Relax, this is not a treehugger’s guide on hunting naked to become one with nature. Instead, I want to spend a little time discussing hunting natural cover and sharing my experiences while hunting natural blinds the past several seasons.
My obsession with hunting natural cover began about 4 seasons ago. I remember making a comment to a fellow traditional hunter while on the 3D course that my goal for that fall was to take a whitetail from the ground. To my surprise I was scoffed at. I was told that was a tall order, especially since the majority of my time in the woods is spent on public land. Therefore, I made a pact with myself that I would focus on nothing but hunting from the ground until I had succeeded in my quest.
I learned during my first month of archery season to avoid any movement if at all possible. A whitetails eyesight is very adept at picking up movement. If you want to be successful using natural cover you must limit your movement unless you are using a large structure, such as a tree, to completely obstruct the animal’s view to you. While I have used the method of standing behind a tree to harvest a whitetail, it is far from my favorite.
What I enjoy most is finding an area that already offers a good supply of cover and making it better. Luckily one of the places a whitetail enjoys most will usually offer opportunities for a natural blind. Sometimes these areas are called “edges”, sometimes they are called “transition zones”. These are the areas where the type of vegetation changes, such as hardwoods transitioning to a stand of pines. Or perhaps it could be hardwoods near a creek or drainage where the trees are protected from lumber cutting and the transition would be the 2-3 year old clear-cut that is now
becoming overgrown with young saplings, bushes, and other thick foliage. These changes in the foliage are superb for building a natural blind. This is due to the limitation of a whitetail’s vision – depth perception in particular. When the whitetail is in the open hardwoods and looks towards this thicker vegetation, it is hard for him to focus on objects inside. Here in Georgia, one of my favorite places to ambush a whitetail using natural cover is inside shoots of river cane. To the casual observer, hunting inside river cane wouldn’t appear to be a good idea. The amount of foliage on standing river cane is not very dense, but the numerous stalks of cane create a lot of vertical lines that make it easy for a hunter to disappear from the wary eye of a whitetail. I have had success testing this hypothesis on numerous occasions with whitetails and even the wary eyes of coyotes. All passed by within 10-12 yards, never knowing I was there. The coyote was coming at me head on for 30 yards before turning point blank at six, before I sent an arrow through his ribs.
It often pays to be creative too. Two years ago, during some mid-summer scouting, I found a great spot for a natural blind where a large pine had died, broken at the base of the stump, and eventually fallen. The angle it fell was perfect for hiding behind while watching a well-used trail through a creek bottom. Unfortunately that deadfall only provided cover from one direction, which wasn’t an ideal situation. To make the blind more effective I used some nylon netting, much like the netting used for volleyball. With a few zip ties and nearby saplings I was able to create a dome structure fairly quickly. Once the framework was in place, I cut a lot of saplings, nearby river cane, and some pine boughs and placed them around the top and back of the netted frame. My finished blind looked great, offering concealment from any angle, while at the same time granting an open shot window. Later that fall, as the leaves began to drop, the blind got even better. Now, three years later, its gotten even better, as vines and vegetation have grown around it.
Several years have passed since I took that first whitetail from the ground with a bow. I continue to learn and develop my techniques, though one thing never changes: the excitement of having an animal as wary as the whitetail within a few yards. At eye level, you see everything he has to offer and it never gets old. So get out there and give hunting “Au Naturale” a try, it just might change the way you hunt forever.