Bowhunters and deer hunters, in general, have always had the internal debate of ground blinds vs tree stands. Just as other heavily-debated topics, this one has supporters divided into two camps. While there isn’t a clear-cut winner here, both the tree stand and the ground blind have their own set of advantages and disadvantages.
In this article, we will compare these two based on a few key hunting factors such as:
- Set up
- Shot clearance
- Initial and running costs
Before we dive deeper into each of these factors, make sure you check out my Buyer’s Guide on some of the best bowhunting ground blinds. Alternatively, you can also visit my Climbing Treestands Buyer’s Guide if you’re already set on getting one. Now, let’s get started!
Concealment is one of the top priorities for a deer hunter for a few very good reasons. Deer have a great sense of smell and also fairly good eyesight. Older, more experienced deer will be able to easily spot irregularities in the terrain that do not match their surroundings.
- Ground Blinds – When you are in a ground blind you are pretty well-covered, especially if all the windows are closed and you are covered in black. These blinds also help with scent control most of the time. If you’ve taken your time to further camouflage your blind by adding branches and leaves that match the colors of the terrain, you will be almost invisible to the eyes of a deer. There are, however, a lot of mistakes you can do that can easily expose you. Head over to my ground blind hunting tips article to learn how to prevent that!
- Tree stands – With tree stands, your camouflage is covered by the tree foliage that surrounds you. You are also above the normal viewpoint of deer, meaning they will hardly ever see you no matter if you’re covered in camo or not. That is because most mammals have evolved around ground-hunting predators so they don’t have the habit of looking up. Your scents will also be above the deer’s range.
With the main advantage of being high above the ground, tree stands are clear winners when it comes to being away from the eyes and nose of a deer.
Portability is a bit of a mixed bag, both figuratively and literally.
- Ground blinds – Modern ground blinds can be fitted into a carrying bag and can also be set up semi-permanently on a single spot so that you don’t have to carry them with you every time. They weight around 10-30 pounds making them more or less easy to carry on short trips.
- Tree stands – Tree stands have the exact same weight range as most ground blinds (around 10-30 pounds each) but are slightly more awkward to carry on your back with the rest of your gear.
Another aspect here is mobility. Hang-on and climbing tree stands are pretty easy to move from tree to tree and higher up on a specific tree. Ladder tree stands, on the other hand, aren’t. Ground blinds are pretty easy to move around as well since they are mostly constructed like lightweight tents. Whether you’d want to bring them with you at different spots every time depends a lot on your enthusiasm, though.
There also are permanent ground blind structures that are built to be on a specific spot. Wildlife often gets used to those constructions with time which is one of their main advantages. If you want to learn how to build your own deer blind, click here.
How easy it is to set up each of those two is one of the biggest differentiating factors when bowhunters try to pick one or the other.
- Ground blinds – Most ground blinds have a quick set-up system that is also called “pop-up” and it allows you to fully erect the blind in less than a few minutes. Once its up, it is up to you whether you will further camouflage it with leaves and twigs but, in general, blinds are really straight-forward and easy to set up and pack back up.
- Tree stands – Tree stands face a serious disadvantage here, as they require a bit more work to be fully set up at the right height. You also have to find a tree without any low limbs that will prevent you from easily set up the stand. They are also a bit harder to pack back up once you’re done for the day.
Having a clear shooting lane to your target is crucial to your success.
- Ground blinds – When they are set up at the right location, ground blinds give you a great amount of shot clearance with almost no brush and tree branches between you and your target. That is, of course, when you have the correct window opened. If you have all of your windows opened, you risk getting exposed since your silhouette will be easily detectable.
- Tree stands – Tree stands are often high up in the trees which means that you will have a lot of low-hanging limbs and branches between you and your target. While guns aren’t as highly affected by this, bows and crossbows are since their arrows can easily deflect. This is why most treestand bowhunters have to trim special shooting lanes.
The bottom line is that treestands have worse shot clearance but give you a far better view at your surroundings, while blinds will only allow you to see through the windows that you have opened but the shot path will often be uninterrupted.
Nothing beats sitting in your ground blind chair all day and waiting for the ideal opportunity for a good shot at a buck that is passing by. But can tree stands bring a comparable amount of comfort? Let’s find out…
- Ground blinds – Ground blinds can be extremely comfortable if you have brought the right chair along. They also allow you to have other types of amenities inside, as long as you aren’t too loud or moving too much with opened windows. They also provide superior noise control.
- Tree stands – While tree stands are pretty bare-bone in their design, some models have nicely padded chairs that aren’t at all uncomfortable even if you have to sit still the whole day. They are, however, limiting in terms of what you can bring along and place around you. You are also much less protected against the noises you make during your lunch or occasional coughs and sneezes.
- Ground blinds – This is where ground blinds really shine. Most models are good for 2-4 people, with some blinds specifically designed for up to 8 people. That capacity is ideal for a hunter/spotter combination or even people that are interested in wildlife photography. Still, the more people you have, the bigger the risk of anyone of you exposing the whole group.
- Tree stands – While there are some two-seater tree stands, most models are made for one person only. This limits their capacity and makes them worse for larger groups of people but makes them a solid choice for hunters that like to be alone.
Initial and running costs
While you can easily find 100-200$ ground blinds, treestands are often much more expensive due to their complexity and materials used.
- Ground blinds – Ground blinds have a lower initial cost but tend to require a few additional items during your time with them. For instance, some hunters buy water repellents and spray the whole blind before the start of the season. They also buy artificial branches and leaves or camo nettings that will help with concealment. Scent control products are also common with hunters that hunt from blinds. All these things amount to some relatively high running costs.
- Tree stands – Tree stands are the exact opposite of that. They are often much more expensive than a ground blind but have little to no additional costs associated with them. They are also quite durable since most of the construction is metal and they also outlast most ground blinds.
In short, it is a much better investment to get a good ground blind for a group of people or even just two people hunting together. While tree stands will give you a few more hunting-specific advantages, they will be much more expensive to buy individually for each person from your group.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do ground blinds control scents?
Ground blinds aren’t 100% scent-proof but will do a great job at concealing your scent if you’ve prepared them well. That involves airing them out and applying scent killers before the start of the hunting season.
Can you shoot through your ground blind mesh windows?
Yes, most ground blind windows have a shoot-through mesh cover that comes in the package. That mesh cover allows you to see through it and most importantly – shoot through it, without ripping it apart. They are easily removed if you don’t want them but are also excellent at hiding anything that is inside the blind.
Can deer pick up cigarette smoke?
While deer are accustomed to smoke that is naturally occurring in nature, cigarette smoke has a vastly different scent to it and will seem out of place to an experienced older deer.
As a whole, there will always be the ground blinds vs tree stands debate among bowhunters but both of these have their clear advantages over the other. Ground blinds clearly bring more creature’s comforts and allow for bigger groups while keeping you more or less concealed. Tree stands, on the other hand, are better at hiding you but are more expensive, less comfortable, and are harder to set up.