New hunters should be made as comfortable and confident as the demands of the game will allow, and a few key considerations on the part of their mentor can go a very long way. What they shoot and where they sit can mean everything.
When it comes to a place to hide and wait, pop up blinds have truly revolutionized the deer stand debate.
Portable pop-up blinds function like a hybrid of an umbrella and a folding camp chair and are available in a variety of sizes. Prices typically range from $100 to $500 and, as with most outdoor gear, the buyer generally gets what he or she pays for. Pricier models are also much more durable. The Primos Double Bull line is an excellent example of quality and durability.
The value of their most obvious advantage over traditional deer stands — being located at ground level — is hard to overstate. Since they’re quiet and, by nature of construction, largely contain hunters’ scent, the opportunity to sit until well past dark then exit in complete safety is a paramount value.
Unlike shooting houses, pop-up blinds may be easily repositioned to take advantage of or respond to wind direction. What they sacrifice in elevation they make up for in silence. Hunters in ground blinds don’t have to take care not to bump heavy boots against plywood floors and walls that reverberate like a bass drum when struck. The squirming option ground blinds offer, in fact, is rightfully one of their best selling points.
Ground blind hunters who will be using a crossbow or a firearm will need an independent shooting rest, and they’ll need to coordinate their chair to make sure the two work together. Providing the opportunity to work this out in the back yard before going to the woods is yet another way pop-up blinds assert their superiority.
A chair will need to be high and firm enough to allow the shooter to align their eye and their crossbow or firearm with the blind’s shooting window and the target beyond. Hunters of a smaller stature may well prefer to shoot standing up, and a properly-sized ground blind will allow this easily. In this case, the best option for a shooting rest is likely to be a Caldwell Field Pod, a device that combines a tripod-style shooting rest with a horizontal bracket that holds the crossbow or firearm at points fore and aft, and can do so independent of the hunter’s input. This lets the young hunter or their mentor get their shooting equipment situated and ready to use, then rest perfectly still until it’s time for the hunter to mount, aim and fire.
Cross that bridge
If the opportunity exists to get a hunter new to the shooting sports started with a good crossbow, it’s one very well worth the effort. Crossbows are tremendously accurate, fast-shooting and every bit as effective as a firearm at ranges of 50 yards or fewer, but many new to the outdoors find shooting one much less intimidating than doing the same with a centerfire rifle. What’s more, crossbow hunting can help make opportunity itself much handier.
Hank Forester, the National Deer Association’s hunting heritage programs manager, runs a program that has successfully minted hundreds of new adult deer hunters, and their efforts always begin with a crossbow introduction to shooting.
“We chose to focus on hunting with crossbows because it opened up urban areas,” Forester said. “There are deer populations close to home for so many people, and you don’t need very much land at all to be able to shoot a crossbow in perfect safety. As hunters, we so often want pristine wilderness. We don’t want to hear traffic while we’re hunting but, for our first-time hunters, a back lot close to town may be the deepest they’ve ever been into the woods. They just don’t have those preconceived notions.
“We often overlook our best opportunities to mentor new hunters. There’s ample opportunity. By hunting close to home, our mentors can pick them up from their own front door, with no overnight logistics.”
Currently Forester has launched the program with a standardized curriculum in New York, New Hampshire, Iowa, Michigan, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Texas in addition to its founding grounds of Georgia.
Get a kick out
If using a crossbow isn’t an option, or if preferences dictate moving on to something with more range, managed recoil ammunition formulated for standard caliber firearms is a great option.
In 2004, Remington introduced special loads for the .270 Winchester, 7mm Remington Magnum and .30-06 Springfield for use on deer-sized game. Engineered with bullets that perform well at slower speeds, the loads cut recoil by up to 50 percent. They are perfectly effective out to 200 yards and are good for any whitetail deer application. They’re just ideal for new, young or small-framed shooters stepping out with a centerfire rifle for the first time.
These loads can be found in local stores, or can be ordered by anyone age 21 or older from midwayusa.com.