Terra-Firma Tactics – Hunting Whitetails from the Ground

It was prime-time for rattling so I proceeded to impersonate my best rendition of “two bucks fighting over a hot doe.” Glancing left, I noticed a wary doe and her fawn that I hadn’t seen and all I had done was alerted them to my position. Since she was only twenty yards away, I immediately stopped and became a “statue” of some goofy dude with a bow. She started doing that high-step walk in my direction (which I think in the whitetails’ world means, “I know something is awry but I’m going to play along anyhow) to gain the advantage of the wind. She came within inches (literally) of the blind and stood behind it. I could hear her breathing, but wanted to see.

I stretched one of the windows open a quarter inch to peak out and see whether I’d blown the whole deal or if she would calm down and go about her business. I was paying too much attention to the doe because when I turned around, thirty yards away stood possibly the largest whitetail I have ever seen (body size) standing in the tall grass with his head down. It was one of the moments when you say to yourself “Holy cow!” I slowly picked up my bow and the buck picked up his head. I was expecting to see huge “headgear” but this buck was strange. He had a weird, high 4×4 “crown” and the main beams almost touched in front. Obviously this was a mature buck so I was going to shoot despite the “antler air-shrinkage.” A double-lung hit toppled the buck within sight.

There’s no way that I would have gotten away with this set-up if I had been in a treestand. I’m sure the doe would have pegged me in the tree with the first “crack of the bone.” There are some advantages that hunting from a ground blind gives you. Your movement is concealed and your scent is concentrated, for the most part, inside the blind.

As a whitetail hunter I do the greater majority of my hunting from a treestand, but more and more I’m favoring the ground…for numerous reasons. Archers should be prepared to get down out of their treestands and hunt from the ground.

Practicing realistic situations is important. Not often in a hunting situation is an archer standing flat-footed, in perfect archery form. Usually the situation calls for a hunter to be kneeling, sitting, or crouching, and possibly contorting to shoot around an obstacle. We need to practice these shots.

Different muscles may be used when you shoot while sitting or kneeling. That’s another reason a bowhunter needs to practice these shots. I’ve witnessed hunters who draw and shoot with no problem while standing, but when seated and during the heat of the moment could not physically draw their bow.

A tool that will come in handy is a bow-holder. I carry two in my pack, one screws into wood and the other pushes into the ground, either will hold my bow upright with an arrow nocked. This leaves my hands free to use calls, or possibly ready other equipment.

Hunting from the ground really puts your equipment to the test, especially your camo and system of scent elimination. The one thing I have learned is that when hunting whitetails; “you want to look like anything but a human.” A camouflage that breaks up your human form is of the highest importance. When in a blind I like Mossy Oak Bottomland or in absence of that, all black. When I create a blind from natural materials or when stalking from the ground I really like Mossy Oak Brush.

You must also camouflage the blind – if you’re hunting whitetails, I suggest “brushing it in” very well and setting them up well in advance of the hunt. Heck, for turkey you can set up a blind in the middle of an open field and the birds will walk right up to you. Don’t expect that to happen with a mature buck. Blend it into the surroundings.

Controlling any foreign smells you may have in your blind is also crucial, especially human scent. A hunter must learn to play the wind and keep themselves as scent-free as possible. Wildlife Research Center’s Scent Killer method of scent-eradication is the most effective I’ve found. I suggest the use their entire system of Scent Killer Products. Besides treating myself and my clothes with their products I also treat the blind with Scent Killer Spray. I feel it’s like a barricade, protecting me from being winded. That doe’s nose was almost inside the blind and she didn’t alarm to danger.

Carry a wind detection device, some unscented cotton or a goose down packet with you to test the air currents. When hunting big game we need to use the wind and thermal to our advantage. By puffing fine particles into the air you can see what the wind and thermal currents are doing for some distance. When you are able to actually see the air currents it gives you a much greater insight as to what the wind is actually doing and it helps you to understand “why”, “when” and “how” whitetails or other big game will do certain things.

When shooting from the ground in a kneeling or sitting position, you must consider the axle to axle length of your bow. If you’re in a ground-blind, or have the time and/or cover to rise up, then a longer bow will work. But a shorter bow is much easier to handle. Obviously, your height and possibly your draw length will have influence over how short your bow will have to be.

You’ll also have to consider your sight plane compared to your arrow’s path. I have to admit that I have shot my ground blind twice because my arrow’s path wasn’t what my eyes were seeing through the sight. Make sure your arrow has clearance before you shoot.

When going mobile, and stalking or still hunting, keep the weather in mind. I prefer to stalk during a harsh wind or rain. Obviously because it’s going to hide the noise you’re making and possibly help conceal some of your movement.

Most people would not dispute the fact that the greater majority of whitetails taken with a bow each year are harvested out of a treestand. Obviously, in a treestand your scent isn’t concentrated at the whitetail’s nose-level, your movement is concealed somewhat, and you are usually able to see further. However, if a hunter pays attention to a few details and practices shooting in different positions, hunting from the ground can be more comfortable and safer, and just as fun, exciting and successful as hunting from a tree. And FYI -The buck from the beginning of this piece was seven years old and weighed 305 pounds field dressed when weighed on two different certified scales.

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