Tree stand vs. ground blind: which is better? And for what scenarios?
Here in North America, most deer hunters traditionally use two different methods in their attempts to fill the freezer with venison every year. We are talking about the use of a treestand or a ground blind. Most hunters have likely hunted from both at some point in their hunting careers, waiting for that big buck to come strolling past.
However, have you ever stopped to weigh the pros and cons of each method? In some scenarios ground hunting may be more effective than hunting from a treestand and vice versa. By examining advantages and disadvantages, we can make better decisions on our spots this deer hunting season.
Today we will look at the discussion in depth and give you some tips to maximize your use of either this season.
Treestand advantages and disadvantages
We will start with treestands because that is what most hunters use for whitetails while both gun and bowhunting. The obvious advantage over hunting from a ground blind is simply visibility. From an elevated position you will be able to see and shoot further. Deer are also less likely to look for a threat hanging up high up above them than at ground level. Tree stands also help with scent control in that if a deer does catch your scent, it is going to be slightly harder for them to pin-point your position in the air than on the ground. Remember that their natural predators generally do not strike from above.
Shooting from an elevated position is also going to be safer and give you more range and angles to make a shot. As we all know, deer seldom walk perfectly into our shooting lanes. It is usually easier to adjust on the fly from a ladder stand or hang-on stand than a pop-up blind, where you may only have a single window open enough for a shot.
Treestands offer a distinct advantage over ground blinds for most archery purposes because bowhunting requires more movement to get into position and draw a recurve or compound bow for the shot. The margin for error is much smaller. It is easier to get away with these movements above the deer's line of sight than on the ground.
Some disadvantages of treestands are obvious. If you live in a plains state like Kansas, or the Dakotas, some areas have a severe lack of huntable trees. For bowhunters, this makes things more complicated because finding a huntable tree that big buck regularly passes can lead to a hair-pulling amount of frustration.
Treestands are also very noticeable on public land, making them targets for use by other hunters or worse, theft. Climbing treestands negate some of that problem, but it also means hauling your stand with you every time you hunt, and most climbing stands are quite heavy. This type of stand can also only be used on trees that are relatively straight, further complicating the matter.
Ground blind advantages and disadvantages
I have been a ground blind user for most of my hunting career and most of my harvests have come while sitting in one. They are highly effective, but like treestands, there are pros and cons. The biggest pro is that ground blinds can be used quite literally anywhere. This includes places where there is a severe lack of huntable trees. Blinds offer excellent camo and concealment. Many modern blinds use specialty two-way mesh that lets the hunter see outside clear as day, but the deer cannot see in. This is a huge advantage for those using bowhunting gear from the ground. One thing I love most about ground blinds are that a good one will be totally enclosed and protect you from rain, wind and snow, allowing you to hunt longer and harder.
Not every treestand has a shooting rail or solid rest either. Many commercial ground blinds do, or at the very least, allow for the use of shooting sticks for a solid rest. The more you can replicate conditions on the range, the better your odds of a clean, ethical harvest when the moment of truth arrives.
The disadvantages for blind users are visibility. Since you are sitting at ground level, placement is key in making sure you can see the deer coming from a distance. Just because you can place ground blinds anywhere does not mean you should. While I love the concealment of most blinds, they do make for narrower shooting lanes than normal when properly placed. If a buck is standing at an awkward angle behind you, it's going to be harder to turn and make that shot.
Along those same lines, while many blind makers have developed shoot-through mesh on their hunting blinds, most hunters are going to have a blind with open windows. While this works fine when you are sitting still and observing, you must be cautious in your movements around animals. Because they are conditioned by nature to look for threats coming from concealment on the ground. The wrong movement at the wrong time will bust you, even in the best ground blinds on the market.
In my experience, deer also have an easier time winding humans from the ground than they do in the air. Last year, I had a doe walk in front of me at 20 yards with the wind at my back blowing into her face. She never noticed I was there. A few nights later, I was sitting on the ground and the same thing happened with a wind shift. Busted immediately.
The last disadvantage to a ground blind is just how noticeable they are to the animals. Deer know their environment and they will usually notice when a blind is setup. In some instances, that will make them wary of going near it until it has been sitting outside for a while. In many areas, a good ground blind must also be brushed in completely to be the most effective, meaning tons of extra work and spread of scent while putting together your setup.
Scenarios to use each
While many hunters have a clear preference in the ground blind vs tree stand debate, the most successful hunters know how to utilize each piece of equipment and when. When deciding what will work best, there are a variety of factors to consider. Shot distance and terrain are one. Are you setting up on a picked corn or beanfield with a rifle? A ground blind with a good pair of shooting sticks may be preferable here.
Maybe you have found a natural funnel. Deer are moving back and forth between a feeding and bedding area through a narrow stretch of land sandwiched between a fast-moving river and a ton of fallen timber. In this scenario, a treestand is preferable because it allows you to see deer moving back and forth from either direction. Your shooting window will likely be narrower, giving a distinct advantage to this type of setup for a bow or crossbow.
When scouting your setups, be sure to think critically about each location. Consider factors like the wind direction and visibility. Maybe that large oak on the edge of the footplot offers a great view of the entire field, but the wind is going to be consistently drifting back into the bedding area. Maybe the opposite end of the field offers no trees, but a better position wind-wise. In this scenario, going with a ground blind may be best.
Also consider hunting pressure. What are people in your area using and are deer responding to that? Maybe that piece of public ground is blanketed by people in makeshift ground blinds. A strategic stand placement will put you above the competition and the prying eyes of whitetails that are used to ground threats.
Remember that no one scenario is going to be "one size fits all" for either a ground blind or treestand. Be flexible and smart in your setups and the result will be more deer on the ground season after season.