permanent hunting blind in cotton field

Blind Ambition | Optimal Permanent Deer Stand Placement

I grew up in an era where box blinds were mainly built from scratch.

Although there were a couple of companies manufacturing them, it was common to use any leftover lumber we had and buy the rest of what we needed to build them ourselves. I still consider it nostalgic to see old rotted blinds in distant fields.

Today, permanent hunting blinds, sometimes called “box blinds” or “shooting houses,” continue to be a fixture over much of the American landscape. They’re now made for both rifle and bow hunting and provide not only concealment, but protection from the elements.

Whether factory fabricated, or old and rustic, permanent blinds still have their place in the deer woods.

whitetail buck standing in field

Proper blind placement can be the determining factor in taking your target buck.

Permanent Hunting Blind Placement… Why, Where, And When

Perhaps the best trait of permanent blinds over other types of deer stands, is the inherent comfort that comes in handy during extremely cold weather or all-day sits during the rut.

Permanent blinds won’t help you on public hunting land, but for those that hunt private land, permanent hunting blinds are a huge cog in the hunting wheel.

It’s important to carefully consider blind placement at a basic level. There is much more to it than simply locating them over feeders (where legal) and food plots.

First of all, short of the rut, large mature bucks don’t always visit these areas during shooting hours. So, with each prospective spot, ask the simple question, “what reasons do deer have to visit this area.” Asking this question is all the more crucial for bow hunting, where good blind placement can reward you with a short, quality shot.

The off-season is a great time to place new hunting blinds or relocate old ones. But, where should you put them? Whether sitting on the ground or perched on a platform, below are a few considerations for good permanent and semi-permanent blind placement.

Hunt the Food

Let’s get this obvious alternative out of the way first. Whether near acorn-rich oak stands, mast orchards, food plots, or feeders, hunting over or near feeding areas is academic. If such an area has good cover around it, it’s especially ideal for entry and exit routes (for both deer and hunter). This popular method should always be used with at least one of your setups.

There is, however, so much more to consider.

Meet in the Middle

Like with any setup, one of the best hunting strategies regarding blind location is to sit between feeding and bedding areas. Here, it’s much to do about whitetail travel routines.

ground box blind on sloped

Even the slightest elevated terrain can give you better visibility during your hunt.

With a little scouting, these sections aren’t hard to find. However, you should note that sometimes the bedding and feeding area aren’t necessarily on the same property. Either way, once discovered, you can set a permanent stand in the path of the daily migration of a group, or groups of deer. These honey holes are valuable. Take time to find them. If it’s not evident during the season, make time for off-season scouting sessions in search of them.

Go to New Heights

Higher is better. When considering an area for blind placement, take a little time to look for the highest spot. Though not always noticeable at first, a spot that’s even 5-feet higher than its surroundings is desirable – especially for non-elevated blinds.

Why? Greater height means greater visibility!

Do you hunt on flat terrain? If so, still take time to assess the area. It’s uncanny how the slightest upward slopes are right under your nose. Unless the high spot has other undesirable traits, it’s a good initial alternative to consider.

Higher blind placement is better, because it gives you a greater field of vision over the terrain you’re hunting.

Heavy Trails

It’s no secret that whitetails prefer certain travel routes – often the path of least resistance. Any property frequented by deer will prove this. It’s really just a matter of finding these heavily traversed stretches. Here, a little time on the ground can yield valuable intel.

Check property lines, low creek crossings and the like. If you have deer, you can find their paths of choice.

As such, the more trails you can see from your stand, the better. If you place a stand in view of or close to an area where two or more trails converge, you’ve increased your chances for consistent deer sightings significantly.



Funnels

These days, we hear a lot about funnels or “pinch points.” The term seems to be used quite loosely too. In its most basic sense, these are areas where deer movement is reduced to a smaller section or zone.

Examples are spots where two fields are separated by a narrow section of cover or a thin passage between a creek and woodlot. Permanent stands go well with good funnels because they continue to be dependable travel corridors into the future. Find such areas and you won’t be disappointed.



Cover Your Backside

It can be easy to feel invincible sitting inside a box. But, this is where many hunters, after doing a lot of things right, blow it.

Don’t get so comfortable that you fail to consider what that box looks like from a deer’s line of sight. I’m of course talking about the silhouetting effect, and it’s important to avoid it.

First, make sure that the back of the blind is dark and solid. For example, if there is a window behind you, cover it up. If the back wall is light in color, cover it with paint or cloth.

Box blinds are large and it’s pretty hard to make them vanish. However, in this hunter’s opinion, it’s always good to mask them as much as possible. So, be sure to place the blind against brush and timber, and if possible, just inside the edge of it.

