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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.

deer sounds N1 Moment

Deer Sounds and a Big South Carolina Whitetail

There are a lot of deer sounds and noises I like to hear in the woods. But, there’s one I usually don’t like to hear, especially when I’m walking to my hunting stand. More on that below…

This is the story of some deer sounds that led to a dandy South Carolina archery buck… It’s unforgettable moments like this one that spurred us on to start the N1 Outdoors brand

In this article, you’ll hear the following deer vocalizations:

  • Deer blow (snort)
  • Doe grunt
  • Buck grunt
  • Doe bleat
  • Estrous doe bleat
  • Tending buck grunt
  • Buck bawl

Note: You can listen to the above deer sounds throughout the article as well as at the bottom of the page.

A New Deer Hunting Property

The 2010 deer season in South Carolina held some great memories for me. I had been granted permission to hunt some new property that was only 3 miles from my house!

The catch? It was bow only property. No guns allowed.

The South Carolina archery only season was already over and we were getting some consistent colder weather. But, the truth is, I really wasn’t disappointed to be hunting with my bow during gun season, because deer hunting just makes me want to say “Bowhunt Oh Yeah!” In fact, I hadn’t even hunted with my rifle since 2009.

Deer, sound the alarm!

It was a chilly, November 18 morning, and the rut was in full swing. I had seen a fair amount of rutting activity, but had not seen any bucks that got me very excited. But, when you love to bowhunt, it’s a great time to be in the woods.

I had parked my truck and was making the walk to my stand on the downwind side of where I would be hunting.

My stand location was in a head of hardwoods that contained several white oaks. I’ve always loved hunting locations that contain white oaks, especially in early fall, as the acorns are falling. But although the deer love them, by now, there weren’t any left for them to enjoy.

Nonetheless, it was a good location on the edge of a fairly large clear cut that the deer would typically transition through on their way to the other side of the property.

There was a gate opening that I needed to walk through to enter the woods where my stand location was.

The Deer “blow” or “snort” Sound

I had gotten about three steps through the gate, when the head of woods I was about to enter exploded with the sounds of deer blowing. It was still too dark to see, but it sounded like a small army of whitetail had just left the building. I stopped and listened, as the sounds of their escape got farther and farther away.

PRESS PLAY ABOVE TO HEAR WHAT A DEER BLOW / SNORT SOUNDS LIKE… LISTEN TO OTHER DEER SOUNDS FURTHER DOWN THE PAGE)

I was pretty disappointed to say the least. I had taken such great care in paying attention to wind direction when walking to my stand. Yet, here I was, not even in my stand yet, and the deer already knew where I was. I was already wondering what I could have done differently.

Regroup

Well, there I was (and they knew it). I had that sick feeling that might have made one want to just go back to the truck. But, this was the rut, and I love to hunt whether the deer blow me up or not!

I found my tree and got in my stand and got settled. By now, it was first light but the sun was not yet up.

The whitetail doe grunt

After sitting for 10 minutes or so, I thought it might be a good idea to give my grunt call a soft doe grunt. My thinking was, “maybe if they hear this, they’ll think things have settled down and are safe again.”

So, I blew on my grunt call softly, making a “social grunt” noise.

Press play above to hear what a doe grunt sounds like… (more deer sounds further down the page!)

A fast appearance

It had probably been only 10 seconds after grunting, that I could see a deer appear about 100 yards away, on the field edge. Even at that distance, I could see his horns and I was interested!

No sooner than he appeared, he began running toward the head of woods I was in. He got to a well traveled path at the edge of the hardwoods and slowed down, turned, and began walking toward me.

By now my heart is racing pretty good, because I can see this deer is a shooter, and I have gone from heartbroken to hopeful in a matter of minutes.

This is where I have to say that the buck walking toward me had one of the better set of antlers I had seen in my area of South Carolina. In recent years, SCDNR bag limits had been high. Many believe that these high limits, coupled with poor deer management, had resulted in fewer mature bucks in South Carolina.

All I knew was, the age and size of the deer walking toward me was not commonplace in my area.

I had my bow in my hand, but didn’t feel I was going to be able to stand up without messing something up. My archery stance on this deer was going to be… sitting down. I sat and watched him inch closer.

Prior to getting in the tree stand, I had put some estrous scent on a tree limb about 20 yards away. He walked right past it. But, the worst part was that in about 3 more steps, I knew he would be downwind of me, and be gone!

Come on daylight!

I couldn’t believe I was about to watch the biggest South Carolina buck I had encountered leave my life. But, unfortunately, it was all but over.

