Hunt 365 July-The Case for the Enclosed Blind (A version of this article is printed in the July 2017 issue of Iowa Sportsman Magazine)
It was the winter of 2013. I was experiencing some of the most bone chilling cold and windy days I had ever seen in my life. I used to pride myself on hunting the coldest day of the season…once hunting Christmas morning just for some bragging rights. I wasn’t going to let these cold days stop me from helping a friend of mine with his late muzzleloader tag. I had some standing beans for him to hunt over with a great buck coming to them on a frequent basis. With my vacation used up, I spent several weekends leading up to his hunt running a few trail cameras and making sure my pop-up blinds were in place to cover the bean field.
When his time finally came to hunt, he was met with severe cold weather and winds that steadied at 30+ miles per hour. Now, I’ll be the first to say that cold weather makes a good late season hunt. But with temperatures well below zero (daytime highs were negative teens) and constant winds this drastic I didn’t know what the outcome would be. The forecast showed no end in sight, at least not for his hunt. The first day of his hunt he found one pop up blind tore almost to pieces, the other flopping around in the wind after most of the tie down strings had broken. The blind he sat in shook so bad it actually drew the attention of every deer that came out that night. Needless to say the pop-up blinds did very little to keep him out of the elements. Day two was much the same with conditions so bad, and the blinds now so useless and torn that he abandoned the hunt out of fear of something going terribly wrong in this environment. I felt awful! I had promised him a good hunt…put in the effort…but the nylon pop-up blinds I had put my faith in failed miserably. With only a few days to hunt and the weather not letting up, he was done.
The Moral of the Story
Under promise and over achieve! Only in this case I was over promising and under achieving. I had never experienced this severe combination of wind and cold in my life. “There was nothing I could do” I told myself. But there was something I could do; and I vowed to never again put the success of a hunt into the hands of a nylon pop-up blind.
My history with blinds should have opened my eyes earlier. For many years I got away with using the pop-up type blinds because I never had such an epic failure. But even though I never had an event such as the one in 2013, these blinds and I always had a love/hate relationship. I love their portability and the price makes them hard to pass up. But, because I like to leave my blinds out most of if not all year they never lasted all too long. Between sun, wind, and mouse damage the most I could ever get was two or three years out of these things…throw in a snow that would crush them and snap their fiber poles and they were deemed useless even sooner. But there are still times when a ground blind exceeds the performance of any tree stand.
Solving Major Problems
Ground blinds help to solve three very common problems for hunters. First, they allow us to set up our ambush spot even where no trees or cover exist…mainly if we desire to locate our hunting spot in open terrain. This is very helpful for many gun type scenarios where I like to set up as far from a food source as I possibly can for an evening hunt; yet cover as much area as I can at the same time. The portability of a blind allows me to completely plan for my entrance and exit scenarios as well while not relying on a tree to hang my stand in.
Another scenario that most hunters don’t take advantage of with a blind is the dreaded field edge stand situation. The dilemma is do you hunt the field (or food plot) edge with the wind blowing into the cover so that deer on the food don’t smell you…or hunt with the wind blowing out to the food hoping to catch the deer on their way out? The answer for me is always neither! With the option of a portable ground blind I’ll set up out across the food plot with switch grass or even open field behind me with the wind blowing from the cover…through the plot…and passing behind me. This way all the action is upwind and out in front of me.
The second thing a blind can do for any hunter is make the long hours on stand more comfortable. By blocking out wind, rain, and that bitter cold an enclosed blind can make long hours on stand more enjoyable…and in some cases possible. More time on stand will always result in a greater likelihood you’ll be successful. Case in point…any hunter can sit all day through lingering low pressure and a steady drizzle if seated in a comfortable chair in a blind; not so much in a tree stand. Even if you can outlast the weather in a tree stand it can make for some truly miserable sits if you’re soaked and cold.
The third reason I like enclosed blinds are to help with concealment. When the inside of a blind is black or very dark in color, and you are wearing very dark clothes, it is very difficult for a deer to pick up any movement in the blind unless the sun is shining straight in. This is extremely helpful when hunting very nervous late season whitetails or when taking a new or young hunter. Minor sounds are also dampened like a quiet cough or whispering. In a fully enclosed blind you can get away with a quiet conversation. And then there’s the added benefit of scent control when using a fully enclosed blind.
The Case for the Fully Enclosed Blind
Fully enclosed blinds offer the utmost in protection for a hunter spending time in bad weather. They offer great sight and sound protection for hunting whitetails as well as arguably some pretty outstanding scent control. Many store bought units are extremely comfortable and portable and most are made from materials that will last you a life time or close to it. Many are varmint proof to keep out the mice. Throw in a small portable “Mr. Heater” and even the nastiest of days like we experienced in 2013 can be made into a pleasurable hunt.
The two drawbacks that I can see with these types of blinds are the price and the portability. I’ve seen some units into the several thousand dollar range…something as of yet I can’t justify. But there are some good fully enclosed weatherproof blinds out there for much less. If you plan on using them as ground blinds I would recommend mounting them on a couple skids (like two 4X4’s) so that they can be dragged from location to location. Some models don’t come with a bottom…make sure to seal it to your platform if you are elevating it or making sure it has a tight seal to the ground to take advantage of its scent holding ability.
Before 2013, I had several nylon pop-up blinds as my “Cadillac” of go to hunting blinds for extreme conditions. Now, I have four fully enclosed blinds complete with sliding Plexiglas windows, sealed doors, and almost completely air tight construction. Because I’m Mr. Cheapo I made all four of my blinds and the windows in them for a fraction of the cost of buying them which allowed me to save big money and fit them to my size preference and window placements. I have no doubt these blinds will last me a very long time and unlike my floppy pop-ups they’ll ward off the worst of the worst when it comes to what mother nature can dish out.
Why Blind Talk in July?
Why not? If you’re going to make your own blind you need to get started. If you’re buying one you still have to buy it and get it out there so that the deer herd gets used to it. I have two blinds that are permanently mounted on raised platforms that are located specifically for late muzzleloader hunts over food sources. They are never moved and may only see a few days of hunting each year…but they are there year round and the deer pay little if any attention to them. I have two others that are mounted on 4X4’s that I can drag around and place them for archery hunts; but even those I like to have set in place months before they will get used. All four blinds offer me the advantages I’ve written about here in this article and now that I have them I put their hunting value near the top of my gear list!
I chose to write this article for the July issue because I am already planning my ground blind placement for this year…and if things progress as scheduled I will have all my blinds in place by the end of July. Enclosed blind construction is far superior to pop-ups making perfect sense to get them in place as soon as possible. July is not too early to plan out all your sets, but because blinds are obvious to deer, they need to be located as early as possible so that deer get used to them. Whether you make your own or save up and buy a fully enclosed blind, I don’t think you’ll regret putting one to use!