Going Blind: Tools & Skills for Hiding from Game Animals

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Karen Lutto and Steve Jones of Backcountry Hunts Guide Service use a camouflaged net to stalk a pronghorn antelope near El Paso.

Since the dawn of time, Man has known he couldn’t run down animals of the forests or plains, so he devised ways to bring them closer by hiding in whatever cover he could find.

Even today, no blind often makes the best blind if hunters can find adequate natural cover such as trees, rocks, log piles or high reeds already in a good place.

Unfortunately, sportsmen typically can’t find good cover in the best places, so they need to either build or bring in something where they can hide. Waterfowl hunters often build elevated platforms over the water and surround them with various natural or artificial materials, such as specially woven grass mats. Or they may dig holes for pre-formed fiberglass liners with comfortable benches to use as blinds.

On lakes, some waterfowlers build blockhouses complete with a place to hide a boat and a shooting deck where hunters can stand. Some blinds can accommodate a dozen or more shooters and offer kitchens, even bathrooms or lounges where sportsmen can take a break out of the elements.

Mike Giles waits for more ducks to come into range while hunting flooded timber by simply hiding behind trees.

Mike Giles waits for more ducks to come into range while hunting flooded timber by simply hiding behind trees.

Many waterfowlers hunt from small boats. They attach specially designed wrap-around blinds made of woven grass to make their boats look like reedy islands. Some blinds come equipped with flaps that completely hide the hunters inside. When birds approach, lower the flaps and begin shooting. With a boat blind, hunters can scout for ducks and set up within minutes or move quickly to new spots.

Deer hunters generally prefer to stay in their favorite areas since whitetails may live their entire lives on a few acres in their home range. Therefore, many deer hunters build permanent shooting houses on the ground, on stilts or in trees. These generally consist of a room that can hold a chair, a roof to keep the elements out and shooting windows.

Sportsmen can make excellent inexpensive deer blinds from old wooden pallets like the kind used by lumberyards and warehouses to move materials around with forklifts. Nail a few of these together to make a shooting house. Add some camouflaged netting or other materials to fill in the gaps and it makes a great blind for little cost.

Shaine Nixon of World Slam Outfitters prepares a portable pop-up blind for hunting the mesquite country near Throckmorton.

Shaine Nixon of World Slam Outfitters prepares a portable pop-up blind for hunting the mesquite country near Throckmorton.

Unfortunately, game doesn’t always come where people put permanent blinds, even homebody deer. Whether hunting ducks, deer, predators, turkeys or something else, the best hunters scout their spots and look for alternate places to go. For deer hunters, that usually means carrying a climbing tree stand and erecting it in a different place each time, often a necessity on public land.

Where they can’t find adequate trees, many deer hunters erect tripod blinds and sit on top of them. The elevated height allows hunter to see animals better while remaining above where deer normally look. Some tripods employ swivel seats on the top so hunters can look in all directions. Some include shooting houses or more elaborate hides on top.

Hunters can relocate tripods, but not as easily as other types of portable blinds. Generally, after erecting a tripod in a good area, a hunter uses it several times, but may move to another location as the season progresses. In some western states, particularly in the plains and scrub country of western or southern Texas, sportsmen put tripods on special hunting trucks. When they want to hunt an area, they simply drive the truck to it, park, climb into the tripod and start hunting.

Jen Carroll from Celina, Texas, watches for birds while hunting ducks and geese from a pit blind in a rice field.

Jen Carroll from Celina, Texas, watches for birds while hunting ducks and geese from a pit blind in a rice field.

When hunting from a tree or any elevated position, always use a safety harness, preferably one with a vest included. Moving the wrong way for just one second could kill or seriously injure a person. Many deer hunters wear safety lines or harnesses when sitting in tree stands, but not while climbing into or out of them. Whenever possible, use a safety line anytime the feet leave the ground.

