Having hunted successfully from both, treestands and grounds blinds play a major role in my pursuit of wild turkeys and whitetailed deer each spring and fall. Each form of cover offers unique advantages and a few downsides as well, depending on the quarry and the hunting situation.
A treestand is a seat or platform that relies on a tree for support and elevation for concealment, and they are popular with deer and bear hunters.
A ground blind resembles a camouflage-patterned camping tent set up on the ground, and the fabric conceals the hunter(s) seated inside. They are popular with deer and turkey hunters and, to a lesser degree, waterfowl hunters.
We’ll assume that most readers will be considering blinds or stands for hunting the two most popular targets for which they are designed: deer (white-tailed, black-tailed, and mule) and the various subspecies of wild turkeys pursued across North America.
In addition to preventing detection by sight, both types of concealment also help with scent control. While that’s not important when hunting turkeys, whitetails’ sense of smell is their primary line of defense.
Because they are elevated, treestands can help keep human odors above the whitetails’ scent-detection zone. Ground blinds can help contain a hunter’s scent as well, to a degree, within the fabric.
Hunting Blind Pros/Cons
Ground blinds assist hunters in avoiding detection primarily by offering concealment. A hunter inside a ground blind with the entry and all the windows closed cannot be detected visually by a deer or turkey.
Game, especially deer, may be wary of the blind itself unless it was set up far enough ahead of time to that the local wildlife got used to its presence, but a hunter inside can remain as out of sight and he or she wishes based on the windows that opened to see and shoot through.
It’s been my experience that it takes at least a couple of weeks for whitetails to settle down around my blinds, even when they are “brushed in” with branches, grass, and vegetation to break up the blind’s profile.
On the other hand, gobblers are known to be pushovers for blinds, practically ignoring the structures as soon as they are placed in hunting position — even in open fields.
When using them to get within shooting range of deer or turkeys, the trick to getting the most out of a ground blind is finding the right balance of windows to leave open. You need to see — and shoot — out them, but eagle-eyed quarry might also see you through each opening.
Opening windows also allows your scent to be released from the relative confines of the blind’s fabric, possibly alerting the deer.
When in a blind, I’ve learned to open only a couple of windows that face the direction where I expect game to approach. I also make sure there are none open behind or to the sides of me that might offer a whitetail or a gobbler a shadow or silhouette of my head and shoulders.
I also use blinds that are flat black on the interior and as dark as possible overall inside, which allows me to wear a black hoodie, gloves and facemask to blend in with my shaded background.
I leave the black outerwear in the blind between hunts to allow deer to become accustomed to any scent I may leave on the garments and not be alarmed by the scent when I don the clothes with a bow in hand.
Ground blinds are a good choice for hunters who have trouble sitting still. Hunting from a ground blind allowed my toddler age son to join me for several seasons before he traded a blanket on the ground and a coloring book for a youth-model crossbow and a chair of his own.
My wife doesn’t like heights but does like to read a book while waiting for game to walk past, so a ground blind is perfect for her hunting style.
Tree Stand Pros/Cons
As noted, treestands help hunters prevent detection by placing them above the deer, and tree foliage and even portable treestand blinds can be used to help conceal the hunter.
However, the primary advantage of treestands is their height. Whitetails evolved alongside ground-based predators, so they usually don’t look upward unless they hear something or detect movement from above — a fact not lost on hunters who pursue them.
Treestand types include permanent structures, ladder stands, portable self-climbing models, and hang-on treestands. And any hunter that hangs in there knows some treestands are more comfortable than others.
The hang-on stands are accessed using steps screwed into the tree’s trunk, or short sections of climbing sticks or ladders are strapped to the tree to allow the hunter to climb into position.
Ladder stands include a combination ladder and seat, while self-climbers come in two sections, a seat and a base, designed to allow the hunter to climb the tree using the stand itself.
Hang-on and self-climbing treestands are preferred by deer hunters who need portability and the opportunity to move and set up in different locations on a regular basis. They can be particularly useful on large diameter trees.
Permanent and ladder stands offer less mobility but more room and comfort, and can be outfitted with overhead umbrellas, gear hangers, and camo concealment panels. Some ladder styles are designed to accommodate two hunters side by side, making them a good choice for a hunter who is mentoring someone.
And most come with an optional shooting bar that is lowered around the front and sides of the hunter(s) once seated to provide an extra measure of security and to serve as a rest to help support and steady shots from a gun or crossbow.
Bowhunters often forgo the shooting bar or raise it out of the way before drawing on a deer.
No matter what type of treestand you use, it’s important that you use a safety harness while climbing up and down and while in the stand itself. More hunters are injured or killed from treestand falls than any other accident category.
Like I said, I use both ground blinds and primarily ladder stands and self-climbers during deer season, and I count on a ground blind for much of my spring turkey hunting. For years, all I had was a self-climber, and I appreciated its portability and killed lots of deer from it.
With all those years under my belt, I now find that I enjoy the convenience that comes with hunting from a ladder stand and the comfort of a ground blind outfitted with a good chair.