Updated: Jan 14
For the first time in my Whitetail bowhunting career, I've been focused a bit this year on ground setups. It sort of just evolved, out of necessity, especially this year hunting a new property that doesn't have suitable size trees for a stand set up.
But really, this ground game began last season. I didn't want to relocate any of my tree stands, but there was this hot corner of the woods, near the oat field that the deer were feeding in. Luckily, I found a divot in the ground surrounded by some good cover that was 12 steps from a heavily used trail. I sat that ground blind and actually had a doe walk down the trail right towards me! It caught me off guard and I had to scramble a bit to pick up my bow and get ready as she marched towards the shooting lane. She stopped with just enough of her brisket showing past a poplar sapling. I drew my bow and she was still unaware. I remember thinking "don't hit that sapling" as I released the arrow towards the deer. The arrow veered wildly in front of her face and out into the field immediately after striking aforementioned sapling. Exactly the wrong thing to be thinking immediately before an arrow release. Pro tip.
But that got me thinking about ground blinds and reasons they might be useful. I still have tree stands in place around my main hunting property, but I've sat on the ground for the majority of my hunts this year. I've had animals many times approach within only a few yards of bow range...so close. I've also had non target species like Moose that I feel like I could've easily killed if I had a tag. I definitely feel that I am in the game on most hunts.
On a new property, I've sat exclusively on the ground so far this season because the fencerow that the deer are travelling has nothing but brambles and old willows. There are a few great ambush spots in that fencerow and again, I've had several close encounters including yet another clean miss at about 20 yards on an alert doe that caught me moving and simply dodged the arrow from my old recurve.
Ground hunting whitetails is definitely another level of challenge to be sure. On the ground, where the deer are accustomed to identifying trouble there is zero room for error. Wind directions and appropriate levels of movement are absolutely critical. I mean they're critical in a tree stand too, but this is even more so. I am well into my 2nd year of not shooting a whitetail with my bow (after being away from bowhunting seriously for the previous decade), and I really don't need any more of a challenge on these animals. So nobody needs to think that I am suffering from delusions of grandeur here. I do really want to connect again with my trad gear. But on the other hand, I have killed numerous mature whitetail bucks with a bow, and many other non-trophy animals over the years. I am enjoying the process of these hunts and re-learning old skills that I once took for granted. The drought doesn't need to end any time soon as long as I'm enjoying the hunt.