When fighting a fast-moving battle, soldiers often need to move quickly, but must conceal equipment from the enemy. For decades, soldiers erected camouflaged netting to hide their artillery pieces and other important equipment. When they moved to another location, they rolled up the nets until they stopped and then stretched the nets over their equipment again. Sportsmen can buy the same type of netting in various camouflage patterns to make excellent permanent or mobile blind material. With netting, hunters can look out of the blind to spot game, but the netting still breaks up a person’s outline.

To make a portable blind, nail woven mats or netting to wooden stakes and carry the entire rig to the desired location. Plunge the stakes into mud and begin hunting in minutes. Such a portable concept allows sportsmen to easily move with the birds or animals. When they finish the hunt or wish to relocate, sportsmen simply pull up stakes and leave, perhaps to re-erect the blind in another spot to take advantage of bird or animal movements or shifting winds.

Joella Bates, a world champion archer prepares to take a shot at a deer while hunting from a traditional tree stand.

Joella Bates, a world champion archer prepares to take a shot at a deer while hunting from a traditional tree stand.

Some companies make mirrored panels that hunters can place around themselves or mirrored shields that sportsmen can hold in front of them like Roman legionnaires advancing toward the barbarians. The mirrors reflect any natural cover at that spot, so sportsmen can use these devices anywhere. Big game, turkey and predator hunters could use such blinds very effectively in fields and forests. Waterfowl hunters could use them in marshes or pond shorelines.

Prefabricated pop-up blinds resemble miniature tents. Light and easy to transport, these blinds work exceptionally well for turkey hunting, but sportsmen can also use them to target big game, predators, possibly waterfowl. Sportsmen can easily erect them in minutes and may even hunt several places in one day. Pop-up blinds come in several camouflage patterns for varied habitat. Some may even look like stumps, rocks, logs, cane thickets or other natural objects.

Besides portability, fabric pop-up blinds give sportsmen many other advantages. They conceal a person’s movement, minimize sound and somewhat hide scent. They can also protect someone from the elements. In addition, pop-up blinds often come equipped with easy-to-open screened windows that can protect the people inside from insects.

For concealment in very specific places, some companies make blinds that even more closely replicate natural cover. For instance, some blinds look like tree stumps, an excellent choice for waterfowlers hunting along beaches or shorelines dotted by intermittent timber. Other blinds resemble large rocks, great for hunting on stony beaches or prairies. Often used by goose hunters, blinds that look like haystacks work well in agricultural fields. Geese easily see them, but would expect to see large rolls of hay sitting in cut fields. As birds approach, sportsmen open the top and begin shooting.

Hunters can set up a tripod in areas with few large trees and move them easily to keep up with game.

Hunters can set up a tripod in areas with few large trees and move them easily to keep up with game.

Speaking of hunting in dry fields, reclining layout blinds look like camouflaged sleeping bags, Goose hunters frequently use them in stubble fields to lay in the decoy spread. Almost like a low beach chair in a bag, an angled backrest helps sportsmen recline in comfort while look skyward.

Another unusual layout blind concept for waterfowl actually looks like a giant goose. Hunters lift a lid and conceal themselves inside the huge decoy, looking out of slits in the back of the bird while reclining on a backrest. When birds come within range, hunters pop their tops and fire at geese very surprised to see humans with guns erupting from their larger cousins’ butts.

For big game hunting on the Great Plains, many sportsmen deploy the ultimate portable blind. Pronghorn antelope possess some of the sharpest eyes in the animal world and the fastest feet in North America. They know that with a one-step head start, they can outrun any four-legged animal on the prairie. Therefore, they fear nothing, except a human silhouette. To conceal their silhouettes, pronghorn hunters hold camouflaged cloth in front of themselves as they slowly walk across the prairies. Looking out from slits in the cloth, sportsmen advance a few feet and then pause until getting within range. Antelope see the moving objects, but don’t worry about them since they don’t look like humans.

Various blind options work for different situations, but one factor remains constant. For any blinds to work, they must mimic the surroundings. Pick the right camouflage pattern to blend in with whatever natural materials animals expect to see in that area.

story by John N. Felsher

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