By Chris Eberhart
When you pursue mature pressured whitetails you have to be willing to adapt and use every tactic available. One tactic that a lot of hunters have forgotten is hunting from the ground. Of course, there are some definite advantages to being in a tree, but there are situations when hunting from the ground is the best option, and sometimes the only option. As I venture around the country whitetail hunting in various terrain, and my hunting properties become even more marginal as private ground becomes more and more locked up, I find myself hunting more often from the ground. The willingness to hunt from the ground opens up many options, and done carefully can get you on mature bucks that may be otherwise out of reach. One of the best bucks I have ever killed was from the ground a couple years back.
Some situations where ground blind hunting is a good option includes hunting in cattail marshes, cornfields, along brushy fence rows in open country, and even inside bedding areas. Anyplace you find a good spot and there isn’t a suitable tree available can be hunted from the ground. For instance, one place I hunt from the ground is on a hundred acres that consists of ninety acres of fields. The property has an overgrown pasture along one edge between the fields with a big wooded valley next door. At the corner of the pasture there is an apple tree that serves as a primary scrape area, especially in years the fields are in corn. There are lots of trees there, but unfortunately all of them on the other side of the fence. My ground spot is along the overgrown fencerow between the corn and the pasture. Bucks always use this spot during the pre-rut and rut, and there is no way to hunt there from a tree. As another example, the picture above is from one of my favorite ground spots, in an opening in the middle of a big super thick bedding area. There is always action in that opening during the rut.
The most difficult thing about hunting from the ground is letting deer pass that you aren’t targeting. From a tree I have deer under me almost every hunt, but a deer standing ten yards away on the ground is super close. At eye level deer notice every movement, and pick up every scent nuance, thus extra caution and attention to detail is paramount. Below are a few important points for hunting from the ground.
1. Scent control is critical. I can’t overstate this enough, for any hunting really. Scent control, especially using activated carbon technology, is way underrated. If you don’t wear an activated carbon suit, and use it correctly, you don’t even know that you are spooking far more deer than you can possibly imagine. You have to be as scent free as you can get. I mean pre-hunt shower, complete activated carbon suit, activated carbon facemask, and all of your equipment, including your pack, as clean as you can get. The full routine will be worth it in extra deer sightings and deer getting closer.
2. Camouflage is more important than from a tree. For deer to get close you have to break up your silhouette. Ghillie suits work probably best for this, but a camo pattern with some depth is often suitable. Don’t forget to camouflage your face. Nothing shows up quite as well a white pie plate face in an otherwise brown and green backdrop. Camouflage also involves natural cover, which you should use to your advantage the best you can. Every bit of cover you can get between you and the deer, and still have a shooting lane, is advisable. Even sitting next to a tree trunk, so you look like part of the tree from a distance, is helpful. I prefer to use natural cover, as opposed to plunking down a pop-up blind, in most cases. It is also best to have ground blind prepped with great cover while doing your spring scouting. The worst thing you can do is plop a pop-up blind on the ground somewhere and just hunt out of it. Unless it is blended into the understory perfectly it will attract the deer’s utmost attention. If you do use a pop-up blind it should be well brushed in and in position long before you intend to hunt there.
3. From the ground you must be more careful with movement than from a tree. Deer’s eyes pick up motion extremely well. This is why it is so hard to let deer walk past while sitting on the ground. You must be able to sit almost perfectly still. This involves making yourself as comfortable as possible. Depending on the spot I carry a small stool with a back rest, or a soft pad to sit on. Most the time I sit while hunting from the ground. Sometimes, though, I have gone so far as to lie flat on the ground. In this case only when the deer were in the right position and looking in the other direction could I move into shooting position. Also, when you set up a spot for hunting from the ground you should try to set it up so you don’t have to move to shoot, other than lifting your shooting arm and drawing. The less you have to move the better.
4. Shot distance is another important issue for ground hunting. From trees I usually try to set up my best shots for between fifteen and twenty yards. From the ground I try to position myself a little farther back so my best shot is between twenty-five and thirty-five yards. The extra distance makes it easier to let non-target deer get by without spooking.
There is a lot more to hunting from the ground than I have covered here, and there is a lot more information in my latest book. It is safe to say, however, that hunting from the ground is a great method to get onto big mature bucks that a lot of bowhunters overlook these days. Don’t be afraid to keep your feet on the ground and many hunting options may open up for you.
– Chris Eberhart, BowhuntingWildFood.com
If you want more great whitetail hunting information like this, check out Chris’ latest book, Bowhunting Whitetails The Eberhart Way