To consistently kill turkeys, and long turkeys in particular, you must defeat their keen sense of hearing and sight, especially the latter. Overcoming his uncanny ability to detect all threats requires blending into the environment. While the newest, fanciest camouflage can help you do that, really, any outfit that even remotely matches the local flora can do the same thing. I’m going the economic route. Why? Camouflage clothing is only one part of what should be a two-pronged approach. The component that is often overlooked is the use of a blind.
Whether natural or commercially produced, blinds serve to alter the human silhouette, or hide it entirely, while also preventing a eater from noticing the movement. When chasing a stubborn bird, or when a child or an apprentice hunter is accompanying you in the field, shutters are a godsend. In fact, they’re so beneficial in helping fill my tags that it’s now very rare that I don’t pick one up quickly before initiating contact with a devourer to get the wheels moving.
The type of shade that is best for you depends on several factors, including: location/terrain/distance; hunter’s strength/physique; hunting duration; hunter(s) experience; and the presence of children, among other things.
What follows is a guide to help incorporate ground blinds into your turkey hunting repertoire.
A mature standing or fallen tree, stone fence, or other solid support to lean on will provide critical support for your back, thus minimizing the discomfort that leads to restlessness. If said object is wider than your body, it also helps to break your outline and protect your back from approaching and unseen hunters. But there should also be a barrier between you and the turkey. Doing so breaks your profile, making it more difficult to detect.
Unless I can erect a closed pop-up style shutter at a pre-established access point, I go the natural route. Why? Usually during the work week I only have an hour or so in the field each morning, so things have to happen fast, really fast. Being late for work is not an option, so I get as close as possible to a noisy gobbler, and then quickly, quietly, and with minimal movement, build a makeshift blind. Here is my method:
A pruning shear that I keep in my vest is used to cut down small, bushy flora (or their branches), such as fall olive, cedar, weeds, and similar undesirable plants. Sizable nearby dead branches are also removed, anything natural that might disturb my silhouette. These are placed on a semi-circular wall in front of me, or preferably, in front of my super lightweight HS Strut Portable Floor Shade, which is 27 inches tall. Accuracy in arrangement is unnecessary, and there is no need to defend against a horde of barbarians either. Just make sure you don’t build it so high or close that it affects your shotgun’s aim or swing. Between natural and man-made materials, a motionless hunter can go unnoticed by devourers at spitting distance. I’m not kidding. I know because I’ve been so close to them.
In addition to being a convenient means of increasing shading in a prime location, natural shades are inexpensive; actually, only one pruning shear is needed, and only if lush flora is desired, and the tool (pruning shears) is easily transported. The vegetation is left behind. This makes it ideal for long-range, veteran run-and-gun hunters. The main drawback is that not all movement is masked; switch at an inopportune moment and you will be quickly arrested. As such, natural blinds are less useful for those who move around a lot or have someone with them who does.
Mass-produced floor shutters that are suitable for turkey hunting range from the HS Strut model mentioned above (and similar units from other companies), to mirrors (seriously), to the ubiquitous soft-sided floor shutters. and cube style. There is no shortage to choose from. Since the former was covered elsewhere, I’ll focus on the latter here.
Pop-up type blinds are a mainstay for hunting big game, especially when using archery rigs, no adequate support site available, or for long periods in inclement weather. They also pull double duty for turkey hunting. In fact, as long as a blind isn’t overly bright and is a bit faded (or the birds are acclimated to it), turkeys will pretty much ignore it. Years ago, I had a flock of dust within two feet of mine. He doesn’t care at all.
Factory made bucket style floor shutters are a great tool for the turkey hunter. A well placed and matched unit, combined with a lure (or multiples) and quality calls, will certainly improve your odds of success. How? Outside the open window(s), you are completely protected from the sharp eyes of a devourer. In fact, usually only a rude and ill-timed move will catch a tom’s attention. Because you are unlikely to be seen, you can relax, stretch, read, play (quietly), etc., and the blind will also protect you from bad weather. The more comfortable you feel, the longer you will stay outside. That increases the opportunity. Lastly, since most movement goes undetected, center style floor shutters are ideal when a youngster is following you or is the chaser. When my kids were little, I would sometimes spread out a blanket of Legos to keep them entertained until the devourer arrived. It worked perfectly.
Low-capacity floor-standing blinds that take up little space are generally compact when folded and are lightweight and therefore easily transported. However, they can become cumbersome if your turkey vest is packed with gear (especially bulky, multiple lures), your shotgun is suspended via a sling, and/or you’re carrying a folding chair. The bigger models are worse; they are also physically demanding to transport over rougher terrain. Beyond transportation, a common problem with pop-up blinds is that they are quite noisy to install (don’t try to erect them on a nearby fast-approaching bird), and doing so requires considerable movement. For these reasons, it is better to erect them in advance.
Wind, and especially unforeseen gusts, can complicate hunting from a pop-up style ground blind if proper precautions have not been taken. If not properly staked and/or tied, the blind essentially becomes a sail and can sway unnaturally, which can startle an approaching devourer. Remember the old adage about an ounce of prevention…. This problem can be minimized, if not completely solved, if the center style floor blind you purchase has features such as a thicker/heavier fabric, a durable center style frame, and the means to secure the windows, among others. In short, buy quality.
Portable floor shades are manufactured by a large number of companies in a dizzying number of configurations. Among them are: Cousins; Ameristep; Browning; SWAMP; Rhinoceros; Barronett blinds; and Primal Treestands, to name a few.
Before using a portable ground blind, remember to double check your state’s hunting regulations. Laws vary widely on their use. The same can be said for building natural shutters, especially if you plan to cut down brush or small trees on state or federal land. It is not universally legal to do so.
Want to increase your chances of bagging a gobbler this spring? It is simple; just make yourself undetectable. How? Add a blind to your repertoire.