Blind placement is one of the most overlooked segments of deer hunting I regularly encounter. When selecting a suitable location, don’t think like a human, but like that of a deer. Oftentimes, placing the blind for convenience is much different than placing it where it may offer the best chance for success. Deer, particularly mature bucks, use travel corridors — edges, drainages, creeks, tree lines and other screening covers to get from one place to the next. Outside of the rut and the accompanying brief lapse of intelligence, mature bucks stick close to these landscape features to offer maximum concealment as they travel. A well placed blind will be able to observe these corridors, perhaps more than one simultaneously, at a safe enough distance to avoid detection by the quarry yet offering a high percentage shot distance.
Placing the blind too close to travel or feeding locations such as feeders or food plots will disrupt the animal’s daily routine and minimize success significantly. Feeders should offer protective cover as animals travel to and from them as well. Feeders in the wide open offer no such protection and create deer activity only under the cover of darkness.
Obviously, prevailing wind direction must also be taken into consideration. Cross or down wind from travel and feeding areas will ensure the best chance of success and such locations must only be hunted when the winds are favorable. Hunting these locations when the winds are “not right” will only educate the animals and make them more wary of the area. Outside of the rut, most mature bucks will approach a feeding location downwind to scent-check the area for danger and for hot does before exposing themselves. If your blind is too close to the feeder, the buck will approach downwind of your location as well as the feeder and you will be busted. If your blind is too far, you may be unable to make an accurate shot. Since “how far is too far” is highly variable, try to take into account your actual abilities and place the blind at as far away from the feeder as you can confidently make the shot.
An often overlooked part of deer blinds is anchoring them to the ground. The winds are not always calm in Texas, so making sure your blind will be there next hunting season is a must. Tie-downs, anchors, guy wires, concrete posts and t-posts are required to not only keep your blind upright, they will also help keep the blind steady when the moment of truth arrives and you have to make the shot.
There is an unwritten rule among ethical hunters and landowners that states that no hunting blinds will be placed along property lines. The appropriate distance requires common sense based on topography, habitat, line-of-sight and shooting direction. The same holds true for feeder placement. No neighboring landowner should be able to see your feeders or blinds and you should not be able to see theirs. If your property is small and irregular shaped, hunt only the center and perhaps a tower blind is not for you. If your property is large, concentrate on travel corridors away from the boundary line and out of sight of the neighbors. Common sense and blind location not only makes hunting a safer and more enjoyable sport, but makes for much better neighbors as well.
Other helpful hints when selecting blind locations:
- Sunrise and sunset facing blinds are obviously limiting, so place blinds to look north or south or realize hunting such sun-facing locations may only be hunted when the sun is at your back (and the wind is right).
- Take into account human traffic such as highways, walking/hiking trails, fishing areas, farmhouses and other high-use areas that may be dangerous to shoot towards. Deer may or may not be scared of these areas, but hunters must be cognizant of the bullet’s flight path at all times.
- How will you access your hunting blind? Walking past the feeder or through the food plot is not wise. You need to enter the blind into the wind and with the least amount of disturbance as possible.
- Placing the blind below the crest of the hill, not on top, will keep you from being silhouetted while traveling to and from the blind.
- Sit in the back or corner of the blind and do not allow yourself to be silhouetted against the sky behind you. Sit in front of the latched door, use dark curtains, or completely cover the window behind you.
- Use comfortable seats that are the correct height to shoot out of the windows.
- Staying quiet and still only increases your chances of success.
- The windows should be only tall enough to get your scoped rifle easily through without banging the frame. Large windows allow for your movement to be seen from the outside and allows for more scent to escape.
- Make the blinds large enough to safely and comfortable hold all the hunters and their gear. If youth or guiding hunters are planned, bigger is always better. Cramped quarters create more noise and less comfort.
What are the differences between feeding corn and protein pellets to your deer herd? Corn is used primarily as an attractant to lure deer to a location for viewing or hunting and is low in overall nutritive value. Protein pellets contain a balanced ration with micro and macro nutrients and is used to supplement the natural diet of deer to help them maintain a consistent and high level of health and body condition–which translates to increase body weight, fawn production and antler growth.
Protein pellets contain vitamins, minerals, fats and proteins in a highly digestible form. Digestibility is the key to absorption and without being absorbed into the blood and body, it is less efficient. Deer absorb the pellets with very little waste in their feces, making the protein pellet a very good vehicle to deliver the ration. Percent of protein and the micro- and macro-nutrients differ among rations and among manufacturers, so read the tag carefully to be sure you are getting a quality product with the right ratios of components for what your deer need at varying times of the year. Range conditions are constantly changing and so the nutritional needs of your deer should be changed accordingly.
The purpose of feeding protein pellets is to stabilize and level out the peaks and valleys of the nutritional variations in the native habitat as the seasons change. It is not a “cure all” or designed for a specific period of time but best used year around and to help the deer stay in top physical condition. Ideally, it should be used from the end of the rut until hard antler development. By doing so you are helping does to carry, deliver and nurse fawns, and bucks to recover from the rigors of the rut and grow a new set of antlers. A buck begins growing his antlers approximately one week after shedding the previous set. When bucks are malnourished and drawn down from the rut or lack of rainfall, their bodies go into a self-preservation mode (thus why skinny bucks shed earlier) in order to stay alive. If supplemental feeding is used during post-rut, the deer would not sink to such a low nutritional level and his body would not have to play “catch up” from a nutritional perspective. So, offer feed after the rut through the entire antler growing process and you will increase the chances your bucks will grow to their full genetic potential.
Corn has a specific role in many management plans even though it is not as beneficial as protein feed. Corn contains less crude protein (7-8%) than a deer’s body requires just for basic daily maintenance (12-14%). Corn to deer is like candy to you and I. It is high in starch and carbs so it works well for energy and heat production but does almost nothing for nutrition.
Because it is so attractive to deer yet poor in nutrition, it is not recommended to offer corn in free choice feeders (unless mixing it with protein to get deer accustomed to a new feed, but that is another subject completely). Corn is used in spin/timed feeders to attract the deer when and where you want them to be. Corn spun from a timed feeder helps to put the deer on your schedule and, combined with several boxes of quality ammo, is the best winter management tool available to landowners.
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