Daylight was creeping over the horizon, bringing light to woods, and I was kicking myself. I had silently reached the base of a big pine tree, where my stand had been placed the day before, but nearly cussed out loud when I reached for my safety strap in my pack and found it missing. I will not hunt from a tree stand without a safety harness, so my carefully laid plans were for nothing. I was grounded.
Though I was bow hunting, it really wasn’t a bad turn of events. Later that morning, when the wind swapped directions and blew straight to the crab apple tree from the little ground blind created with the pruning shears I didn’t forget, it was a simple maneuver to stalk to the other side of the tree and set up shop.
Bow hunting from the ground is a little tough, but it’s my preferred method during gun season. I have spent hours in climbers and squeaky permanents, but hunting on the ground is the way to go. In some habitat types like cutovers or palmetto flats, tree stand hunting will improve visibility, but your hind end and two feet offer a lot of flexibility.
How many times have you reached your lofty perch, only to wish you were just two or three trees over—or worse, had the wind change and blow your scent over your hunting area? It’s doubtful you will descend, take your stand off the tree, and set back up without making a lot of noise and taking precious time. If you are ground hunting, just get up and move. If deer are traveling that other ridge or coming out in the wrong end of the food plot, you know the drill.
I have also been watching a ridge or bottom and had deer come in and bed just out of range. Sometimes it was successful and sometimes it wasn’t, but I did have the option of stalking over to where the deer were.
We’ve all heard that deer don’t look up, and have all been busted on high. I’ve been busted on 12-foot ladder stands and 30 feet up in my climber. If you are ground hunting and have found that perfect spot, take a pair of pruning shears or folding saw and cut a few evergreen limbs to make a small blind. Some companies even make lightweight, three-sided fold-up blinds that are pretty quick and simple and hide most of a sitting hunter.
A pair of shooting sticks will offer a rock-steady shooting platform and a small cushion will make you more comfortable. I sometimes wear my turkey vest with drop-down cushion, the pockets are great for carrying rattling antlers, grunt calls, sandwiches or whatever.
Most of my bow hunting demands the extra 20 pounds, time and trouble of setting up a tree stand. But occasionally, I can ditch the stand and just slip in quietly with my bow. But when rifle season rolls around, it’s a rare afternoon that you will find me hanging on a Georgia pine. I usually count on the flexibility and simplicity of hunting on the ground.