Late summer has arrived! With the yellowing grass and soaring temperatures, August brings the anticipation of hunting big antelope bucks over waterholes. Many seasons begin in August and September and now is the time to start thinking about your perfect ground blind set up. Here are a few ground blind tactics to think about that can “make or break” your hunt this fall. Keep in mind that no two waterholes are the same. But if you’ll think about these tactics as you’re making your game plan throughout the season, you’ll be well on your way to filling your tag.
Sun at Your Back, Antelope in Your Face
Arguably the single most important piece of a ground blind setup is where the sun will be. Whenever possible, position your blind so that the sun is at your back in the main waterhole activity hours (9am-4pm). 9am to 4pm is the time frame when the majority of antelope will water. I’m certainly not saying that you should get out of the blind at 4pm, but these are peak hours of the day. If you aren’t going to be able to hunt during those hours, maybe you’re an “after work” hunter, set the blind to where you’ll be looking east during your evening hunts. Keeping the sun at your back is a play on the strengths of an antelope (their vision) and will help make your hot hours in the blind a bit more enjoyable. Well known is the fact that antelope have incredible eyesight, if you can keep your face from glowing in the sun at the window of the blind you’ve already increased your odds significantly.
Opening Day With No Blind Set Up?
There are a lot of people who have been there. The summer gets busy and before you know it, opening day is here and you don’t have a blind set up. Don’t sweat it. Lots of antelope have been taken out of blinds that were set up minutes before they arrived to drink. Look for ways to adapt. What structure can you use to blend in quickly and effectively?
Set ‘er Back a Bit
Sometimes it’s easy to set your blind right on the water because generally that’s where the flattest part may sit. If you can, set your blind 10-15 yards off the water. Often times this will give you a much better shot angle, as well as allowing the animals to feel a bit less pressured when they come to drink. If you can’t find a flat enough spot off the water hole, use a shovel to cut the high side and make yourself a level spot. You’ll appreciate the time you spent when you have a level place for your chair.
Leave the Windows Open
When you finish setting up your blind and are ready to leave, open the windows you’ll be shooting out of. If you’re going to set up a blind early for animals to get used to, open the windows and leave it just the way it will be when you hunt. You can also hang the shoot-through netting or some plastic grocery bags inside the blind to create movement for the animals to get used to.
Put ‘em Where You Want ‘em
Sometimes we have the “perfect” water hole. Maybe it’s a tire tank or a small reservoir that’s only 20 yards all the way across. But generally, that’s not the case. It’s disheartening when you find a waterhole with tracks leading to opposite ends of a pond and your rangefinder tells you it’s 70 yards across. Don’t worry. There is a simple solution. The simplest way that I have found to address this issue is to take a few t-posts and stick them in the ground at the water’s edge, about two feet from the water. Run the t-posts where you don’t want the antelope to drink. Finally, run a piece of fencing wire (smooth wire, barbed wire, even twine or electric fence nylon) about 2’ off the ground on the t-posts. This will deter the goats from drinking in that location.
Use Carpet in the Antelope Blind
This is one piece of advice that gets waved off but it can make a world of difference in your hunt. This doesn’t have anything to do with the antelope, it’s about making your 14-hr day in the blind a bit more comfortable. Fact, if you’re comfortable, you’ll hunt better and longer. Take a scrap piece of carpet that is roughly the same size as your blind and use it as a floor. This does many things including preventing your blind from filling up with dust on windy days, giving you a quiet place to set your items, and allows you to take off your boots without getting stickers or anything in your socks. Will the antelope wind me? 95% of the time if an antelope is close enough to smell you, he’s already visually determined it is safe and that trumps scent in almost all cases. I’ve never seen the stinky old piece of carpet be responsible for blowing an antelope hunt.
With antelope season kicking off across the west, be sure to try these tactics to help tip the odds for success in your favor this season.