HUNTING TROPHY WHITETAILS FROM NON ELEVATED POSITIONS OF FROM THE GROUND
Pursuing the most elusive big game animal in North America from the ground is risky business, which often times results in failure. Being thoroughly educated regarding this strategy of whitetail hunting is needed. A variety of setups exist which include pit blinds, camo tent groundblinds, and other man made or natural structures. Hunting whitetails form the ground drastically reduces the hunters odds for success. Any hunter that elects to pursue whitetails from a non elevated position is literally placing human odor and detection of movement to its maximum limits. Having been an outfitter for over 10 years I can testify that hunters who elect to not utilize treestand or elevated setups are more apt to go home without a trophy buck. These scenarios call for the utilization of pits, stalking, still hunting, ground blinds, and drives.
Pit blinds must be properly dug and positioned, as carefully as a regular treestand setup. Fence rows adjacent to well-used deer trails provide ideal places for pit blinds. Other ideal pit setups include weed patches, sloughs or creeks, and agricultural fields.
The construction of an effective pit blind must be well planned. Pit blind hunters spend time, and effort digging a hole in the ground to position themselves in. Try to make your pit blind as spacious, and comfortable as possible, so you can simply pick up your bow or gun, draw and shoot from a sitting or kneeling position, with a minimal amount of movement. The approximate size of the average pit blind is 3 feet deep by 5 feet long, and 4 feet front to back. Set a bench seat or chair snugly against the back wall of the pit for comfort. All pit blinds require cover for concealment purposes. Remember, you’re on the ground with a whitetail. Background cover matters most. Position blinds in shaded darkness if possible. You may even want to plant, or transplant permanent cover around the edges of the pit. Pit blinds require a lot of initial labor however, a well positioned pit blind will make for years of successful ground hunting.
Ground blinds may be the most effective means by which one can hunt, other than by treestand. The greatest advantage of ground blinds is that they are mobile, and diverse in style. A number of respectable companies manufacture ground blinds. These include but are not limited to Hunter Specialties, Ameristep, and Double Bull Archery. Generally, little or no assembly is required. Blinds usually are lightweight, water and wind resistant, as well as anti-ultra violet. Ground blinds are offered in a wide array of camouflage patterns. Most pop up blinds are equipped with shoot through mesh, or windows to allot for shooting opportunities.
Hunting from the confines of a couple strategically positioned large round hay bales can be very productive. The bales need to be placed in their position a couple months prior to deerseason, so that the whitetail herd can become
Their is great value in understanding pit blinds, and how to make them work effectively in scenarios which don’t offer treestand setups. Locations which may require pit blind implementation include hunting waterholes which are not surrounded by foilage or trees, sections of young timber that have been recently logged, thereby robbing the area of mature trees, which would normally afford treestand opportunities, hunting the middle of large agricultural fields, and hunting with children or individuals who have a fear of heights. Their is no quicker way to spoil a hunt for a child than to force them to climb thirty feet into a treestand against their will. This practice is also very unsafe. Some landowners don’t allow deerstands to be placed in trees.
Whether you choose, or are forced into a pit blind hunt, remember pits must be properly dug and positioned, as carefully as a regular treestand setups. Fence rows adjacent to well-used deer trails provide ideal places for pit blinds. Other ideal pit setups include weed patchs, sloughs or creeks, and agricultural fields.
Still-hunting requires special skills, and a lot of patience. Each step taken in the woods opens up a new view of the timber. Success comes only when the hunter learns to slow down each and every movement, in an attempt to study each new scene before moving on to the next. Successful still hunters learn to evaluate each and every shadow or object that may seem to be out of place. It may take an hour to cover 50 to 75 yards of terrain.
One needs to utilize wind direction. I never still-hunt with the wind at my back. Successful still-hunting will require the hunter to take special scent precautions, and make camouflage selections wisely. Even in a favorable wind, carbon lined clothing is a mandated tool for still hunters. Carbon-lined clothing absorbs human odor prior to its escapage into the surrounding environment. Rubber boots will minimize scent trails one may leave behind. Human scent eliminator will also play a great role in your success while still-hunting. Still-hunters must dress from head to toe in camouflage. This encompasses gloves, headnets, top, and bottoms. Attempt to match camouflage with the type of terrain you expect to be moving through. For snow, wear white or snow camo. For timbered areas use a dark camo pattern.
Drive hunting tactics are not as sporting as still hunting, ground hunting, or treestand hunting, however the results can be quite productive. Rushing to the end of a drive like a novice will allow mature animals to elude the drive, and double back for an escape. Drives are successful as a result of quality, not speed. The challenge of any successful drive is to anticipate which way deer will move when disturbed by members of the drive team. This knowledge will come from past experience of an area. Remember how deer leave the bedding area in years past. Study topographical travel routes by using aerial photos to determine the most likely escape routes. Only drive manageable blocks of timber. Half mile strips should be the limit. WARNING: AS A HUNT OUTFITTER WE DO NOT ALLOW DEER DRIVES BECAUSE MY PERSONAL BELIEF IS THAT IT IS A DANGEROUS STRATEGY WHICH CAN PLACE FELLOW HUNTERS IN ROUTE OF BULLETS OR WEAPONRY. I ALSO BELIEVE DEERDRIVES RUN DEER OFF YOUR PROPERTY AND MOST OFTEN TIMES SIMPLY HELP THE HUNTER ON THE NEIGHBORING FARM BE SUCCESSFUL.