Just as I thought this hunt was coming to an end (for the second time in minutes), he stopped, turned around, and walked back to the tree limb where I had put the estrous scent.

I knew this was my chance. So, I quietly went to full draw. I thought, “ok, aim small, miss small.” But, there was just one, really big, problem. I looked through my peep and saw, well nothing. It was still too dark in that head of woods to clearly see the buck.

If this buck would stay for a few minutes, there would be enough light through the trees to see his vitals clearly. But, I knew with chasing does on his mind, he probably wasn’t staying much longer. And, I knew that in that particular location, the wind had a tendency to swirl from time to time.

The prayer, the draw, the release

I can’t remember everything that was racing through my mind at that point, but I know I probably prayed a few fast words. It’s amazing how fast I can get to a prayerful state of mind when a big buck is nearby (amazing and shameful!)

As I was still at full draw, I moved my eye outside of my peep, so that I could see the buck through my site pins. Then, I slowly looked back through the peep and could see the target… barely.

I released my arrow and he gave the ‘ole donkey kick. He bolted down the draw and out of sight. I sat for two hours, wondering how this whole story was going to end.

The wait and the search

So far that morning, I had heard deer blow and deer run… now, all I wanted to hear was, “wow, that’s a nice buck there in the back of your truck!”

During those two hours, I scanned the ground endlessly, hoping to see a bloody arrow. I saw nothing. Of course, then the doubts set in… “did I make a good shot? How far did he go? Will I ever find him?” It was agonizing.

Finally, I decided to get down and go look. I walked out 20 yards to where I had shot him and I saw my arrow lying on the ground, the arrow shaft and my broadhead half-covered by the forest floor. My arrow had been Just Pass’N Through!

I picked it up and immediately got some encouragement… bright pink, frothy blood on my fletches. Things were looking up!

I followed along the faint blood trail. It wasn’t significant, but it was enough to keep me moving to the next spots of blood.

After 150 yards or so, I reached a small creek that ran through the property. I was till intently focused on the ground near my feet, checking for any small clue I could find. The blood trail had stopped.

I looked up and about 30 yards away, in the creek, was the buck. I held both hands high and thanked the Lord for answering my desperate (yet somewhat shallow) prayer.

The shot turned out to be a double-lung pass through. (We love pass throughs so much, we even made a shirt about them!)

deer sounds dead deer pic

The drag

I was by myself with no one to help me drag this deer out. I could either drag him about 200 yards uphill, or try to drag him through the muddy, swampy mess of a creek. So, I chose option 2.

I was able to use the shallow creek as assistance and slide the buck through the area for the long 300 yard trek back to the truck.

A short drive and a few pictures later, I had officially sealed the deal on one of my most memorable N1 Moments.

Deer sounds: The key to this N1 Moment

Looking back, I’m glad for the deer noises I heard that day… the deer blowing, the deer running, and finally, the deer sliding through the creek bed on it’s way to my freezer and my wall.

Listen below for more doe and buck noises

Buck Grunt Sound

(PRESS PLAY ABOVE TO HEAR WHAT A BUCK GRUNT SOUNDS LIKE)

Doe Bleat Sound

(PRESS PLAY ABOVE TO HEAR WHAT A DOE BLEAT SOUNDS LIKE)

Estrous Doe Bleat Sound

(PRESS PLAY ABOVE TO HEAR WHAT AN ESTRUS DOE BLEAT SOUNDS LIKE)

Buck Tending Grunt Sound

(PRESS PLAY ABOVE TO HEAR WHAT A TENDING BUCK GRUNT SOUNDS LIKE)

Buck Bawl Sound

(PRESS PLAY ABOVE TO HEAR WHAT A BUCK BAWL SOUNDS LIKE)

-By Giles Canter

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fruit of a chesnut tree

Deer Food | Building Better Mast Orchards For Your Herd

-by Bob Humphrey

People interested in managing their land for wildlife are continually seeking better and more efficient ways to improve the habitat so it can support more and healthier animals, particularly deer. As is so often the case, nature has already figured out the best ways – sometimes it just takes us a while to recognize them.

Let me give you an example.

Hardwoods: Then And Now

Deer hunters head to the woods for many reasons, not the least of which is escape. And most of us, at one time or another, have lamented that perhaps we were born a century or two too late. As we slip through the local woodlot, which is little more than a vestige of days gone by, we wonder what it must have been like before men and metal changed the landscape.

historic american chesnut with settler
The American chestnut, prior to the blight that nearly wiped them out.

