Expert Tips for Hunting Whitetails from Ground Blinds

Ground blinds can provide bowhunters with different options including picking specific spots in open areas with no trees. They’re also great for hunters who cannot or don’t want to use treestands.

Pop-up ground blinds offer bowhunters who detest high places, or who enjoy hunting whitetails eye-to-eye, an effective option to treestands.

Not that long ago I wouldn’t have considered bowhunting whitetails from pop-up blinds. It took a couple of African safaris, and especially my enthusiasm for bowhunting spring turkeys, for pop-ups to slowly grow on me.

Where once bowhunting white-tailed deer from the ground seemed a desperate measure — in open places such as western Kansas, for example — I now consider them an important part of my whitetail arsenal, especially since marrying a woman who bowhunts but is highly allergic to perches situated above stepladder height. I’ve learned a lot about deploying them for regular success, and have even arrowed a handful of deer from them.

The continuing challenge is shooting from enclosed ground blinds efficiently.

One of the requisites of shooting from ground blinds is learn- ing to shoot comfortably while seated. I hear this complaint often, which surprises me, because I shoot while sitting as a matter of course, bowhunting whitetails from treestands. I understand there are now pop-up models designed specifically to allow shooting while standing, but they come with the disadvantage of a more conspicuous profile.

Still, in most cases you’ll be seated while shooting deer from ground blinds. It’s really no big deal. Spend a portion of your preseason shooting practice sitting in a lawn or folding chair and it becomes second nature in no time at all. It will also leave you better prepared to shoot while sitting up in a tree, in case a buck catches you, well, sitting down on the job.

Bowhunting from ground blinds is different in many ways from treestands, even moreso than the obvious reason of being on the ground. Shooting from a seated position through windows has challenges that hunters should overcome in practice before the season begins. (Photo: Patrick Meitin)

This preseason familiarization is also a must to train yourself to shoot through finite shooting ports or windows. It’s important to remember the bow sight mount is 3 to 5 inches above the lower arrow rest launcher. This makes it easy to see a clean sight picture when the arrow is actually below the lower lip of the shooting port, releasing to hit blind material and grossly alter flight.

Practicing from an actual pop-up blind is important to get a better feel for clearance, but I have learned to hit anchor and align my sights, and then to take a moment to pull my head away and confirm arrow clearance. It’s a maneuver requiring just an extra second or two, but solid insurance against a disastrous miss.

Two more cautions: The tunnel vision created by shooting ports most often makes targets appear farther away than reality. Measuring landmarks with a laser rangefinder before deer arrive — and committing those yardages to memory — is a good practice. Too, never trust mechanical broadheads shot through shoot-through screens. Your broadhead might punch right through without premature deployment and fly true — or it might not. Even with fixed-blade heads, you won’t know if you don’t try it in the backyard before your hunt.

The only time I find a pin light warranted is while bowhunting from an enclosed blind. I’ve experienced situations in Africa, for instance, when a single shooting port opened toward a fixed watering site, and a healthy application of camouflaging brush made the inside of a pop-up pitch black even under a brassy midday sun. The target is clearly visible but your pins are not.

Most quality sights come with a battery-operated pin light today, including sealed light chambers that don’t bleed over to blind the shooter, and channeling light directly into fiber-optic ends to make them glow distinctly. Most have rheostats to adjust brightness. Some states — such as Idaho where I live — prohibit their use, and Pope & Young still won’t allow animals taken via battery-operated light to be included in their record books — if you care about such things. Glow-in-the-dark materials, tritium backed or tipped pins and disposable glow sticks offer some P&Y-legal options, but again, check game regulations in your state.

Pop-up blinds have become an indispensable tool for serious whitetail hunters everywhere, even those in wooded areas. But before climbing inside with the intent of directing arrows at live deer, take the time to assure you’re ready to deal with the unique challenges presented; including shooting while seated, shooting- port clearance and lighting issues. These might seem like non-issues, but you will never know until you invest in preseason rehearsals.

— Patrick Meitin is a widely traveled bowhunter and former big game hunting guide. He hails from northern Idaho.