Get Lost in Ground Blinds

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by Dennis Biswell

It was well before sunrise on opening day of the 2019 Kansas spring firearm turkey season. I didn’t bust any turkeys from their roosts as I snuck into the timber and settled into a brush blind near a large oak tree. As the eastern sky began to lighten, a crow cawed. Gobbles of tom turkeys erupted from the trees about 80 yards to the east. I thought to myself, “This is the perfect setup. Perhaps after daybreak, I’ll call them over.” The toms gobbled again. The next gobble almost knocked me over because it was so close. I slowly turned my head and scanned the limbs above for the bird. I located him in a tree a few yards to the west, 25 feet off the ground. Against the slate-colored sky, I saw another tom roosted in a tree 30 yards to the south. With their close proximity, I began to worry about being spotted by the sharp-eyed birds. From past experience, I knew it wouldn’t take much for them to spot me. Suddenly, the gobbles stopped, and alarm putts started. Then, I heard the whoosh of wings flapping as the big bird flew away.

I slowly moved my shotgun and rested it on a couple of the brush blind’s limbs so it was pointing toward where I hoped the closest tom would land after he flew from his roost. I tucked my legs under the brush blind, snuggled against the old oak, and waited for the flight, hoping my camouflage clothing and the brush blind were making me invisible.

As time passed, I became more confident that I wouldn’t be spotted. I was glad I’d chosen the brush blind for this hunt. I relaxed and enjoyed nature’s early morning chorus of chickadees, turkeys, Northern cardinals, Northern bobwhite quail, and many other animal sounds, happy for a warm spring morning after the brutal winter.

Near sunrise, out of the corner of my eye I saw the large tom walking up his roost branch to gain altitude for takeoff. He turned and faced the south breeze and, with a hop, launched into the air, opened his wings, and glided to the ground. After landing, he took several running steps and then stopped 20 yards in front of my shotgun. I clicked off the safety, made a small adjustment to my aim point, and squeezed the trigger.

I was able to sit in such an advantageous spot for that hunt because my brush blind hid me in plain sight. A blind is a structure a hunter sits behind or inside to make it difficult for prey to see them. Over the years, I’ve bought or built a variety of blinds. There are several types of blinds, each with advantages and disadvantages.

Sit-Behind Blinds

These are blinds that hide the lower part of your body when sitting on a cushion or a low seat.

Brush Blind

This is a DIY blind made from local materials, typically fallen tree limbs, brush, saplings, grass, and other debris found on the ground.

To build this blind (pictured above and at left), stack limbs near the base of a tree. If no tree is available, cut a couple of saplings and drive them into the ground to create supports. Fill any gaps in the base with cedar or pine branches, or, if none are available, saplings. After this, fill any remaining small gaps with brush, grass, and other debris. Make the blind tall enough to cover the lower part of your body.

Place brush blinds in areas of high prey traffic. Be sure to build them prior to hunting so the animals become acclimated to them. Don’t be surprised if you discover that an animal has taken a liking to your blind. For instance, I once gave some beavers a gift by cutting and stacking fresh willow saplings close to the water. I arrived early one morning to hunt waterfowl only to find my brush blind gone and a bunch of beaver tracks in its place. Construct brush blinds in different places along and near game trails so you have options in different wind and light conditions.

  • Advantages: Low cost; blends into surroundings; fun to build
  • Disadvantages: Nonportable; upper part of hunter’s body is visible; no weather protection; vulnerable to animal destruction

Camouflage Wall Blind

I use two variations of this type of blind. The first is either purchased ready-made or a DIY project. It’s made with camouflage fabric that’s sewn or clipped to evenly spaced rods.

The rods can be wooden dowels, metal, plastic, or fiberglass, as long as they’re about 3 feet tall. The fabric should be camouflage burlap or mesh netting about 30 inches tall. The blind should measure 10 to 12 feet wide.

To set up the blind, start at one end and push a rod into the ground, unroll the fabric to the next rod and push it into the ground (see bottom right photo above). Once all the rods are set, adjust the fabric height so you can shoot over the fabric.

The second variation of this blind is to use a tripod lashing and make two tripods for supports, place a limb across the tripods, and cover it with camouflage fabric. In addition to the advantages listed below, when adjusted to the correct height, the horizontal pole makes a steady rest for your weapon.

  • Advantages: Low cost; lightweight; portable; quiet, quick, and easy to set up and take down
  • Disadvantages: Difficult to push rods into rocky or compacted soil; upper part of hunter’s body is visible; no weather protection

Sit-Inside Blinds

These blinds hide motion and dampen the sound of whispered voices. They’re a wonderful way to introduce youngsters or inexperienced hunters to the outdoors. When my son and daughter were young, we spent many wonderful hours in a sit-inside blind playing games and drawing while waiting to see animals.

DIY Frame and Fabric Blind

This is a homemade frame covered with camouflage fabric (pictured above). Add chicken wire to the frame to make it easier to attach grass and other natural material. For waterfowl hunting, attach the roof with hinges so it swings open to make it easier to shoot passing ducks and geese.

