Outdoors

Hay bale blinds offer perfect concealment for hunters

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Sep. 15, 2017 1:25 am

CAMP POINT, Ill. -- Brody Johnson figures it has been 40 or more years since he last climbed a tree.

"I was probably 10 or 11," he said. "And I fell about 10 or 11 feet."

A broken arm was the short-term result of that fall.

The lingering effects have been a lifetime battling a fear of heights.

"One time, some friends wanted our family to join them for a vacation," Johnson said. "They wanted to visit the Hoover Dam. I was out immediately. I would have passed out had I gotten near the edge of the dam and looked down."

So imagine what might happen should he climb 15 or 20 feet into a treestand to go deer hunting.

"If I got up there, I wouldn't be able to get back down," Johnson said. "I'd be frozen from fear. My guess is I'd get a few feet off the ground on the ladder and I wouldn't be able to go up or down. I'd be frozen."

That makes hunting a little difficult when everyone around you claims the only way to kill a trophy buck is to surprise them from above.

"Sorry, that's not going to happen," said Johnson, an Indianapolis, Ind., resident who leases hunting ground in Adams County. "My feet aren't leaving the ground."

It's forced him to become creative in his approach.

Johnson has tried a variety of ground blinds, from a camouflage pop-up tent to a box blind made from plywood and painted with a forest pattern. One year, he hunted from a hollowed out stump. Another year, he dug a small ditch between two trees, staked a 3-foot circle around it and wrapped it with camouflage netting.

"My success rate hasn't been great," Johnson said. "I'll often kill a deer, but I rarely ever see a trophy and getting any sort of big deer to come close is an exhausting approach."

As the October 1 opener of the Illinois archery deer season nears, Johnson figured he better come up with an improved plan.

That's what led him to roaming the backroads of Adams County last weekend looking for inspiration.

He found it in a place he considered quite unusual.

It was a wide-open field.

On a road between Quincy and Camp Point, Johnson noticed a handful of deer eating in a the field just before sunset. They were a couple hundred yards away from any traffic and seemed oblivious to any cars that slowed and whose passengers pointed.

The field had round hay bales scattered from one end to the other, and the deer meandered around them aimlessly.

At that moment, the proverbial light bulb went off.

"I had to figure out a way to use one of those as a blind or conceal myself somehow with one or two of those," Johnson said. "So I went to work."

First, he reached out to a local farmer to ask if he could purchase a bale or two, and if so, how much would that cost.

Second, he researched the idea on the internet, only to find it wasn't such a new idea and several big game outfitters sell pre-fabricated bale blinds.

"I thought I was a genius," Johnson said. "I guess not."

Maybe not, but he figured he had an idea that might work.

Johnson realizes he's late in the game to be constructing a new blind and potentially disrupting any patterns the deer have. But he's not overly concerned with that.

He leases the small property for himself, hunts alone and isn't sure there will be anyone hunting on the adjacent property.

"I'm pretty all alone where I hunt," Johnson said. "That's good. No one to bother me."

And no one to tell him not to try a hay bale blind.

"I'm putting one in," Johnson said. "I have my plans drawn up and will be hauling a whole bund of materials to the property soon.

"I'm going to build myself some natural cover that keeps my feet on the ground."

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