With time, deer do get used to blinds, so, why not have them blend into your surroundings more naturally? This goes into the “why not stack the odds in your favor” category.

hunting blind window and binoculars

The view from inside your permanent hunting blind is just as important as how it looks from the outside.

Inside Information | The View From Within An Elevated Blind

Other than avoiding being silhouetted, there are other considerations once your settled inside the blind.

If you’re inclined to leave any of the windows closed, practice the art of quietly opening and closing them. If rifle hunting, take time to practice the shots you may be inclined to take.

Likewise, for bow hunting, identify the angles in the blind that will be difficult or impossible to shoot from. This means determining the proper height of the shooting opening(s). Additionally, physically practice the possible draw angles that may materialize in the moment.

Finally, place your chair in the optimal position for the most likely shot angle. Determine these obstacles first before you’re suddenly staring into the eyes of a target buck, or maybe even the buck of a lifetime. Most of us know all too well how fast this can happen.

In Conclusion

Locating and harvesting mature whitetail bucks isn’t easy and can take time. But, permanent stands positioned in a variety of logical locations will eventually pay dividends.

Because permanent hunting blinds are typically heavy and bulky, there is plenty of incentive to make placement decisions count. Let’s face it, these structures are not fun to move. So, use your off-season scouting sessions as an opportunity to find some of the areas mentioned above.

Sheltered and comfortable, permanent hunting blinds strategically situated in optimal areas can be productive mainstays on private hunting grounds.

And remember, if hunted smart, they are great scouting venues. Remember that no matter how attractive a given spot is, don’t hunt it at all costs. Be resolute and play the wind. In fact, make it a goal to place them in areas where they can be hunted with different prevailing winds.

Finally, shooting houses provide the perfect venue to share a hunt with a friend or family member right by your side – even in rainy, snowy, or windy conditions. Setting them in these high-percentage areas means action. A win-win.

boy holding fish with thumbs up

Teaching Kids The Outdoors: Are We Doing It Wrong?

Many of us can still remember shooting our first rabbit or catching our first bluegill. I recall the feeling of sneaking under under a bridge to shoot a pigeon, as well as the time I accidentally hooked my grandpa’s ear while bass fishing.

These unforgettable memories motivate us to take the kids in our lives out on the lake or into the woods. As a fishing guide and bow tech, I have enjoyed guiding families and building bows for kids. But through the process, I have realized that we may be making some mistakes when it comes to what we are teaching kids about the outdoors.

But, could we be over-emphasizing success and rushing kids into hunting big game too early? Shouldn’t our focus be to build confident, determined kids that have an appreciation and maybe even a passion for the outdoors?

boy with buck and doe
What age is too young to be hunting big game?

A Fixation With Success

Today, the most common approach for getting kids to love the outdoors seems to be ensuring success. By getting kids to catch a fish or harvest an animal, we hope they will feel that same rush of emotions that we have fallen in love with.

But, it’s the context surrounding that success that is so rewarding, not necessarily the result. The rush should come from the hours we have put in developing our craft and the time we have spent thinking about what it will be like to finally hold a big fish or a set of big antlers.

Recently I went bass fishing with my sister, her husband, and my nephews Jack and Collin. I let the boys cast the whole time, and eventually the lures were getting far enough from the boat that I thought we might not get skunked.

Jack turned to me and said, “I thought we were going to catch more.” I told him, “That’s fishing Jack. I’ve been on a lot of good fishing trips where I didn’t catch anything.” If we had caught fish after fish it would have been more exciting, but the boys likely wouldn’t have seen the bigger picture. Failing teaches lessons that I don’t believe success covers.

Which develops better skills: passing a rod to a kid with a fish already on the line, or letting them struggle to cast far enough for a few trips before finally catching a bluegill? Which option makes them think things should be handed to them and which one leads to self-confidence and a determination to succeed?

two boys with doe deer
Failing at hunting and fishing activities teaches youth how to appreciate success!

We don’t want kids to think our sports amount to just killing animals, the way it is often framed by antis. As a hunter, I experience success and failure depending on how well I prepare and perform (of course, a little luck doesn’t hurt!)

We should focus on having kids take part in the whole process and understand that success is anything but guaranteed.

Rushing Kids To Hunt Big Game Too Early

As a bow tech in Utah, I often meet parents wanting to increase the poundage on their kid’s bows to clear the threshold for mule deer hunting. But, what’s the rush to hunt big game?

What I loved about hunting when I was younger was getting away from teachers and parents telling me what to do. I loved the unforeseeable outcome of the hunt and the challenge to outwit the game.