Although I am not a “fan” of deerdrives here are some strategies which are implemented when driving deer for harvest.
“1. Always appoint a drivemaster or captain to be in charge of your group. He doesn’t have to be the most skilled hunter, but he should have the best knowledge of the terrain, where deer bed, and how they usually execute their escapes when pushed.
2. Large gangs of hunters are difficult and time consuming to organize, place on stands, and move around from one drive location to another.
3. Driving huge tracts of woodland cover takes an eternity and affords deer too many escape options.
4.When driving cover surrounded by open terrain such as low growing crops, pastureland, prairie, or fallow fields, always use flankers. These are drivers who work noisily along the outer edges to prevent deer from spurting out along the sides and bolting across open ground.
5. Pine plantations hold amazing numbers of bedded deer.
6. Whenever possible, place stand hunters on higher ground than the cover to be driven. If the cover is thick, they’ll more easily be able to look down into it, and see deer sneaking ahead of the drivers.
7. When planning a drive and considering the wind direction, it’s much better to allow the deer to smell the drivers rather than the hunters placed on stand.
8. Shots presented during the course of making drives are nearly always at moving animals. Therefore, the best scopes for firearms are the wide-angle variety with relatively low, variable power magnification. A perfect example would be a wide angle 2.5 x 5 as this type allows hunters to quickly find the target in the lens.
9. As drivers move through cover, they should strive to maintain a straight drive line so that no one gets too far ahead of the others, or falls too far behind. Because a member of a drive line sometimes is awarded a shot, two rules must never be violated: All hunters on the drive line must wear blaze orange, and no hunter on the drive line should ever take a shot to his immediate right or left.
10. Drivers should always be alert to what’s going on behind thm. Quite often a bedded buck remains bedded allowing the drivers to walk past it. It then stands, and begins moving off in the opposite direction. Other times, if the cover is especially thick, deer may succeed in sneaking back through the drive line.
11. If you’re convinced there’s a big buck in the cover, but your first drive didn’t push him out, drive the cover a second time but from a different direction.
12. An aerial photo is invaluable to a drive party. With an aerial photo, the drivemaster can give the drivers a first hand look at the cover they’ll be penetrating, and any change of direction they’ll periodically have to make. Likewise, the drivemaster can visually show the stand hunters where to situate themselves, and where to expect to see deer.
13. Try a “backstanding” drive to bushwhack bucks that repeatedly sneak through the drive line in an attempt to slip out the back door. In backstanding, the drive line progresses through the cover in the usual way, hoping to push deer to standers positioned ahead. But in this case, a couple of additional stand hunters are placed behind the drivers, where the drive line initially enters the cover. Quite often, about halfway through the drive, these are the hunters who see all the action.
14. Don’t discount tiny pieces of isolated cover. Especially after hunting pressure has been in existence for several days, a brushy culvert or thick patch of under growth only one acre in size may hold a nice deer.
15. If a member of a drive party shoots, and kills a deer partway through the maneuver don’t suspend the drive right then because there may be more animals in the immediate area. Each hunter should have a two foot length of orange ribbon he can tie to a nearby branch to quickly mark the fallen deer’s location so the remainder of the drive may be finished. A downed animal can be removed from the field after the drive is completed.
16. Make sure stand hunters and drivers alike all have wrist watches that are perfectly synchronized. Otherwise, if the drivers begin entering the cover just five minutes before the standers have had time to get into position , all is for naught.
17. The windiest days, with gusts exceeding 15 mph, are the best for making drives. Deer won’t be moving naturally anyway. The sounds and visual effects of wind, not to mention swirling air currents carrying scents in random directions, confuse the senses of moving deer, causing them to travel slowly, and cautiously, which will present easier shots.
18. Excellent drives that limit a deer’s travel options are those in which one or more sides of the cover have large, natural barriers that are difficult to cross. Examples include sheer, unclimbable rock walls, and wide river courses and lakeshores.
19. Loud, raucous pincer movements with the drivers whistling, and shouting make life difficult for the stand hunters to score because the deer usually panic and come racing by them too quickly to make accurate shots. This is especially the case when the stand hunters are using archery equipment. Silent drives, on the other hand, gently push the animals in pre-determined directions, with the deer slowly sneaking and offering much surer targets.
20. First time deer hunters, or those unfamiliar with the terrain to be driven, should initially be designated as standers. Let them gain experience with how each drive is carried out before they are assigned to be drivers in days to come.”
SOURCE 1 DRIVER’S EDUCATION, WHITETAIL HUNTING STRATEGIES, BY JOHN WEISS, JANUARY 2000, PAGE 75
When hunting from the ground, select your cover and camouflage wisely, while utilizing scent control precautions. Hunt thick cover like cornfields, cedar swamps, brush piles, and young timbered areas.
Rest assured, when one hunts trophy whitetails from the ground you minimize your plain of vision, and maximize your chances at being detected by wary whitetail deer. Your much better off to hunt from treestand or elevated ambush sites. It may literally mean the difference between being successful or not.