September 23, 2022
Question: I have hunted deer with retractable ground blinds with little success. Can you give some tips for using an awning effectively? B. Amber via email
Answer: Traditional retractable awnings can be a great option for hunting whitetail deer, but there are a few challenges. I have made my fair share of mistakes over the years that have cost me dearly. But these hard lessons helped improve my system.
One of the hardest things to acclimate to is the smaller field of view. Treestands allow you to see all of your surroundings with little movement. Floor blinds have windows that give you a limited view, but since deer don’t tolerate movement and noise at eye level, you should avoid the urge to peek out of closed windows, especially behind you as this allows light to enter the blind which can expose you to any deer watching the blind.
A relatively new blind technology allows you to see through blind walls, but wild animals cannot see inside. This see-through mesh is a game-changer as it gives you a much better view of your surroundings, even through any paintbrush you used to conceal the blind and helps you spot approaching deer well in advance. I would suggest looking for this feature when buying a floor shade.
When choosing a location for your awning, avoid installing it near a simple trail as deer can easily change course to avoid it. Instead, use some type of attraction like a waterhole, bait (if legal in your state), or even a lure or two to distract a buck. This puts the deer on the “X”, so you can set up with one shooting window open and the rest closed to block light. This will also help with odor control, especially when using an Ozonics unit. Be sure to identify locations that allow access without affecting a buck’s core area.
Blind brushing is essential to successful white-tailed deer hunting. The better you brush it, the more relaxed the deer will be. It’s less of a problem if you can erect the blind a month or more before the hunt, allowing the deer to accept it, but even then I would advise additional concealment.
It is best to use available resources. If cedars are present, tuck the shade into the bushy tree and use the pruned branches as cover for the exposed sides of the shade. For open terrain, find an area of tall grass or weeds to use as a backdrop and cover as much exposed blind material as possible to blend naturally into the environment. Pay particular attention to the corners of the blind. Animals will notice the sharp edges, so make sure the corners are covered to avoid detection.
Wind can be a problem, as parts of an awning can flap. If I can’t tuck the fabric in to avoid the wind, I’ll use safety pins to secure any loose areas that might scare off approaching deer. It is imperative that you pitch the awning to avoid problems on windy days. I prick the four corners and use the supplied cord to tie each wall to adjacent tree branches or a ground stake. Failure to do so will almost guarantee that Murphy’s Law will bring a gust of wind as your target approaches the blind.
The final element of success is the execution of the shot. It will be difficult to see your pins in the blind dark, so if it’s legal, you can use an aiming light to illuminate your pins. Make sure your arrow will clear the shade fabric around the window. It is imperative that you practice pulling from your blind, preferably around dusk, to experience both of these factors.
Having made all these mistakes myself, I speak from experience. I hope my gaffes can help you shorten your learning curve and lead to success!
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