October 17, 2018
Deer are fickle creatures. It’s agonizing what sets them off, and then conversely it’s amazing what you can sometimes get away with.
Not much is more aggravating than a wise old doe picking you off from a treestand and snorting her stupid face off alerting every other deer in the county that a predator is present. Once in a while poetic justice wins out, but usually bunch of alarming noises ruin the hunt.
To become an accomplished whitetail hunter, one must learn to realize the factors will make a deer come unglued. Then the goal is to stay ahead of those triggering mechanisms — experience and time in the woods are the only ways to learn these lessons.
Another part of earning veteran status as a hunter is recognizing ways to maximize results with minimal effort. That minimal effort is best when obtained at or below budget.
Consider the relationship between an old doe’s eye, effort and budget, and I'm going to do my best to tie those things together. Of course, circumstances are always unique, but when it comes to hunting whitetails across the nation, you get out what you put in.
A little over a year ago, a good friend and I started a hunting club, and we had very little time or money to make the necessary upgrades to the property. It was to be a lengthy process and multi-year project.
One of our top priorities was remodeling the existing shooting houses. And believe me, they were in extremely poor repair. Some were in the wrong spots altogether. But, we endured what we had for our first year.
This past summer, I went to work on the property, and learned that a shooting-house remodel can be accomplished effectively and permanently if you bring creativity to the table.
One of our club members owns a small sawmill, and his brother is a tree cutter. Not necessarily a lumberjack, but the kind of guy who drops big trees in hard-to-navigate urban areas. Really, he’s an artist when you get down to it. But he has access to a seemingly endless amount of logs; pine mostly.
So, we created a list of desired lumber and dropped some timber on the sawmill. We needed materials for up to six new shooting house platforms, two of those were to be new spots altogether. That list consisted of of 2x6s and 4x4s. We cut a few bigger posts at 6x6, but they ended up being just too big to lug around and put into position. We learned that 4x4s were perfect.
Learn from my mistakes!
We were dealing with rough, raw lumber and we realized that treating and maintenance will be critical to the shelf life of each structure. This year, we treated the base of each post with either diesel fuel or used motor oil before burying it in 12- to 14-inch holes sealed with bagged quick-crete and water. Next year we’ll add more sealant to every exterior surface.
One step at a time.
We have a few water holes and a small pond on our property. By using a few 5-gallon buckets with lids, we didn’t have to buy a big water holding tank. Make sure the lids are securely fastened before you drive around bumpy back roads. Take my word on that.
Initially, we had planned to continue to cut lumber for the top half of each shooting house. But that list was a little bit more extensive, and we were already running out of time. So we decided to go with hub-style ground blinds as the concealment portion of the shooting house.
We went down to our local Field & Stream store and picked out seven new Ameristep blinds, with the possibility of adding one or two more. A couple of those will be strategically placed on the ground overlooking food plots to accommodate different wind directions. But most were specifically placed on top of the six new shooting platforms we built.
Originally, we had intended to build permanent wooden houses on each of those platforms. Now that we have blinds placed on top instead, I’m not sure we’re even going to consider the alternative.
What about the lifespan of the blind being exposed to the elements for that long? Well, that’s certainly a consideration, but we’re already planning to take them down once the season ends for maintenance and to reduce the overall wear and tear that comes from enduring Alabama’s outdoor elements.
For the sake of the calendar, that means October through mid February the blinds will be in the field.
Here are a few of our new elevated ground-blind shooting houses on our lease.
The Brickhouse Elite
The Brickhouse Elite is a fantastic option for our applications. Most of our food plots and blind combinations are best for gun hunting. However the Brickhouse offers vertical and deep V windows that can be used to optimize a bow-hunting scenario. This blind weighs only 16 pounds and its footprint is 59 inches square by 65 inches tall, which will comfortably hunt two adults, or even one adult and a couple of kids.
This particular spot was our top priority because it’s on our best field, but the previous shooting house was literally falling over, and was in the backend of the field. The problem was access. Getting into and out of the house without spooking deer was literally impossible. By moving it to the opposite side of the field, we can now effectively get in and out without the deer even noticing.
This was a huge improvement for us. But it doesn’t stop there.
This particular field is just under an acre, and in a bottom that is shaped much like a cereal bowl. Wind is usually sketchy, and house access required the hunter to cross the field. That’s just not a good plan. We identified a spot up the hill and about 70 yards back from the original location.
The elevation change, albeit small, allowed us to take better advantage of the wind, and our access is now completely invisible to the field bottom. This is a tremendous spot that was hindered by access and likely wind directions. Now, it’s a sniper’s perch. We placed a Brickhouse Elite on this platform as well.
On this food plot the existing shooting house was full of angry wasps and one of the four legs was literally broken. It was completely unsafe, but in the right spot. I mentioned wasps: They have been a giant struggle for us to curtail, but we found by using a hub-style ground blind, we can almost completely eliminate the nest-building bullies by taking the blinds down at the end of the season. That’s a solid solution.
We completely tore down the other house and built a new platform. We placed an Ameristep Haven on top that will serve as a large shooting house. And this thing is big and comfortable. It measures 59x59, but offers a very nice 84-inch inside height. The large door makes getting in and out a snap, and there’s plenty of room for two to three hunters.
The Silent Brickhouse
Here’s an example of a brand-new spot altogether. This spot was left untouched during our first year, but we knew it warranted a shooting house and a food plot. Each of our new builds were top priorities, but this one was near the top of our list.
In a hunting club, hunting pressure is a real thing that needs to be considered. By adding a couple new spots to our property, we can effectively manage that pressure by spreading it out. In this case, a ground blind (https://www.fieldandstreamshop.com/f/ground-blinds) on a shooting house platform overlooking a 1-acre BioLogic food plot was exactly what we envisioned. And we created it.
On this platform we placed an Ameristep Silent Brickhouse. This blind features the same footprint and internal space as the Brickhouse Elite, but with added features to silence hunter operation. The only Velcro is at the base of each window screen, which provides the hunter the option to fully remove the screen. Otherwise, the screen and window materials are attached by silent buttons and tabs.
A solid blind developed with the deer and turkey hunter in mind.
We put up six new platforms this year, but we also had a spot in mind that was still elevated, but directly on the ground. In this particular spot, we placed a blind offering a 35- to 40-yard across a Winter Grass Plus food plot. It’s an ideal spot for the archers in our club.
For this spot we chose an Ameristep Distorter for a couple of reasons. First, the profile of this blind still offers the hunter plenty of internal room, but it’s harder for a deer to pick out because of its unique shape. What alerts skeptical does to a ground blind are the consistent edges and black windows. This blind fixes that problem. We also love it because of the internal room and storage. The company effectively utilized the added space that comes with the shape distortions by implementing shelves and pockets on three sides.
The Distorter measures 104x84 and 70 inches tall making it comfortable to get in and out of, and will easily sit two to three hunters.
This thing is great for on top of a shooting house platform, or on the forest floor overlooking a food plot.
At the beginning I mentioned fooling the deer. The secret to making blinds work for old annoying does is to have the blinds setup well in advance of the season so the deer can become conditioned to their presence. If you do this, you don’t even need to brush them in. That’s easy and cost effective.
Plus, by taking the blinds down at the end of each season, you’ll insure years of use, and reduce the need to build permanent structures that require lots of maintenance. Plus permanent wooden structures invite wasps to set up shop in your hunting house.
And nobody likes wasps.