Today, we escape bosses and spouses to hunt larger, more demanding species, but the feeling of freedom and solitude in the woods is the same. That’s what I want my nephews to experience. I want to give them the opportunity to overcome obstacles through hunting and come to have a better understanding of the outdoors and what it takes to succeed.

The species should meet a kid where they are at. I don’t believe an eight-year-old can reasonably piece together a deer hunt without quite a bit of hand holding. But they can run around the backyard shooting rabbits and squirrels. Those hunts give kids the maximum amount of responsibility and decision making power.




>> Outdoor Apparel Celebrating unforgettable moments

Additionally, if a young kid shoots a big buck, will he ever enjoy shooting pigeons under a bridge? If a kid catches a marlin, will she get excited about catching a ten-pound carp?

Taking small steps to bigger game and more challenging hunts allows kids to learn more about hunting as well as themselves. In my opinion, when a kid gets excited about a hunt, puts in effort, and overcomes obstacles, that’s a success.

It’s Really About The Moments

“Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.”

– Henry David Thoreau
man showing boy fish
Sharing the experience with others is one of the most rewarding aspects of the outdoors.

I once spent a few days guiding a father and his seventh-grade son fishing for salmon in Alaska. It was clear the kid wasn’t mature enough to comprehend that the trip represented a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for most people. Instead, he fixated on catching one salmon and proving himself to his dad. Unfortunately, the dad didn’t do much to get away from that fixed mindset of success.

What happens when they return home and the kid doesn’t want to go catch bluegill in the quarry because he won’t receive the same praises as for a 40-pound king salmon? Does it really build a love of fishing, self discipline or humility to have a paid guide hold your hand throughout the process?

By comparison, that same summer I guided a 70-year-old man and his 40-year-old son. When I stood in the river with the son he would say, “I just really want my dad to catch one.” And, when I walked over to his father at the other end of the bend he would tell me, “I’m really glad to see he’s having a good time.” These were two guys that understood it wasn’t the fish they were after. They wanted each other to the enjoy experience and weren’t fixated on their own success.

Conclusion

So, don’t worry so much about success or big game. Focus on providing an example of dedication and respect for the outdoors. You either get bit by the bug or you don’t. Some kids are wired to love the sport and some are not.

Fishing and hunting provide an opportunity to challenge kids and make them learn valuable lessons. It would be a shame to miss those opportunities by focusing too much on antlers and scales.

stuart hoegh
Stuart Hoegh of IowaSlam.com
stephen tucker and world record tucker buck

Non-Typical Days | What It’s Like Owning A World Record Buck [Tucker Buck]

So, what’s it like owning a whitetail world record?

Let me walk you through my experience of the “Tucker Buck…”

It was the second week of September, 2016. My uncle and I had just finished shelling corn in Sumner County, Tennessee.

While I was headed to the truck, my uncle called me and said, “Stephen look at this deer, he’s on your right. He is going to come out from behind the bushes right in front of you.”

tucker buck trail cam pic

Here is a trail cam pic of the Tucker Buck, which became a new world-record non-typical buck in November of 2016.

I stopped, and the deer walked out, looking at me. I stared at him and could not believe what I was seeing. About 20 seconds went by and then he ran back into the thicket.

Over the next couple months, I got some trail cam pictures of him. I had actually seen him twice while hunting.

Then, on November 7, after hunting him off and on, he walked out for the third and final time. But, before I tell you about the day I shot him, let me tell you a little bit about what happened leading up to that special day…

The Months Before The World Record Buck

The first time I had the opportunity to shoot this buck, things did not go the way I had planned. I had everything ready and had been mentally preparing myself for my chance at this buck. 

I saw him coming at about thirty yards away.  He stopped, and I decided this was it!

I went to fire my muzzle loader and… it misfired. I could not believe what had just happened. I thought, “Is this it? Did I just lose my chance? Would he ever show himself again?”


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I decided I could not let that setback stop me.  All I could think about was having another chance at him. I couldn’t sleep or focus on too much after my misfire, but I knew I had to keep tabs on him and wait for another chance.

I had not told many people about this buck, but my family and close friends knew.  They kept telling me not to give up, and that he would show himself again. I just needed to be patient and wait. I continued to pray that I would get another chance.



So, then came the morning of November 7, and things started to change.  That morning everything went in my favor. He came out at forty yards after working a scrape. I told myself “you cannot mess this up!” All the while, I was shaking with nervous excitement. My adrenaline was pumping like never before.

A Magical Morning

I saw my chance and I took it. I shot him with my muzzle loader from my ground blind.  All I could see was smoke, and when it cleared, I saw him running back into the thicket. I could not believe I had been given the opportunity again. I sat there for what seemed like an eternity, with excitement and a little bit of anxiety.

tucker buck world record buck

I called some of my family members to share the news, that it had in fact happened… I had shot “him.”

