Taking a Stand
M ore Texas White-tailed
deer tags are filled from box blinds than by all other hunting options combined. At least, that’s my observation based on approximately 50 deer seasons in the Lone Star State.
There is a reason for longstanding popularity of the elevated blind; the vantage of the box provides concealment and confidence while overseeing a promising scope of terrain. Not coincidentally, a game feeder or food plot often is situated within 100 yards of the perch.
There’s nothing wrong with this. Indeed, the idea in humane hunting is to place a clean shot, and the high-percentage way to do this is with a scoped rifle from a stable rest at reasonably close range. The proper box blind provides this opportunity.
As a tool for game management, the stand allows the disciplined hunter to evaluate the age and antlers of a potential “shooter” and wait for a standing broadside. Such controlled deliberation seldom is possible when horn rattling or still hunting on foot. Even when high racking (legally driving in a tricked-out hunting vehicle on private ranch roads), a quick draw often is necessary when a sudden corner faces a close deer.
In short, the tower blind minimizes blown chances and lousy shots. At least, it should.
As a new opening day approaches, here are a few pointers on “taking a stand” that might benefit the relative newcomer to deer hunting in Texas:
If the weather is cold or even semi-cold, tote one more layer than you think you’ll need. Sitting motionless for several hours allows chill to creep close. And, worth note, the elevated box blind lacks the snug insulation of a roost on the ground. This is especially true if a significant wind is blowing.
A cold hunter is not a focused hunter. You fidget and fret and probably quit too soon.
Most deer hunters wear camouflaged clothing. “Full camo” is fine although not necessary in the typical box blind. Ironically, many hunters swaddled in the latest blend-in, can’t-miss natural patterns fail to pay attention to the face and hands—the two extremities that move the most for the seated hunter.
Even in warm weather, a pair of mesh gloves and a pullover facemask can be a deal-saver. Face paint seems to be mandatory on many cable deer hunting shows (especially deadly looking tiger stripes fanning from the eyes) but the simple mesh facemask serves the same purpose.
If you do elect for the war paint, you might want to set the alarm clock 30 minutes early so as to apply all the makeup just right.
A big advantage of the enclosed box blind is that it allows the hunter to transport various cumbersome accessory items. But don’t get carried away; figure what you’ll realistically use and pack accordingly. For example, if the longest shot amid brushy terrain promises to be well within 200 yards you don’t need a powerful spotting scope. Or, for that matter, a range finder. Your binoculars will tell you all you need to know.
Regardless of region, the ability to sit concealed in a box blind begs for a telephoto camera. Keep in mind we’re not just focusing on antlered deer; all sorts of wonderful wildlife images can be captured.
Climbing into the stand should be easy enough if you don’t overload as you waddle up the ladder. Make two or even three trips, if necessary, and use a flashlight to point the way. As a rule, the rifle should be unloaded during entry and exit.
Once situated, take time to do a little housework. You’ve already compromised the immediate area with your noisy arrival, so go ahead, latch the door and slide open the windows and stow any clang-bang accessory items away from careless feet. Blind chairs often are rusty and squeaky, so test for any mutinous creaks and pops by leaning and twisting. Figure out in advance what the chair will tolerate.
And practice raising the unloaded rifle into seated shooting position. Remember the barrel of the typical bolt action .270 or .30-06 is 24 inches long, horrifyingly easy to whack against a wall or bang into the roof during a hurried reaction. The forethought of a few practice swings might spare the soul-deadening sight of a giant buck bounding and racing for cover.
Now, safely load the rifle and prop it in a secure corner. While you’re at it, turn the variable scope to its lowest setting. The expanded field of view will allow faster target acquisition amid vague gray backdrops. Remember, visibility will be severely reduced during the first 15 or 20 minutes of struggling light, and you don’t need 12X to cover a deer at 40 yards; indeed, the powerful magnification can be a hindrance.
Once adequate visibility unfolds, readjust the magnification and start paying attention to glare and shadow. Ooze into a convenient corner of the box, rather than framing a moon face and bobbling arms in the center of the window. Contrary to legend, white-tailed deer will look up—especially when reacting to a sudden noise or a jerky motion.
The goal on stand is to settle in, and be watchful and patient as the brush stirs back to life. But avoid getting too comfortable in the cozy box. In this, you might heed the old children’s fable, “And where’s the young lad who looks after the sheep, Baa, baa—fast asleep.”
The temptation to “just rest my eyes for a minute” has squandered many chip-shot opportunities. And so has quitting too soon. Regardless of circumstances this side of a blizzard or tornado, here’s one final tip for sitting in a box blind: Give it 30 minutes more.
Email Joe Doggett at ContactUs@fishgame.com