more I began looking forward to when a tree stand just won’t work. When that occurs, I’m now thinking, “Good. Now I’ve got a good spot for a blind,” either slipping in a Hay Bale or a Ghillie Deluxe, depending on which “fits” best.

What follows isn’t the most exciting article I’ve ever written, but these seemingly small details add up to a big hunting difference. I know they sure did for me.

Sweeping the Floor

Though getting the max out of blinds really starts with placement details, we’re going to focus on the inside today. That starts with matching the floor conditions of the blind to the animal hunted.

Really, more accurately stated, am I setting this for turkeys or is this being set for virtually any other big game animals? For turkeys, I don’t want to clean the floor of the blind. I’ll be using decoys with the blind and will place that jake and the hen decoy about 5 yards in front of the blind, so that holding up turkeys are often in bow range, anyway.

In that and that one circumstance alone (turkeys), I’ve found it best to actually have leaf, stick, grass and weed liter on the floor of the blind. That way, when I shift my feet, it seems like those natural sounds are being made by the decoys, further selling the lie to the live birds.

As it applies to bear, deer or any other big game animal I can think of, a clean floor is your best friend. When you don’t have decoys 5 yards in front of the stand, the shifting noises one makes inside become your enemy. I often use deer decoys with blinds, as they are tremendous at taking the live deer’s attentions off the blind and focusing on the decoys, while the decoys also are screaming that the blind is of no concern. However, to pull that off most successfully, unlike with turkeys, I want to set deer decoys closer to the edge of my shooting range, which means deer are focusing away from the blind, not towards it. The result is that shifting feet, even when using deer decoys, can ruin an otherwise gift-wrapped shot.

If you question how a random dried leaf, stick or even the stalk of a weed can ruin a shot at a deer, I recorded that bow kill and it aired on DDH TV. In the audio, from a shotgun mic inside the blind, all one hears is the whisper of the arrow going across the string, and that was enough for the old timer to pick up. The volume of that is nothing compared to shifting feet in ground liter. There’s a BIG difference between being 15 yards away in a treestand and the same distance in a ground blind. The drop in height may not be calculated into the yardage of the shot, but it sure impacts how much less they can hear you. On ground level, I’ve had a bear literally hear my cameraman buddy breathing, and that’s no joke. You have to be at least twice, if not three or four times quieter on the ground than when 20’ up a tree.

I was able to survive the sifting of positions I needed due to creating the cleanest dirt floor in the blind I could. That’s really a big deal.

Rearranging the Furniture

Of course, the more we can minimize movements the easier it is to both go unheard and unseen. Chair and bow holder orientations can minimize or maximize those movements.

I like to setup as far back from the windows as I realistically can, without my elbow hitting the back side at full draw and while being able to cover as many likely shot opportunities, without having to shift, as I can.

Looking at the chair first, most seem to set the chair position for comfortable viewing, being willing to shift for the shot, if it occurs. I get it. That’s more comfortable than sitting half cocked, while watching squirrels and birds, waiting for Mr. Big.

I go the other route. I’ll deal with being in a minimally uncomfortable position while watching birds and squirrels, just so I don’t have to shift at all to get the shot at a deer. That orientation both minimizes deer hearing and seeing me move.

Next, I personally don’t use bow holders that hang the bows from the blind frame or leave the bow lay across my lap. Both require extra movements and I am scarred from some cheap and poorly designed models causing the blind roof to move and make noise, spooking deer I was trying to arrow.

Instead, I place a ground bow holder just off my left knee, or right knee for lefties. That way, with my bow hand resting on my knee, I merely drop it a few inched, hidden movements below the window, snatch the bow and come to full draw, all in one smooth, natural movement.

Obviously, that cuts down on potential noises and movements, allowing us to go better unheard or unseen.

Living in Shadows

What I didn’t mention in the intro hunt story was that I was running way behind that day. To get the most out of blind hunting, I typically wear a black ninja hood, black gloves and a black top. Combine that with having the back windows closed and one literally vanishes into the shows, when wearing black.

Camo is for trees and stalking. Black is for blinds.

To put in perspective how powerful that is, let me tell you 2 very quick stories.

The first is me hunting late season in Minnesota. Having just set and blended a blind into a standing corn field, the brutal cold had the deer literally flocking around my position. A temping 3.5 year old 8 got down right chummy, spending somewhere around 30 mins within less than 10 yards of the stand. In fact, for somewhere north of 5 minutes, he stood with his face about 6” from the front of the blind, staring right inside and through me, as he ate and I sat wrapping in an all black Heater body Suit, wearing black underneath, as well.. He didn’t have a clue, until I arrowed his older brother.

Wearing black clothing in blinds is key

Though wearing warmer clothing in the next day’s pictures, the author was wearing all black, along with a black Heater Body Suit, when he had to go undetected by a different, younger buck feeding inches from the blind, as the buck stared right through the author, allowing his older brother to feel comfortable stepping out of the woods and into the sea of feeding deer.

Then there was the Alberta, adult cow moose that literally stuck its head inside the blind I’d slipped up the day before. It’s face was so close to mine that I could feel the air of each exhale through her nose, and she splattered my glasses with some snot mist, merely from breathing normally. If she ever figured out the blind wasn’t empty, she sure didn’t act like it. Odor control and wearing all black that day may have saved me from fighting to get out of that blind at the same time as the adult moose. That may not have ended well at all.

Circling back, running late had cost me the time I needed to dig out my black outer layer. I still pulled it off, but the reason the buck kept staring was because he first heard the whisper and then spotted me. If I were wearing black, he likely would have went right back to walking, after a quick glance. If I hadn’t been already half way through the draw, I seriously doubt I arrow him.

Conclusion

Cleaning the blind floor, orienting the chair for shooting and the bow holder off your opposite knee, while wearing black and keeping back windows closed may not seem like any are big deals. Each and every one of them have delivered tagged deer for me, over the years. Funny thing about little things. Add enough of them together and they can become a pretty darn big deal!

 

Steve Bartylla
Steve Bartylla


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