Today’s portable hunting blinds are easy to set up, lightweight, highly versatile and available to fit any hunter’s budget.
I don’t know if I was just stubborn or if I thought I was being a traditionalist, but I was never drawn to any of the current instant blind rigs that are all over the hunting market. That is, until I tried one. I was hunting deer during the rifle season and a friend suggested I use his extra blind. Nothing else seemed to be working so I gave it a go. It was a simple pop-up blind that set-up and was completely ready to hunt from in less than a minute. I let it set for a day and came back the next morning. Obviously I was impressed. I saw more game and ended up turning what had been a tough season into a success.
When I started to look into these blinds more, I realized that there are a lot of choices to make. So where to begin?
1. Why use one? The obvious reason is to conceal you from the eyes and ears of game. There are many other reasons, not the least of which is the ability to move. Ever been in the woods and wanted to pick up and hunt another spot? It’s an easy proposition with one of these blinds. If you plan to hunt with someone, they are great, especially if you’re introducing someone to hunting who hasn’t enjoyed our sport before. Sometimes it can be hard for a child to sit perfectly still and a blind means they don’t really have to. Sharing that time in the woods with a significant other would also be a good use.
2. What do I want from my blind? You have to remember that these are intended to be portable blinds. If you want to leave them out all year, you may wish to look into something else. While they can take seasons of abuse, they are made with lightweight materials so that if you want to move around, they can be moved quickly and with little effort.
3. What am I going to do with my blind? You can hunt deer or any other big game as well as turkeys and even waterfowl with some models. Are you going to bow hunt or rifle hunt? Some blinds are good for both while others are really meant for one or the other. Make sure the blind has the space to fit your style of hunting.
4. Will the camo pattern the blind comes in fit my hunting area? Most blinds have several choices for camo. Pick the one that fits the area you want to hunt. Some come in general patterns that blend in everywhere while others are quite specific. There are even blinds that are reversible with two totally different camo patterns on each side to give you excellent versatility.
Frames vs. Spring Steel
That first blind I used was a spring steel model. What is spring steel? Well think of a spring. The metal in a spring is heated to a certain tolerance so it actually develops an elastic property. The spring steel used in these "pop-up" blinds is rolled and formed into thin strips. It can be twisted and rolled over but when released, returns to an original shape. Basically large loops of spring steel are sewn into a camo fabric and form a frame. When the frame is released, it "pops" into formation, therefore creating a "pop-up" blind. They are extremely lightweight and set up instantly. The model I used could be set up and staked into the ground in less than a minute. The downfall of the spring steel design is that it isn’t as tolerant of the weather. A strong wind can and will push the blind around and if you’re hunting a later season, snow can cause one to collapse. Trust me, I know.
Frame blinds are a little heavier than spring steel models. They are very rigid and withstand wind and other elements better. They also set up very quickly, some as quickly as a spring steel model. The possible down side is basically weight, as they are usually a little heavier to transport although it is still not bad and most compact into an easy- carrying design. If you’re going to hunt in a high-wind area, you may want to look at one of these types very closely. With the spring steel model in the wind, the blind moves and can draw attention from wary game. A frame model is going to be more rigid in the wind and if located correctly, blend in better in a windy environment.
Bullets, Sticks, and Strings
What type of hunting you do will also play a role in determining which is the better blind for you. The blind that I used was a rifle-hunting blind. There wasn’t really enough room to maneuver a bow for a shot and it was even a little tight with a rifle. Take a good look at the dimensions of each model you’re interested in before you buy. Some models are made for taking archery shots from a sitting or kneeling position. Is that something you’re comfortable doing? If not, you need to look into a taller model that will allow you to maneuver. A good idea is to take the dimensions of one you are interested in and then use a tape measure to estimate if it will work for you. Most blinds fall in the five to six foot height range with some reaching for the seven-foot mark. These taller blinds are designed for the hunter wanting a different shot option. Many blinds too offer enough room to pull back and maneuver a bow, or have more than one person in the blind and still have enough room for movement. The friend that loaned me that first blind had originally ordered it for bowhunting. He was very disappointed and ended up buying another blind. You can avoid that frustration with a few moments of planning.
One thing that is obviously important is to set up your blind before you take it into the field and practice whatever type of shooting you’ll do. Take archery shots from whatever position you find comfortable and if you’re going to be sitting, use the seat platform you’ll be using in the field. Many of the blinds on the market now use a window system that allows you to shoot through the screen mesh without interrupting the flight of your arrow. This allows you to remain concealed within the blind and effectively take game. These window screens are replaceable and relatively inexpensive, allowing you to practice as much as you need to. They share the camo design with the blind and help it blend in more effectively because there is no gap in the pattern. The window blends in like natural shadow further enhancing the natural appearance. If you’ve ever worn a mesh facemask, the result is quite similar.
