By: Serena Juchnowski

Growing up, when I thought of hunting, I thought of deer, bows, guns, tree stands, and my dad. He was always setting up tree stands in the backyard, mounting climbing sticks and preparing for the coming hunting season. When he vanished from the tree in the front yard, an extreme game of “I Spy” began – my sister, Mom, and I eagerly peering out the back window—failing to discern a human shape amongst the trees.

My first deer hunt was in November of 2015. I was 16. I told my dad three days before Ohio’s youth gun weekend that I wanted to go, leaving us hardly any time to prepare. Though I had taken a hunter education course and had delighted in my dad’s harvests, my time was spent with school or with competitive shooting. I did not know how to set up a tree stand, I knew next to nothing about deer hunting, and I had no safety harness.

At that time, hunting from a tree stand was out of the question. We took a more traditional route, using natural camouflage to set up on a friend’s property. We sat for hours in the cold, positioned behind a fallen tree. By lunchtime I was incredibly chilled, circulation in my fingers and toes lost, even though it was just starting to snow. That afternoon, I was given the option of hunting the same spot as earlier or hunting from “the box.” Upon learning that “the box” had a small heater and some walls to block the wind, I was sold. It was not worth being miserable, especially since I did not have much in the way of dedicated hunting gear.

The box proved to be an enclosed, elevated wooden structure with a seat from an old Suburban taking up most of the space. Small Plexiglas windows dotted each side, each equipped with a makeshift “lock” made of a square of the same material. Opening a window did not just mean scent and outside air, but also an alarming creaking noise. Inevitably, the windows stayed open or shut to minimize noise. Its location also made leaving to go to the bathroom out of the question.

Over a year later, I was introduced to the RhinoBlind. My dad and I spent a lot of time researching and climbing in and out of ground blinds at the nearest Cabela’s prior to the following Black Friday. The RhinoBlind appeared to be the most durable and suited to our needs.

I have been hunting by myself in the seasons since in a blind. At first it was my dad’s, but I was given my own, also a Rhinoblind, as part of the NWTF-Ohio Youth Partnership Hunt. I absolutely love it. At first I wasn’t so sure, as the stereotypes I had heard made hunting from a blind seem “weak.” I soon learned that in certain areas and terrain, a blind is more suitable than other set-ups. Hunting from a blind is a great option for beginners. There is enough room inside (depending on the model of course) for several people. This allows new hunters to hunt with a mentor and friends and family to enjoy the outdoors together. (Also a great “blind” date option!) While I do not have any kids of my own, and do not plan to for some time, when I do, I imagine I will take them hunting with me. It is not conducive or safe to take a young child in a tree stand and they will move too much to stay well camouflaged by natural terrain.

The blind I use has camouflage canvas-like material covering each of the windows. This can be pulled down to reveal a camouflage mesh that those inside the blind can see through but those outside the blind cannot. This makes it easier for one to move inside the blind without being noticed. While it is still best to keep noise and movement to a minimum, it is nice to have the option to stretch one’s legs without revealing one’s location. This type of setup also benefits people who are fidgety or who have children with them.

As aforementioned, I get incredibly cold. I lose circulation in my hands and my feet, making it near impossible to move them. For me to spend a winter day in a tree stand is dangerous, as I may not be able to physically climb down the ladder after sitting in the stand for several hours. My hands lose their ability to grip or hold anything. I keep a small propane heater in the blind that keeps me warm. This may not sound like “hunting” to some, but it helps me to enjoy the outdoors and to be able to take the most ethical shots I can on game, given my circulation issues. I also know many people who have injuries or disabilities who regularly hunt from ground blinds.

The blind also allows easy entrance and exit. This helps with what I believe is the most difficult thing for women hunters – going to the bathroom. Considering that when nature calls I only need to step outside of the blind and find a spot away from where I am hunting so that my scent does not alarm deer, I think blind hunting is especially suited to female hunters. I will leave it to the imagination, but my dad and male hunters do not have this issue. They can stay in a tree stand all day without having to climb out of it and disturb deer in the area they are hunting. For women, this is not the case. Though it is awkward to talk about, I think it is one of the most important things to consider when planning a hunting trip, even one close to home.

Overall, how each hunter goes about his or her adventures comes down to preference. It depends on how long you plan to hunt, where you are hunting, any medical concerns, and if you are hunting alone or with another person. While I am excited to gain more experience with tree stands besides that gleaned from a backyard zipline set-up, I will always have a special attachment to blind-hunting. One of my best friends shot his first deer from the blind my dad purchased. It fit four people and allowed myself, my dad, my friend George, and his dad to experience the hunt together and to learn from one another. Hunting from a blind allows me to safely and comfortably hunt during the Ohio winter, which is something I am incredibly grateful to modern technology for. It is also a good way for me to mentor new hunters.

Whatever one chooses, always remember that hunting is about the experience, not about the harvest. One must be safe, ethical, and respectful while learning what tools best work for him/her.

Serena Juchnowski is a high power service rifle competitor and regular contributor to Junior Shooters magazine, writing from Ohio. Contact her at [email protected].