The first Europeans that set foot in the New World, and those that followed for several centuries found a forest that, rather than being patchily distributed on the landscape, stretched on unending for miles. Canopy openings that allowed sunlight to reach the forest floor nurturing small glades were sparse, and usually caused by natural events.

The understory beneath ancient towering hardwoods was much more open as less sunlight could reach the forest floor during growing season. But the biggest difference might well be what covered the ground after the growing season ceased. Rather than the carpet of acorns we’re now accustomed to seeing in the fall, the forest floor of 120 years ago would have been littered with green pods that more resemble some spiny sea creature or alien spawn than the fruit of a plant. Inside each, one would find several chocolate-hued nuts.

Chestnut Trees – King of the Forest

Prior to the turn of the previous century, and for millennia before, American chestnuts (Castanea dentata) dominated the eastern hardwood forests of North America, growing 12 stories tall and wide enough that two men could not reach around their base and touch fingers.

The nuts they dropped in voluminous quantities were a vital food source for countless wildlife species, and later for humans, who could shovel up bushel baskets full of them in short order.

Yet in the geologic blink of an eye (roughly 30 years) they were effectively wiped out by a blight.

Oaks ultimately filled the empty ecological niche once occupied by chestnuts, dominating the overstory and providing an abundant source of hard mast.

A 20-year-old chestnut can produce as much as 20 pounds of mast per year. On a per acre basis, that’s as many carbohydrates as corn, but without all the labor and expense of replanting every year.

Research has even shown that whitetails prefer acorns over just about any other widely occurring natural food. The deer don’t know the difference, but as you’ll soon learn, this stand-in source of mast doesn’t quite stand up to their forerunners. Fortunately, like healthy seedlings of the once mighty chestnut, hope springs eternal.

Back to the Future

In the early 1950s, James Carpentar discovered a large and very healthy American chestnut in Ohio that appeared to be blight resistant. He sent budwood to Dr. Robert T. Dunstan, a well-known plant breeder in North Carolina, who began grafting and later cross-pollinating American grafts with a mixture USDA-released Chinese chestnut selections.

Are acorns really a whitetail deer’s favorite? Keep reading!

After selecting individuals with the best hybrid characteristics, Dr. Dunstan crossed them back to both the American and Chinese parent trees, creating the Dunstan chestnut, a breed with the optimal combination of blight resistance and production of large, high quality nuts.

Today, Dunstan’s great grandson, Iain Wallace grows Dunstan chestnuts and a variety of other mast trees and shrubs at the family’s Chestnut Hill Orchards in Alachua, Florida.

The business started largely as a commercial chestnut orchard.

“Until fairly recently, most of the millions of dollars worth of chestnuts sold each year were imported because there were no commercial orchards in the U.S.,” said Iain’s father, Robert Wallace.

And like any start-up, they encountered their share of obstacles.

“We had deer in our orchard every night during harvest season,” he said.

He further elaborated that one of his biggest problems for commercial orchardists is deer eating the nuts before they can be collected. However, the elder Wallace quickly recognized it not as a problem, but an opportunity.

With help from friends in the outdoor industry, Chestnut Hill Orchards formed Chestnut Hill Outdoors as a subsidiary to market and sell trees to people interested in planting them to attract and feed wildlife.

a chesnut compared to an acorn
When compared side-by-side, the nutritional value of the chestnut dwarfs the acorn

The Chestnut… A Better Nut

Trying to compete with the mighty oak might seem a particularly risky business venture, until you learn about the chestnut’s nutritional superiority. They contain 4 times the carbohydrates of a white oak acorn; possess 2.5 times the protein and only a fraction of the fat found in acorns.

Chestnuts also have less tannins, making them a much sweeter, and thus more palatable (no-one ever wrote songs about acorns roasting on an open fire). And though chestnuts have not been present on the land for more than 100 years, the ability to instantly recognize their nutritional superiority and palatability is still permanently encoded into the deer’s DNA. They know a good thing when they smell, and taste it.

There are other advantages chestnuts hold over other mast trees that might be of particular interest to those looking to plant wildlife mast orchards.

Chestnut trees grow faster and bigger, sometimes bearing in two to five years, where a white oak might not bear for 20 years. Eventually, chestnuts can grow a dozen stories tall, becoming prolific producers of the caloric carbs wildlife like deer are so dependent on for their winter survival. They also lack the boom and bust cycles more common to oaks, and their blooms come out later in the spring so they are far less susceptible to broad scale mast crop failures caused by late freezes.

Why Plant Trees For Deer?