Many hunters are experiencing animals walking directly past the blind without hesitation. If you’re bowhunting skittish toms that have been pressured hard all season, how nice would it be to have them walk by the blind just a few feet away? The same goes with deer, especially with a scent-control model.
Hunt the Animal, not the Wind
Everything now is about scent containment and elimination, and portable blinds are no different. Many models now offer some form of scent control substance in the lining of the blind. Some feature a carbon lining that is the same as scent control clothing. Others use a membrane technology that traps your scent within the blind. These options are very effective if you hunt in uncertain wind conditions, such as a swirling wind, or in very close quarters to your game such as bowhunting or blackpowder hunting.
One thing you’ll notice about each blind you look at is the various camo patterns. Many blinds tend to have an all-purpose camo pattern to blend into whatever situation. Most blinds are offered in more than one camo pattern to allow you to tailor the blind to your area. Some of these options are highly specialized for areas with high concentrations of conifer trees, or even open country, such as the rolling grasslands of the prairie regions. Put some thought into ensuring that your blind has the dimensions you need as well as the camo pattern that will fit your area. I have seen blinds being used where they don’t quite fit in and then they tend to stand out. Unless you have the opportunity to leave the blind set up for an extended period of time, it may have a negative effect and actually spook game.
One new idea is a reversible blind. These offer two different camo patterns, one on each side of the wall material. A pull on the zipper and a quick flip and presto! New blind. These provide a solid measure of versatility and can fill the role of two blinds for the mobile hunter.
Caught in a Blackout
Several blinds on the market have a blackened interior that cuts down on shadows, keeps sunlight from shining through, and works to hide your silhouette from game. You may normally wear camo but in a blind with a black interior, wearing camo may not be the best choice. Let’s say you’ve chosen a blind with a lighter camo pattern, one that has lighter shades of brown and green, so you wear a matching camo. But the inside of the blind is back. You now will stand out against the black background and your outline may show to game. BUSTED! You’re better off wearing dark clothing. A friend once joked that it is better to dress like a ninja than a bowhunter. Not bad advice.
Get Your 3-D Glasses
Another thing to look at is making you new blind blend in just a little bit better. Grab some "indigenous materials" to really make that blind disappear. Many blinds have loops for attaching limbs and brush. Just a few moments of scavenging can produce enough materials to do the job. There are other alternatives too. Synthetic branches are also available that attach to the loops and work very well with an assortment of blinds. They feature realistic leaves of various colors that are much more durable than real branches.
Other options are exterior covers that can be pulled over your blind and feature a three cutout-style camo. Basically these work with the camo pattern on your blind’s shell and just create a third dimensional effect of leaves that will move with the wind. This is the same, basic technology that the military uses to hide things like tanks. Think of it as a ghillie suit for your blind.
Watch Me Make the ATV Disappear
Let’s face it; ATV’s are downright handy. They can haul a lot of gear and can get back into places that would wear you out if you had to hike. Plus it’s pretty nice to pick up that deer with your ATV instead of dragging it out for two miles through a swamp. The only problem is what do you do to hide it back in the hunting spot? Several companies now make portable, quick set-up blinds for ATV rigs. The nice thing here is that you can effectively hide your ATV in the same fashion as a portable hunting blind. You can also use these blinds to turn your ATV into a portable hunting blind, and one that is pretty mobile too. Obviously you shouldn’t actually ride the ATV with a blind set up over it and you should check your local game laws regarding the use of such a blind.
Options, It’s Good To Have Options
So you need some kind of blind but don’t want one that resembles a tent. Maybe you just need a little something to conceal you basic movements? There are blinds on the market that have the same basic properties as the "pop-up" style blinds without the massive coverage. Some are designed specifically for turkey hunting and offer basic concealment for the ground hunter. Sometimes you just need a "wall" of camo to hide you from your quarry. A nice feature about these types of blinds is that they tend to be very reasonably priced. They are also inherently lighter in weight, which could be the ticket for a pack in situation. I bought one for turkey hunting and have used it for deer end even waterfowl hunting. It is lightweight, small and maneuverable. Folded over, it worked extremely well to hide the dog on a goose hunt one day. You’ve got to love versatility!
Lights, Camera, Action!
Filming your hunt has many benefits. There are shows such as Cabela’s Memories In The Field, that show clips sent in by people all across the world. Wouldn’t it be cool to see your hunt on television? Plus it makes for good memories. Think about reliving your child’s first hunting experience, for example. Any type of portable blind would be a great asset if you plan to film your hunt. They allow you to move around for changing shots without spooking game and ruining that one shot you’re hoping to get.
The Bottom Line
Once you figure out exactly what blind will work for what you want to do and exercise those three little words of practice, practice and practice, you’ll become a versatile hunter. The ability to move around in a portable blind, without spooking game, is the great advantage and mastering the use of one will make your adventures that much more enjoyable.