By Stuart Hoegh
Many hunters hunt exclusively from tree stands. I personally have shot four deer in the last four years with my bow, all while sitting on the ground. Furthermore, I haven’t even had to use a blind. I just sit in thick grass or small trees. Yet, many of the hunters that I talk to refuse to utilize the adaptability of hunting from the ground. I believe ground set ups are less often utilized due to the fact that it is easier to film hunts from a tree stand. Sometimes shows overcomplicate deer hunting. There are many myths that scent control, visibility, and motion in regards to hunting from a ground blind. While I do believe that a tree stand can be effective in many locations, I want to describe to you my techniques in setting up from the ground as well as the benefits of hunting from the ground.
Iowa, similar to many midwest states, completely transforms after harvest. Cover that was once abundant becomes scarce, and deer suddenly seem to be everywhere. Because it can be difficult to scout land when crops are in, my hunts immediately following harvest are set up to view wide areas, while ensuring I do not spook deer. I want to limit the number of times I go into a stand location. Additionally, I do not want to take the time to put in a tree stand if I do not fully understand how the deer are moving through the area. As a result, I simplify my approach. I walk into a field I know holds deer and focus on areas where the deer paths are choked into narrow crossings. I find cover and sit roughly fifteen yards off of the trail or where the grass begins at the edge of a field.
I take several steps to insure that I am as still as possible. I want the landscape to prevent animals from moving behind me. Thus, I can then sit and watch the area without having to move my head or turn around. If you set up correctly you will be able to watch roughly 160° with only eye movement. If any deer were to come from behind, you will hear it coming and then have to make a decision from there.
I sit on a small fold-out seat and hold my bow vertically between my knees. This requires me to only lift my bow roughly a foot when a deer shows up. The only other motion is my arm drawing the bow backward, which is less noticeable to a deer. I usually sit directly behind a tall clump of grass or a small tree. This allows me to have a shooting lane to both my left and right. The grass provides the opportunity to adjust if the deer moves in and I can not get a shot right away.
When a deer comes within range wait for it to put it’s head down or look away. Then slowly raise your bow. At this point the shot comes down to reading body language. If the deer pauses but doesn’t have you pinpointed you can likely wait for it to return to grazing. If instead the deer starts to look around or begins to move away it is best to draw your bow and take the shot. Often times, especially in the early season, deer will hold still while you draw your bow. A slow steady motion can allow you to get a good shot off.
If you can not set up tree stands before the season or hunt public land, the ground set up is a great option.