April 22, 2022
Hunting spring turkeys from inside a well-crafted ground blind can be undeniably effective. For some reason, turkeys seem to ignore a ground blind almost completely, even those positioned in the midst of absolutely nothing.
Not a tree. Not a bush. No stand of corn.
But shooting a gobbler from a ground blind consists of more than simply throwing it up, stepping inside and hoping for the best. A ground blind, like the turkey hunter’s shotgun, calls and camouflage, is but a tool—a single variable in the equation that is turkey hunting success.
Here are a few things to consider in order to get the most out of your ground blind this spring.
1. Get Familiar
It should go without saying, but the time to educate yourself on the mechanics of your ground blind isn’t pre-dawn on opening day. Sure, they’re elemental structures; however, each make and model has differences in set up, staking and securing, zippers and closures, entry/exit and window or viewing port adjustment. Set aside some time prior to the season to familiarize yourself with the blind, how best to set it up quietly and what kind of interior space you’ll have to work with.
2. Pick Your Spot
Over the years, I’ve found three locations excel as spots for turkey ground blinds.
STRUT ZONE: Without question, this is my favorite ambush location. A strut zone could be a hidden corner of a pasture, a tucked-away meadow or the intersection of two logging roads in the timber. Any of these could be hunted without a blind, of course, but each could require a hunter to spend multiple hours in wait before a bird shows. Why not, then, be comfortable and hidden?
DUSTING SPOTS: Also known as dust baths, these shallow depressions are made in bone-dry dirt or forest duff by turkeys as they attempt to clean their feathers and rid themselves of bugs. Hens love dust baths, and since hens and gobblers go together in the spring, a blind set by an active dusting spot can be a hot ticket.
TRAVEL ROUTE TO ROOST: Travel routes between an afternoon food source and a regular roost site can be an excellent spot from which to waylay a longbeard via a ground blind. However, the rule of thumb here is to not get too close the roost. Disturb it and it’s possible the birds will vacate the area for a period of time. It’s best to back off—say 200 to 300 yards—and hunt without causing a ruckus. If the ol’ gobbler gives you the slip at dusk, a quiet seat in the blind the following morning might give you the upper hand.
3. Time It Out
Any time you have time is a good time to hunt your ground blind. However, my best success has come during a couple different chunks.
The first is mid-morning, typically 2 to 3 hours after fly-down, when birds have started to wander and gobblers find themselves alone after hens have gone to nest.
The second is mid-afternoon, when activity seems to pick up or resume after the mid-day lull. Much of this timing is situational; that is, the time to be in the blind depends on the hide’s location. If you’re 200 yards from a roost along a known travel route to a food or water source, it’s best to be set and ready before daylight. A strut zone at the opposite end of the property from the roost? It could be noon or later before a tom shows up there.
4. Break Out the Dekes
When hunting without a blind, I could go either way on using decoys. Again, it all depends on the situation, the bird, the time of year, the pressure and other variables. From a ground blind, however, I always use decoys. Tucked away inside a blind, I have the luxury of time and concealment.
I’m in no hurry, and often I’ll enjoy encounters with multiple gobblers over the course of a morning—not all of which, it’s hoped, will ignore my decoy presentation.
But what sort of decoys, and how many? One spring, for a friend shooting a homemade longbow and hand-carved cedar shafts, I set a dozen decoys in front of our Double Bull.
The spread, as Shaun called it, consisted of a full-strut gobbler, two jakes off to one side and nine hens in various poses—upright, feeding, walking, dusting/breeding—scattered around randomly, none of which were more than 10 steps from the windows of the blind.
When Shaun arrowed his gobbler that morning, it was standing atop the by-then-flattened full-strut decoy looking not unlike Rocky Balboa atop the steps outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art—and at 5 yards, no less.
There are times when multiple decoys can do the trick in spring, and being able to stash 8 to 12 fakes in a set blind, without having to pack them from place to place throughout the morning, is quite a convenience. Short of a menagerie of dekes around the hide, I’ll always set one or two—often just a pair of relaxed hens—at a distance appropriate for the shotgun or archery equipment being used.
5. Call Away
The acoustics of turkey calling inside a ground blind will be somewhat shocking to the uninitiated. Yelps often sound as though they came from a 300-pound hen. Can the sounds coming from the interior of a blind be too loud? I’m sure they can, particularly if a gobbler is close; however, when calling to unseen birds from a blind, I’ve never had a problem in terms of sound quality or volume (as far as I know).
It does make sense that the sounds coming from a blind are much more “directional” than those created in the open air. That is, most of the sound leaves via the windows.
But, given a gobbler’s extraordinary hearing, I don’t believe that matters. And herein lies one of the cardinal rules of turkey hunting, blind or no: Never underestimate how well a wild turkey can hear and how precisely he can pinpoint your location.
6. Bring a Buddy
To me, the biggest benefit of using a ground blind for spring gobblers isn’t so much the concealment factor, which can be excellent, but the blind’s role as an educational and opportunistic tool.
Ground blinds are perfect for introducing young or inexperienced hunters to the wild turkey in as controlled and forgiving an environment as possible.
Blinds are great for those who can’t sit still, as they provide a “movement margin of error” not enjoyed when sitting in the open.
Blinds, too, offer away to get physically challenged hunters afield—particularly those confined to wheelchairs—without any major inconvenience.
3 Great Blinds for Any Budget
Primos Double Bull SurroundView Double Wide: The folks at Primos have solved the problem of getting in and out of a ground blind while wearing your turkey vest thanks to a zipperless (silent) double-wide door. This 26-pound blind offers 300 degrees of unobstructed viewing, along with almost enough interior room (60 square inches) to hold a square dance. ($499.99; primos.com)
Browning Eclipse: Weighing in at just 19 pounds, the Eclipse makes for an ideal spring turkey hunting hide. With 360 degrees of viewing and an almost infinite variety of window up/down configurations, the Eclipse makes total concealment a snap thanks to a fully blacked-out interior. Niceties include stubble straps and a quartet of storage pockets. ($299.99; browningcamping.com)
AmeriStep Caretaker: At just 13 1/2 pounds, the Caretaker could easily be packed around on a run-and-gun hunt. Add to that an ample 55-square-inch footprint, nine windows and an interior height of 66 inches, and the Caretaker might just be the perfect turkey blind. It’s also one of the most affordable options on the market. ($164.99; ameristep.com)