For two people sitting on low seats or pads, make the frame 6 feet wide by 4 feet deep by 4 feet tall. For the frame, use scrap lumber or 11⁄2-inch-diameter PVC pipe. Fasten wooden frames with screws and corner brackets. If using PVC pipe, drill small holes through the corner connections and pipe, then use zip ties to bind the pieces together. Once built, mark the pieces for easy reassembly, and then take the frame apart for transport to the field.

To set up the blind in the field, reassemble the frame, stake it to the ground, attach camouflage burlap fabric with staples or zip ties, and then cut windows. To blend in the blind even better with its surroundings, staple chicken wire to the fabric and weave in natural materials, such as cattails, cornstalks, grass, and saplings.

  • Advantages: Low cost; fun to build; conceals hunter’s entire body and hides movements; muffles whispers
  • Disadvantages: Nonportable; window placement can limit shot opportunities; little weather protection

Manufactured Frame and Fabric Blind

These blinds are manufactured frames covered with camouflaged fabric (pictured above). They’re made from a variety of
fabrics and camouflage patterns. They come in many sizes, as well.

Some are “pop-up” blinds that practically set up themselves. The frames have elastic material between the support rods, and they spring open when pulled from the carry bag. Others require more assembly, similar to setting up a camping tent.

  • Advantages: Lightweight; portable; easy to set up; muffle whispers; some weather protection; come in variety of sizes and camouflage patterns for different hunting situations
  • Disadvantages: Can be expensive; pop-up models may be noisy during set up and challenging to return to bag; window positions can limit shot opportunities

Hut Blinds

Hut-style blinds are structures made from wood or composite material. They can be DIY projects or bought ready-made. They can be as elaborate and comfortable as you desire, and as your budget allows. They’re built on-site or delivered by truck or trailer.

  • Advantages: Custom built or purchased; weather resistant; can be climate controlled; can accommodate several people; can be ADA accessible
  • Disadvantages: Nonportable; can be expensive

As I carried the first tom of the season out of the woods, I was happy I’d used the brush blind. It undoubtedly made the difference on this hunt. If you’ve had trouble getting close to animals, try a blind and see how it can change your wildlife encounters.

Tripod Lashing

For two tripods, you need 6 straight branches or saplings (1 to 2 inches in diameter and about 40 inches long) and 2 sets of natural fiber cord (10 feet long).

Tripod lashings begin and end with a clove hitch on each outside pole, and consist of 6 wraps and 2 fraps (see photos below). Wraps weave the poles together. Fraps secure and tighten the wraps.

Clove Hitch: Make 2 loops in the cord. Position the first (left) loop on top of the second (right) loop. Push the pole through the loops and pull the ends to tighten the loops.

Wraps: Tie a clove hitch near the end of the cord and about 8 inches from the end of the pole. Lay 3 poles side by side, and then line them up so the ends are even and the pole with the clove hitch is on the left. Make 6 loose wrapping turns by weaving the cord under the middle pole, over and around the right pole, over the middle pole, and under and around the left pole. Continue weaving until there are 3 wraps over and 3 under the middle pole.

Fraps: Push the working end of the rope between the left and middle poles, make a loop around the wraps, and pull it tight. Take the cord under the middle pole and push it between the right pole and middle pole. Make a loop around those wraps and pull it tight. This completes one frap. Make another frap.

Tie a clove hitch on the right pole to secure the lashing. Open the poles, and position the tripod.

Helpful Hints and Tips

  • Before you build or purchase a blind, check your local wildlife regulations and confirm that it’s legal to use one. Follow the rules on displaying hunter orange.
  • Before putting nonportable blinds on public lands, check the local rules. If you’re hunting on private property, get permission from the landowner.
  • No matter what type of blind you choose, position it so it’s in the shadows and blends into the background.
  • When hunting with sit-behind blinds, wear camouflage clothing.
  • For sit-inside blinds, wear clothing that matches the interior blind color. Position openings and windows to ensure there’s no silhouette of the blind’s occupants, so animals approaching don’t see your outline or any movement inside the blind.
  • If using a weapon with sights or a scope mounted higher than where the projectile exits the weapon, position it so you shoot over the edge of the blind material and support rods. Hitting fabric, brush, or support rods will alter shots, especially when using archery equipment.
  • Some fabrics are noisy when they rub together. When shopping for a manufactured portable blind or fabric for a DIY blind, choose one that doesn’t make noise.
  • Practice setting up and packing a portable blind in the same conditions in which you’ll use the blind. Work to become proficient in setting up the blind quickly and silently. Practice may be the difference between scaring a big tom from the roost in the predawn darkness and taking him home for dinner.

An avid outdoorsman, Dennis Biswell spends as much time as possible in nature. He hunts from the ground and enjoys the challenge of harvesting deer at close range with a traditional muzzleloader.