It is a timeless debate among hunters: tree stand or ground blind? Both have advantages and disadvantages, so how does one determine which to use? It could be true that one day the numerous factors that go into deciding they type of hunt you will have could lean drastically toward rising above it all and bagging your kill from up in the air, while the very next day it would benefit you greatly to keep your feet firmly on the ground. When planning out your hunt, here are a few things to keep in mind.
A Scent Upon the Wind
Scent is easily one of the most important factors when determining a hunt, so depending on how high you are, a tree stand could be the perfect strategy or it could end up hindering your success. If you go high enough, say 30 feet, you are less likely to be detected and give you a better view of the surroundings, but this will reduce your kill zone, especially when bow hunting. Alternatively, an elevation of 15-20 feet will dramatically increase your potential of being detected by any deer coming near enough to shoot.
Ground blinds can be a benefit here, but usually take much more preparation to setup correctly. Since you will be at the same height as the animals, you must take extra care to cover or eliminate your scent. Making sure to wash everything from your blind to your clothes and shoes with scent eliminating detergents can make a huge difference. The walls will help keep in most of the scent you create, but washing beforehand with scent free soap can help as well.
Whatever you do, make sure you always track the wind direction and intensity, as well as the time of day. The morning sun will heat up the air causing it to rise which can be an advantage for the tree stand hunter, but will have the opposite effect at night when the air cools. Slow, drifting winds can create a cloud that will compound any foreign scent, especially within a valley or bowl.
Terrain, Camouflage, Cover
This may sound simple, but sometimes it’s the simple things that get overlooked. Make sure you know your surroundings, and if possible, scout ahead weeks in advance to find the best sites. A tree stand isn’t going to be of much help if you are looking for deer in a field or prairie that only has tall brush and small trees, and a ground blind might not be the best option in thick forest or wooded areas with a lot of big bushes.
Likewise, make sure you use the right style of ground blind or tree stand for the cover around you. Anything that stands out too much against the background is going to spook any animal that sees it, whether on the ground or in the air. Use a blind that is going to mimic the outline of similar foliage in the area, or at least be broken up enough to blend in. For tree stands, whenever possible use climbing ropes and shoes instead of ladders to go as unnoticed as possible. Also, rope is easier to carry, especially if you are using more than one stand.
This is often the biggest and most subtle factor in a successful hunt versus going home empty handed. Whether hunting deer or duck, using a bow or a gun, confidence and familiarity can add that extra little bit that makes the difference between getting a kill shot or not. If you’ve never been more than 10 feet up in a tree, go with a ground blind and take those extra little steps necessary to ensure you keep hidden. If you get claustrophobic, the small space of a blind may not be your best option.
Either way, practice ahead of time. If you know you are going on an archery hunt and planning on using a tree stand, practice everything until it is second nature. Everything from climbing to shooting to just plain sitting around all day in the air, if it is unfamiliar on the hunt it can affect your shot. Same goes for the blind. Spend all day in one during various types of weather and practice shooting from the confined space. The more confidence you have the smoother you will pull the trigger.
Whatever your preferred style, do your own research. Always check your equipment before you leave and clean all of your weapons and gear to ensure proper use when in the field. Don’t be afraid to do a refresher if it’s been a while either. Anyone from the beginner to the seasoned vet can benefit from practice hunting courses. By taking the time and effort necessary to prepare properly for your hunting adventure, you can help to guarantee a safe and successful hunt.