When I was a child growing up in the backwoods of Louisiana, I used to build "forts" in the woods out of boughs and saplings that I or my brothers would chop down with a well used machete. We had a lot of fun playing in those old contraptions. Now that I'm much older (not so much wiser?), I still like to build those old forts. Only now, I call them natural ground blinds.
If you are an avid hunter or wildlife photographer, getting close to the game you pursue or the animals you wish to photograph can be a tricky endeavor. Having a good blind in the right location can make all the difference in the world.
While there are many commercially made blinds and treestands available, they can be costly. Not only that, but they can also be dangerous or not very effective for use in all locations. They are also usually very easily noticed by alert animals such as deer because of their scent. Also, because of their bulk, a treestand or blind can be difficult to carry in to some areas.
Building a natural blind from saplings and bushes is a good solution for many situations. First, it's very inexpensive. A few tools, some baling wire or jute twine, and about an hour of your time is all you need. Second, it blends in very well and it doesn't smell like an object that doesn't belong.
As I mentioned earlier, ground blinds are great for any wildlife enthusiasts who wish to see their quarry up close and personal. Because I am a bowhunter, I will mostly write my instructions from the perspective of a bowhunter. I make no apologies for that.
I recommend building such a blind at least two or three days in advance of using it so that its impact in the surroundings will be better absorbed and the animals will be somewhat used to it. It's almost impossible for a human to enter the woods with out leaving some sort of trace. When you make any changes to the surroundings, animals will notice. (On the other hand, many hunters have built such a blind and had success out of their natural bind on the same day.)
Daddies, take notice. This is an excellent father-son/father-daughter project. Kids LOVE building things like this. Consider this time well spent.
Step 1: Tools of the Trade
The tools for building a ground blind are simple and very few. Here, I used a brush blade, a pair of loppers, a pair of linesman's pliers and some old, discarded clothesline wire. My loppers are quite large and have the capability of cutting up to 3" diameter saplings. That's a personal preference as you don't really need anything that large.
You can also use a machete, a hatchet, and smaller snips. In place of the wire, you may also use baling wire, jute twine, cotton cord or anything else that fits the bill. Just make sure it is strong and can easily be cut with your pliers.
From an environmentally responsible point of view, I would say it is much better to use jute twine or some sort of string. If you use the wire, just make sure that you remove it from the woods when the blind is no longer needed.
Step 2: Cutting the Main Supports
Begin by cutting the main supports out of surrounding saplings. Choose relatively straight and clean saplings that are at least 1" to 2" thick. When cutting the supports, bear in mind the dimensions of your blind.
For bowhunters, I recommend a blind that is at least 60" square on the inside and between 42" - 60" tall. This gives you plenty of room for you, a small chair and the rest of your gear. You will also need to have plenty of room to move and draw your bow in stealthy fashion without tangling your arrow up in the sides of your blind.
When cutting the saplings, always cut them about two to four inches longer than the dimensions you want for your blind. Cut six to seven saplings in the length of your preferred height and about eight to ten saplings in the length of your preferred width.
Step 3: The First Wall
The first wall of your blind is the most tricky. Build it on the side of the blind in which you most expect the wildlife to appear. This wall has to be sturdy because you will brace your other walls to it.
Begin by building a basic square with two upright saplings and two horizontal saplings. You will also have to add some diagonal pieces to sturdy it up and help it stand on its own. For additional rigidity, add some diagonal pieces of wire running from corner to corner as well.
Use short lengths of wire at each joint. Cross the saplings so that they stick out past each other an inch or so. Wrap your wire around each joint at least twice and then twist together with your pliers. You will use probably about ten inches of wire at each joint.
Step 4: Add the Remaining Walls
It can be a clumsy affair, but build the remaining walls by first building the back wall, or the wall opposite of the first wall you built.
The back wall is a little different from the first wall. Build a simple square with your saplings as before, but add an additional upright about 20 inches from one end. This will frame an entrance to the blind. Stand this wall up carefully and attach it to the first wall with wire and horizontal supports.
After attaching the back wall, cut some smaller saplings in rough lengths a few inches longer than the width of your blind and add them as horizontal runners on each side of the blind. You will need approximately three or four per side.
Step 5: Covering the Sides of the Blind
Begin cutting and adding leafy branches and smaller forked branches and weaving them into each side of your blind. Think of a bird weaving a nest, because this is essentially what you are building as well.
If you are a bowhunter, keep in mind that you will need clear shooting lanes. So look for those branches that might interfere with your shooting ability. Cut them and use them to add to your blind.
As you weave more and more limbs and leaves into your blind, occasionally step away from the blind and view it to see how it blends in or if you have spots that need more coverage.
Use anything you can to add to your blind. There are usually already fallen limbs or broken branches or tree tops in the general area. Use them as well.
Pines and cedars also work very well because of their thick needles and because they have such a strong, natural scent. This can be especially useful in covering any human odors you leave behind.
Step 6: Finishing the Interior
Once you've covered the outside of your blind, go to the inside. Make sure you've got enough room for an entrance. Use your loppers or snips to trim away any branches that intrude into the blind and would interfere on the inside. Also, clean the ground space inside the blind. Remove any noisy leaves or limbs so that you don't have to worry about accidentally crunching one at the wrong time.
Check for vulnerable areas on the inside where an animal might be able to see through the cover and see you. Remember, in the woods, animals are on full alert. Any small motion or sound is an instant give-away. It doesn't do you much good if you spend an hour building a blind only to have one hole that you overlooked give you away. Animals have very strong senses: if at any time they sense your presence with just ONE sense (sight, sound or smell), they're gone!
Also, check the view from the blind. Check your shooting lanes. Are there any branches or limbs that may prevent you from making a good shot? If so, cut them and add them to your blind as well.
When you have sufficiently finished your blind, enjoy it! If you are like me, there's a good chance you will spend quite a few hours in it, just waiting, watching, and thinking.
Time in the woods is great time. It's not just about the hunt; it's also a time of peace and relaxation.
A well built blind should last for at least one season. You may have to add more leaves and cover from time to time as the original leaves fall off. And, if this should turn out to be a very productive location for a ground blind, then you may consider building a more permanent blind there in the future.
I highly recommend building permanent blinds immediately after hunting season closes. This way the excitement of hunting the location will be fresh on your mind and there will be plenty of time for wild game to become acclimated to the presence of the blind.
When using a ground blind such as this, there are a few precautions of which you must be aware. First, if this is not your own land, make sure you have the owner's permission to build such a blind. Some land owners are very, very sensitive about anything being cut on their property, no matter how small. Also, if you are hunting on public hunting land, this may also be illegal as well. Make sure you know the rules and respect them.
Second, be careful of the types of foliage that you handle when building your blind. Some people may be allergic to certain plants such as poison ivy. (Repeat after me: "Poison Ivy is not my friend!") Such a reaction can make you very, very miserable.
Third, always check the blind thoroughly before entering it if you've been gone from it, especially if you are sneaking into the blind at dark-thirty in the morning. Always check the blind carefully to make sure that no unwanted visitors have taken up residence such as snakes or other varmints. This can happen, trust me!
Finally, if there are others hunting in the area, it would be wise to let them know where you are located so that they will not be shooting in your direction. They may not be able to see you if you are in their line of fire.