I knew I was about to engage on my big search and I had to figure where he went. Then I called some of my family members to share the news, that it had in fact happened… I had shot “him”.

Within a few minutes some of my family and a few close friends came to the field to help me begin the search for him. Within thirty minutes, we had found him. A sense of relief and joy came over me, once I was able to lay eyes on him and touch him.

Although I was overjoyed, I still did not fully realize what I had killed. I just knew he was a giant and a special deer… at least special to me.



A Boone And Crockett Buck… And More

That night a TWRA officer that was a certified Boone and Crockett scorer, came and green scored him. We all waited with anticipation to see what this monster would score.  I thought I would be the new Tennessee record holder, but I had no idea what else was in store for me.

When the officer finished scoring, he told me that it would give the world record non-typical whitetail a run for its money.

tucker buck official boone crockett score sheet

Finally, they told me they had their final score. It was 312 inches. I was ecstatic!



During the following weeks, I became overwhelmed from all the phone calls, messages and companies that were contacting me. Everyone had an opinion about what I should do or not do.

I received a lot of backlash from animal rights advocates and others. I decided to take a break from social media and let things die down before I re-entered the social media playground. In the meantime, I gave many interviews and traveled a few places while waiting on the drying period to come to an end.

In January, the sixty-day drying period was over. I then traveled to the Tennessee TWRA office to have him scored.

I just remember waiting with my brother-in-law and nephew wondering what the score was going to be. Finally, they told me they had their final score. It was 312 inches. I could not believe it. I was ecstatic!


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The Year After The “Tucker Buck” World Record

The next year I went to nearly twenty shows. Now, I am just a farmer from Tennessee. I was not used to traveling that much, nor was I accustomed to all the attention. However, my appreciation for the outdoor industry grew after every event I went to.

I began to develop many wonderful relationships and grow friendships. Killing this buck also grew my relationship with the Lord. It even prompted me to make the greatest decision of becoming baptized. I also began travelling to speak at churches and wild game dinners.  These opportunities would have never been awarded to me had I not had the chance to take this deer.


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Stop Hunting?

Many told me that I might as well stop hunting, because I would never be able to top it. They were wrong… it made me hunt even harder the next fall.

You see, to me it is not about the size of the buck. Now, don’t get me wrong I love big deer, but what I love more is figuring them out.

Being able to take a world record whitetail made me look at deer hunting in a different way; not just how I look at hunting for myself, but for others as well. No matter what size a deer is, if it makes you excited or happy, I’m going to be just as happy and excited as you are about him.

I was so nervous, that when I walked off stage, I knocked over Jimmy Houston’s fishing pole!



Another Year, More Opportunities

The 2017-2018 season came and went with no buck being shot that was close to mine. In 2018, I went to many more shows and speaking engagements.

At one of the appearances, I had to speak in front of 3,000 people at a church’s wild game dinner. I was so nervous, that when I walked off the stage, I knocked over Jimmy Houston’s fishing pole!

During the summer of 2018, I scouted harder than ever before. By November, I had already tagged out in my home state with a bow.



A Challenger Rises Up

On November 1, 2018, I was scrolling on my Instagram and saw a giant buck on a page that I follow. I thought, yeah maybe it could be bigger, but I wasn’t sure. I hadn’t heard many conversations about it.

Then in January 2019, I was on the way to the ATA show in Louisville, Kentucky. I knew that deer would be there and had heard the score would be released. To be honest, I was worried about it, because I wanted my deer’s score to remain number one.

I won’t lie, I was upset. But hey, records are made to be broken. So, I decided to make the best of it.

A New World Record?

I was about an hour from the show and a buddy called me and said North American Whitetail just went live on Facebook. While I was on the phone with him, they announced that the Illinois buck’s net score was 320″.

I won’t lie, I was upset. But hey, records are made to be broken. So, I decided to make the best of it.  

I met the guy that shot the new pending record and he seemed like a great guy. He was also a Veteran, so I couldn’t think of someone more deserving.

We will both take our record bucks to be scored this summer at the Boone and Crockett Big Game Awards. That is when we will both find out what our final scores are and will be given our ranking.



Looking Back

The two years following my world record buck were a whirlwind. So many great things have happened in my life as a result of harvesting this once-in-a-lifetime buck.  Whether or not I remain the number one record-holder, I will always have a buck over 300 inches… from Tennessee.

I am forever grateful that I had the opportunity to kill the “Tucker Buck”.

stephen tucker with world record tucker buck
The Tucker Buck officially scored 312 inches, breaking the world record at the time for a non-typical whitetail deer.