Hunting from the ground allows you more freedom. You can move around and nestle into better positions than archers who use tree stands.
Like many hunters I spent most of the season perched in a tree with a bow or crossbow. Funny how things change, when I first started deer hunting you had to hunt from the ground and I tagged many deer. But it wasn’t until one day someone decided to hunt from a tree. That was the game changer. Every man and his dog started climbing trees.
I thought because it was so popular it must be better right. I was in my early twenties when i first tried tree hunting and i enjoyed the climb and set up. I had plenty of kills over the years but as we all know hunting from a tree stand comes with it own risks.
Almost every bow hunting safety studies conducted. In recent times showed that most accidents that happened involved using tree stands.
I can think of a few times my life flashed before my eyes. And thinking how it could have ended a lot worse especially that deep into the wilderness. A sharp and scary reminder to take care and think safety while hunting from high places. Needless to say after the first mishap i always made sure i took extra precautions. And thought through every move after that.
In my early forties I decided to go back to ground hunting. Because for one there are more opportunities,and 2 its a lot less strenuous on my not so young body.
Scouting Becomes Much More Easy
Before the season starts, I spend plenty of time scouting. Looking at food and water sources, scrapes, bedding areas and any other signs of deer activity. trying to locate areas where I can sit and catch deer moving too or away from the most visited areas. Hunting from a ground blind. you are more limited to only a few select areas that are flat. And usually I can only find 2-3 of these great spots .Once you are happy it’s time to set up and build the blind.
Clear out any leaves or vegetation that might make noise. If possible, get the floor down to bare dirt. The last thing you need is dry vegetation crunching beneath your feet as you prepare for a shot.
You need to do some brushing. This doesn’t mean completely covering the ground blind with brush. It means to break up outlines and shapes so that the blind blends in with the surroundings. Use pieces of nearby trees. Or pieces of brush that are on the ground that look familiar to the background and surrounding area. you are trying to make it look as natural as possible and not looking like a wooden box.
When you are brushing you need to keep a few things in mind. Make sure any shooting lanes are clear so the arrow has a clear path when a shot opportunity is there. Even the slightest trajectory disturbance will make you miss the vital organs. And you won’t get the clean kill or even miss the deer full stop and that’s a big waste of time.
When the deer turns up you need to be very slow and careful as you ready your crossbow or bow. You only need to be moving when the deer’s head is down foraging . Keep very still even if it’s the biggest buck you have ever seen. Don’t get giddy and excited. If the deer lifts its head up and is scanning they will catch even the slightest movement as you ready your shot.
Also remember not to place any sharp points of the brush towards the fabric of the blind. you don’t want it puncturing fabric during high winds. The blind will draw a deer’s immediate attention and They’ll even avoid it for a few days after it has set up. But within a week or so the deer will accept it as part of its habitat so you want to be doing all this a few weeks before. Giving time for all human scent to leave the area. So it’s a bedded in and ready for hunt time and it will give you a better chance of tagging a buck or doe.
Mindful Of The Wind
Although deer have great vision, most of the time it’s their sense of smell that stops hunters from tagging them. Remember If the wind is blowing in your face and the deer are upwind of you then they have zero chance of smelling you. With you hunting from the ground your scent will be at ground level. Position yourself downwind of where you think the deer will be moving and coming from. And you will up your chances of success.
It is very important to be aware of your scent, you don’t want to be smelling like a human at all if possible. You want to be smelling like the land, dirt, foliage even use a scent killer. Definitely do not turn up smelling of old spice.
If you have had to hike any distance even on a cold day be aware of this, you want to give off as little human smell as possible. So be aware of the wind direction
You need to stay very still i mean no movement or the deer will bolt and catch you out. You need to stay still up a tree but ground level is imperative. when you are hunting from the ground you are on the same level as the deer. And this is their home and they know this is also most of their predators home too. Your crossbow needs to be ready and in your hand and in very near reach. Try and practice a few times, also taking aim and moving your body around and if you are using a stool. Move around on it to see if there are any unexpected noise. the only movements required before shooting. Is getting the eye to the scope and pulling the trigger.
You can move about a little, But you have to see the deer before they see you. And that is not always possible so be very aware of your movements.
While there are a lot of advantages to hunting on the ground, the last thing you want is to be is noticed, sticking out. You need to pay extra attention to your concealment to be successful. I mean most hunters wear camouflage clothing but you need to make sure you have the full quality camo set up. Including face mask and gloves. If you haven’t got a mask on, the deer will see your face as a solid color. And it’s unnatural for them to see that (your face looking back at them in the greenery and shrub). Also make sure it’s the right camo for your surroundings.
Remember if you have done everything right up to this point the deer might be right up close as you ready your shot. Breaking up your silhouette will improve your chances no end. Some hunters prefer a leafy or ghillie suit. These work great as long as you can still use your bow wearing it. You will be fine with a crossbow as that’s what i wear when i use mine.
Being stuck in a blind with minimal view isn’t for every hunter. especially if you have spent a lot of hunts up a tree with more visual. But if you have scouted the area. And set up your blind in the right place, also made yourself enough shooting and viewing lanes. Being up close and personal can be very exciting.
I also travel light with a small travelling pack. That includes compact binoculars,folding saw, snips, camouflaged backdrop cloth and a rangefinder. I like to wear a ghillie suit because things can change and i like increase my chances of success. If I decide not to use the blind last minute for some reason like wind direction Or its dormant. Something could also catch my eye on the way there or on the way back from the hunt. Like a buck chasing does ,i can sit at the base of a tree. And use it as a back rest and sit on a camo cushion,even use a stump rock or a small dirt pile, little hill. that is at least as tall as the top of my head and at least as wide as my shoulders. This completely breaks down your silhouette. And makes you disappear into the object you are sitting in front of.
Also selecting the right boots is essential. Because you will be having to spend a lot of time in them and lots of walking and carrying (fingers crossed). They need to be comfy, warm/waterproof and also you need to be doing a lot of sneaking around so they don’t what be to clunky.
Look After Your Bow Or Crossbow
Remember crossbows are mechanical, so keep them maintained and in good condition. For safety and also you don’t want to go through all the preparation of the hunt for it to break on the day. Make a point to check strings, cables, cams and trigger and safety mechanisms. Wax and lube as instructed. I learnt this lesson early on when I was a young boy. As i halfway cocked the bow and the string snapped. Ever since that day i maintain all my weapons before every hunt.
You will need to check your individual areas. As some states currently permit the use of crossbows. In certain locations or during a specific crossbow season. Other states only allow the use of crossbows during the general firearms season. And others permit crossbow hunting during archery season.