Ground Blind Attack Tips for Big Whitetails
A ground blind, when properly set up and concealed with the area, can be a very helpful tool when chasing big, mature whitetails. (Lynn Burkhead photo)
For Bucks of Tecomate show co-host Jordan Shipley, the ground hasn't always been a good thing.
After all, the former football great was a standout wide receiver under the Friday Night Lights of Texas high school football, setting all-time state records while he was at Burnet High School, receiving marks that still stand to this day.
From there, Shipley moved on to the sunshine of Saturday afternoon as his Texas Longhorns teammate, quarterback Colt McCoy, developed an aerial circus that led UT to a national title game and made Shipley one of the top wide-outs of all-time in Austin.
Finally, Shipley's skills at snagging footballs dropping out of the sky resulted in Sunday afternoon action around the NFL as he embarked on a professional career with great promise, one sadly cut short by a series of knee injuries.
All of which meant that for Shipley the football player, pigskins hurtling through the air were much more enjoyable instead of watching a running back run the ball on the ground in the proverbial three yards and a cloud of dust.
These days however, Shipley Outdoor Channel television personality, is much more a fan of the ground attack, especially when it comes to using ground blinds to chase big mature white-tailed bucks across Texas and the rest of the Great Plains.
"Yeah, I'm a big fan of ground blinds," said Shipley. "The first buck I killed on camera last year came out of a ground blind we set up in Kansas during the muzzleloader season. It was a great way to start the year."
Shipley said that the ground blind was set up strategically when a Reconyx game camera revealed several shooter bucks in an area.
In addition to the buck that Shipley killed last fall, Bucks of Tecomate show co-host David Morris also used a ground blind to his advantage in the Sunflower State.
"There was one deer showing up that we called Coke Bottle because he had such massive bases," said Shipley. "David had hunted that deer two or three years previously and it had nearly six-inch bases.
"After getting the deer on camera, David got in a blind, the buck showed up the first afternoon of filming and David killed it."
If it sounds like ground blinds can be great hunting tools for hunters targeting whitetails on the more sparsely covered Great Plains, they can be.
But after using them for years in Texas, Shipley warns that in his mind, there is far more to effectively using one than setting it up, climbing in and beginning to hunt.
"I brush stuff in to the point that I might as well have a brush blind only," laughed Shipley. "Pop-up ground blinds have a rectangular shape with hard edges to them, something that stands out to game animals. From my experience, it's something that they certainly notice and pay attention to."
Because of that, the surrounding brush and cedar trees should be worried when Shipley shows up with a ground blind in one hand and a handsaw in the other.
(Jordan Shipley photo)
"I try to make them look as natural as possible, especially when I'm hunting whitetails out of one," said Shipley. "I pick two primary shooting lanes to use and then the rest of the blind is walled off (with brush).
"I can see through the other windows to observe deer coming and going, but I'm not going to use them to shoot through."
Even where mesh covers a window – which Shipley will not shoot a broadhead through, by the way – he still works to cover the mesh with brush to give the blind the ultimate cover-up job.
How quickly is a hunter able to chase game animals when hunting out of a recently set ground blind?
While Shipley admits that some Western big game species like pronghorn antelope and elk are more tolerant of a new blind suddenly appearing on a waterhole or a wallow, in his experience, it pays to set a blind up days or weeks in advance before using it on a deer hunt.
"I like to get them in as early as possible," said Shipley.
Where are the best spots to utilize a ground blind for a Great Plains whitetail?
"It depends on what time of year it is and what the current deer behavior patterns are," said the Outdoor Channel personality. "It gets trickier during the rut because they can show up just about anywhere and run through an area, so it's harder (to plan for where to put one).
"But in general, I like to set a ground blind up on the downwind side of a food plot or other food source, based on what the prevailing winds are in the area," he added.
As director of sponsor relations for the Tecomate Seed Company, it is no surprise that Shipley often hunts next to a Tecomate food plot on his Texas hunts.
But in other parts of the Great Plains as the crew films various deer hunts, preferred food sources can range from an oak tree dropping acorns, a persimmon tree that has fruit on it, new growth browse after an early autumn rain or even a corn feeder spitting out golden nuggets (in states where such practices are legal).
"Find the preferred food source," said Shipley. "Then try to find a high traffic deer trail leading into and out of that food source. Finally, set up your blind – with the wind taken into consideration – where you can draw undetected and get a good shot as the deer are coming through."
If brushing a ground blind in to where it disappears and putting it in the right location are a couple of keys to using such blinds effectively, Shipley says that another is being extra careful with human scent while hunting on the ground.
"I always play the wind right, setting up a stand on the downwind side of things," said Shipley. "And I go through the usual routine of showering in scent free soap before my hunt, making sure my clothes are washed in scent free detergent, not putting my hunting clothes on until I've arrived at the hunting spot, etc."
But these days, there's another step that Shipley will take, especially when hunting out of a ground blind.
"It's hard to travel in a vehicle and not get scent on you," he said. "When I get to where I'm hunting, I'll spray down again and all of that, but now, we also use an Ozonics unit to help us control our scent."
Shipley likes to use the unit to keep his clothes, hunting pack and other gear scent free, putting it all in a rubber tote, closing the lid and turning the Ozonics unit on for a while before each hunt.
Once at his hunting spot, he will then put the Ozonics unit back to work once again by placing it in the ground blind.
"They're not a sponsor of ours, I just really believe in the product from experience," said Shipley. "I trust that it's going to work, and while I do all of that other stuff to maximize every chance that I can, I don't get as anal about it anymore."
Are there any last keys to tagging a big bruiser buck out of a ground blind setup?
Yes says Shipley, in fact, a couple of more.
"When you get into the blind, especially the first time, you want to figure out where and how you need to be positioned to get an shot through a window without hitting it," said Shipley. "I'll test things out by drawing my Hoyt bow back several times with an arrow nocked, seeing where any problem areas might be."
Shipley has learned to do that from experience, drawing a bow back on past hunts and finding out that he didn't have enough room to draw, was hitting the blind with either his elbow or the broadhead tipped end of the arrow or didn't have the right angle to film from.
"Another thing to remember is that as with all stands, the best time to kill a big mature buck out of a ground blind is the first time you go in there," he said. "You have to go in there with that mindset as a hunter, at least.
"Some other guys with TV shows that they are filming, they don't want to kill a good buck the first thing that week because they think it's harder to make a good show.
"But not me; I'm not going to pass a big deer up on the first day of a hunt."
Shipley feels that way because he's good at what he does and getting better with each show that is filmed.
And also because he's well grounded in his life after football, chasing big Great Plains whitetails all over the place, often while hunting out of a well-hidden ground blind.