Before we go further we should probably back up momentarily as some readers are probably wondering why you would plant trees instead of just building food plots like everybody else. Regardless of what you plant, your goal should be not just to attract animals like deer during a particular part of the year (hunting season), but to hold them there as close to year-round as possible. Why? Because the more time they spend on your property, the more comfortable and habituated they become. And the best way to do that is by providing the optimal year-round habitat, the components of which include food, cover and water.

Building and maintaining food plots with annual or perennial herbaceous crops is a very popular way to increase available nutrition for wildlife, but can result in nutritional gaps during certain parts of the year. It can also be costly and labor intensive, particularly with annual crops that must be planted every year.

whitetail buck under chestnut tree
Mast orchards, like chestnut trees, help provide year-round nutrition for the herd and produce year-after year.

Your property will be far more attractive to, and beneficial for wildlife if you can strive to keep fresh food sources available for as long as possible throughout the year. Mast orchards represent an alternative or complement to your food plots, and after the initial investment and establishment, will provide increasingly more food indefinitely, and with a great deal less cost and effort compared to food plots or even feeders. They also provide a means for landowners to fill potential nutritional gaps, ensuring there is plenty of the right food throughout the year.

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The Chestnut’s Place On The Hard Mast Team

As previously noted, chestnuts offer several advantages over other hard mast sources by growing faster and larger, bearing fruit at a younger age and providing a more nutritious nut. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plant other species, like varieties of red and white oak. Variety is the spice of wildlife, and the more you provide in the way of food, the more attractive and productive your land will be. But don’t stop there.

All too often, landowner’s focus on fall foods and forget about the rest of the year. As previously alluded to, the more deer and other species are present on your property in the spring, summer and winter, the more likely they’ll be there in the fall. Visitors become residents as feeding areas become home ranges, and home ranges become core areas. And it shouldn’t be just about deer either.

Provide Well-Rounded Nutrition

You can further fill the void with species like grapes, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries, at the same time attracting a broader spectrum of upland game and game bird species, not to mention non-game animals.

Again, you improve the habit quality over a wider time span by providing greater variety of soft and hard mast plant species, particularly those that help fill gaps in the nutritional calendar.

For example, plums provide fruit as early as May and June in southern regions, and a little later further north. Pears, which ripen from mid to late July through August, depending on variety and location, can fill the next gap as herbaceous plants mature and lose palatability but hard mast has yet to fall.

Which Trees Should You Plant?

persimmon fruit

Planting soft mast species like persimmons widens the window of attractiveness your property provides for wildlife. Persimmons are a prized treat for whitetail deer. (Bob Humphrey photo.)

Next on the nutritional calendar come things like apples and persimmons, the latter of which come in early-drop and late-drop varieties and are an incredibly powerful deer attractant, particularly during ear to mid-autumn archery seasons. By then, hard mast should start dropping and, if you’ve planted enough variety, will continue providing fall attractant and winter survival food at least through the end of the calendar year, and quite possibly through the winter.

Now that you have an idea of the types of mast-producers you’d like to plant, you need to select a variety of species from each group.

Chestnut Hill Outdoors offers an array of both soft and hard mast producers in several different size containers. Furthermore, they will help you select the optimal varieties for your specific site conditions, including landscape level variables like plant hardiness zones and regional climate as well as local variables like slope, aspect and soil type and moisture regimes. And they don’t stop there. In order to ensure you receive the maximum benefit from their products, the Chestnut Hill Outdoors staff also provide sound advice and instruction on proper site selection, planting and care.

They even continue seeking more effective and efficient ways to get products to their customers. Planting larger, and thus older trees helps shorten the waiting period until your mast orchards produce fruit, but large trees can be expensive to ship. That’s why Chestnut Hill Outdoors teamed up with Walmart to provide a more convenient and economical distribution hub for larger trees. They now ship Dunstan Chestnuts and other mast orchard species to Walmart retail locations across the eastern U.S. And they are scheduled to arrive at the optimal time for planting in different regions.

When it comes to planting mast orchards for wildlife, about the only down side is that it will take a few years before you begin realizing the benefits of your investment.

The upside is that with little or no additional input from you, your initial investment will continue paying benefits indefinitely. Short of buying land, it’s one of the soundest long-term investments you can make for yours and future generations of people who appreciate and enjoy wildlife.

For more on Chestnut Hill Outdoors products and how to care for them, visit www.ChestnutHillOutdoors.com, or call (855) 386-7826.

bob humphrey
Bob Humphrey. You can learn more about Bob at BobHumphrey.com

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