October 22, 2019
By Tony J. Peterson
Tagging awhitetail has never been easier as hunters have a growing number of ambushing options. From the various styles of treestands and saddles to a bevy of hub-style ground blinds, there isn’t a spot out there that can’t be hunted effectively. But which option is best?
The answer will consist of equal parts of personal preference and situational specifics. For example, if you’re hunting big woods bucks and have thousands of acres of National Forest to work with, you’re probably going to opt for a treestand. Maybe a lightweight hang-on, maybe a climber, but the odds are you’ll be better off with an aerial approach in such an area.
If you’re confined to 25 acres in a suburban environment where your setup options are limited and the hottest spot on the parcel is a meadow with a few apple trees in it, you might need to think about brushing in a ground blind.
The key is to understand what options you have and then be open to using all of them. Here’s how you start the decision-making process.
A FAMILIAR BAG OF TRICKS
Whatever stands and blinds you own and are comfortable setting up are the ones you’ll use most. That’s human nature, and it can hinder us quite a bit when we’re looking to create the best hunting site possible. This is why it’s such a benefit to own and be truly familiar with a couple of different styles of treestands and at least one popup ground blind.
If your ambush arsenal contains a variety of options, you probably won’t encounter a spot that can’t be hunted effectively. But, you’ve got to be open to all of those possibilities or you might talk yourself out of the best spots in lieu of using a more familiar strategy in a “Plan B” area.
WHEN AND WHERE
Elevated treestands offer the ability to observe without the truncated views of a groundblind. However, to use one,there needs to be a tree suitable for a stand in the area you want to hunt.
This isn’t always the case, and often if we enter a hotspot with the mindset of making a treestand sit happen, we’ll do just that. We make concessions in how we set up, which could open us up to a less-than-ideal shot situation, or perhaps leave us skylined to the point where sharp-eyed whitetails have a good chance of picking us off before they saunter into range.
If the area you want to hunt is conducive to a stand that can be set at the right height and won’t leave you overly exposed, then it’s time to start climbing. If not, you’ve got options.
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Ground blinds are the go-to choice for turkey hunters these days as they set up quickly and are highly portable. I use hub-style blinds in the spots I absolutely need to hunt, but can’t set up a stand. This usually means more open or stunted cover, which coincidentally, is the stuff bucks like to bed in and browse through.
TIME AND TIMING
A lot of hunters talk a big game when it comes to all-day sits, but most of them aren’t clocking in for dark-to-dark hunts with any frequency. Those that do, learn quickly that a cushy ladder stand is a less torturous spot to spend the day than small portable stands.
When the seasonal timing demands it, a better bet for long sits is often a ground blind. Anyone who has ever put in a full day of turkey hunting out of a blind knows how nice it is to stretch your legs out, be able to read a book, sip some coffee or eat a sandwich without worrying about getting busted any time you move.
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When deciding how to hunt, be honest with yourself. Do you have the discipline to ride out an all-day sit in a treestand? If you say yes, be sure to consider the conditions.
Is it supposed to rain or snow all day? Or what if the wind is supposed to blow steady from the north during every minute of shooting light? Then sitting in a treestand isn’t going to be much fun, but the deer will still be moving. This means it might be time to think about setting up a blind and getting comfortable. The upshot is, once again, to give yourself some options.
SAFETY AND SHOT ANGLES
If you fall down in a ground blind, you’ll embarrass yourself. If you fall from a treestand, the consequences tend to be much worse. Your safety should be first and foremost. Always wear a full-body, fall-arrest safety harness and use a lifeline when hunting elevated.
When ground-blinding, a buck on the ground with you means that you only have to wait for a broadside or quartering-away angle, and pick your spot. When you’re in a tree, particularly in regions with plenty of up-and-down terrain, taking a shot means you’ve got a few more factors to deal with that all involve increased shot angles. This may not seem like much, but it can increase the difficulty of putting an arrow or bullet right where you need to.
PLANS MAY VARY
Assess your spots with a critical eye to decide on what strategy is best, and then use whatever ambush tool(s) you have that will provide the best hunt. Consider all factors and tailor your setup to match these. The decision will vary from spot to spot and week to week, but that doesn’t matter as long as you’ve given yourself all of the best ambush options.