When Pennsylvania's statewide archery deer season opens Saturday, Oct. 1, a lot of hunters will find themselves up a tree.
Outdoors television programs, newspaper features and magazine articles have created a subculture of bowhunters who would no sooner think of hunting whitetail deer from anything other than a treestand than they would of hunting in anything other than the latest in camouflage clothing.
Clearly, the most popular method to bowhunt whitetail deer is from an elevated stand, and being above the ground offers several advantages over no pun intended hunting from the ground.
Still, not every hunter thinks hunting 20 feet off the ground is a fun and enjoyable experience. And, even though the success rate for taking deer from the ground is much lower than hunting from a treestand, some older hunters as well as individuals who simply do not enjoy hanging off a tree prefer to hunt from the ground.
As a result, pop-up blinds are gaining popularity among grounded hunters because, when used properly, they can make it easier to harvest deer and other big game animals. Pop-up blinds are lightweight, which makes them easy to transport, and most pop up in a few seconds.
Some hunters, however, who try like pop-up blinds simply put them out on the edge of a field, climb inside and then do not understand why they never see deer. If they do see a deer, it usually gives them a head bob, snorts, and does not present a shot opportunity.
Well, the problem is not the blind, but not thinking through where to place the blind. Most hunters who are successful at hunting from a ground blind do a variety of things to break up the outline of the blind.
According to Ameristep Blind Company president Bob Ransom, when hunting from a ground blind for whitetails, hunters need to take the time make sure it blends into its surroundings.
This is true even if the blind is erected on private land weeks before the opening of the season, but is imperative to do when hunting public land and the blind is erected and taken down every day.
"Just because you don't leave a blind up for long periods of time doesn't mean you can't fool the keen eyes of the whitetail," Ransom said. "If you are hunting public land, hunt near thick vegetation.
"I often take my blind and push it back into thick brush where the only thing that can be seen is the window I plan to shoot from. To make sure the blind doesn't stick out like a pimple on a prom queen, I usually find old limbs to place over the roof after the blind is stuck in the brush.
"If you're hunting an area on public land that is fairly open, fooling a deer in a pop-up blind can be difficult. If you can't find a thick, brushy area to place your blind, put it an area that has dark timber where the blind will blend in with the shadows."
Choose a blind that is the proper size for the type of hunting that is being done, meaning a bowhunter should buy the smallest blind that coming to full draw.
Small blinds have a smaller outline, are easier to conceal and generally do not spook deer as easily as larger blinds, which means having a better chance of getting within bow range of a deer.
Other features to consider include a black interior, which most blind companies offer because the black interior makes it hard for animals to see inside.
This makes it more forgiving to get away with movement than would be the case when hunting from a treestand.
When purchasing a blind with a dark interior, make sure it comes with shoot-through window covering. Deer seem to spook when they see big, dark openings, but with the mesh material placed over the windows, they seem to pay less attention to the windows or what is going on inside.
Hunting from a pop-up blind can be just as effective as using a treestand, but like using a treestand requires an eye for detail and some extra time to make sure the blind looks like part of the landscape instead of a big brown blob.
Once a hunter has mastered hunting from a pop-up blind, however, nothing will give the heart-pounding adrenalin rush of when eye to eye with a monster buck.