LocaCarnivore entered a brave new hunting world this year when we purchased an Ameristep Battlefield ground blind from Cabelas. It is also known as the Ameristep Element Hunting Blind from Ameristep and other retailers. Until now, we had hunted on the move, spot and stalk. This changed just two seasons ago when we were awarded coveted game damage hunt permits. The game department here gets many complaints each year from farmers and ranchers about wildlife damaging their crops and property.
In response, the state established a game damage hunt roster. Hunters register with the game department and deer or elk permits are issued on a first come, first served basis to hunt the offending animals for food. Wildlife biologists determine how many tags a particular land owner needs. Then they start at the list’s top and work their way down to issue permits to hunters. After many years wait, both the Boss and I got “the call.”
|The Ameristep Element is available on Amazon.com|
Our first damage hunt rewarded us with a whitetail deer each, and we learned valuable lessons about hunting on flat, open land with little available concealment. Then last year, we had an epiphany. A rancher allowed us to use the raised, tree-house style blind he had built on his back forty. Can you say, “Yes, sir, we’d love to sit up there and wait for those rascally critters to show themselves?”
We saw the way forward, but how do you take such a show on the road since few, if any, other ranchers had permanent blinds? Answer: the latest generation portable ground blinds. For those unfamiliar, imagine a dome-style camping tent with camouflage exterior and windows big enough to shoot either a gun or a bow through. Capital idea!
We saved our shekels and bought an Ameristep Battlefield blind. Ameristep makes blinds in several sizes and qualities. The Battlefield model is just above entry-level and will accommodate three hunters, at least it says so on the box. We found it a bit snug with us two, a tripod rifle rest, and other sundry equipment such as guns, seats, packs, etc. If don’t know your hunting buddy well, you will after a day in this blind.
This blind is well finished and looks durable. The exterior camo is an all-terrain type pattern which means it doesn’t blend too well with any one environment. In Ameristep’s defense, they do recommend users attach local vegetation to the blind for better concealment. It is light enough to carry slung over a shoulder in its included black nylon case, but I wouldn’t want to do ten miles in rugged terrain with it, either.
The blind came complete with hold-down pegs. The pegs get their own small camo bag to keep them organized. While eight pegs are needed to secure the blind to the ground, Ameristep included several extra with the knowledge small, fiddly things get lost. The term “fiddly” is apropos for the pegs. They are made from rather thin, delicate steel and bend with amazing ease when you pound them into the ground. We’ve deployed the blind three times and already mangled three pegs. They’re still operational, but now have significant twists and bends.
|Less than robust pegs.|
So Simple, a Pilot Could do it.
Despite quite clear instructions, we had a few unsure moments accompanied by a few choice words when we first deployed the blind. Practice makes perfect, though, and after a few tries, assembly and disassembly proceeded in a smooth fashion. Folding the blind up is counter-intuitive. One must put what seems too much pressure on the frame until it relents and folds, and it ends up with the interior facing outward.
Doors of Perception
While designed for silent operation, the blind’s window cover flaps have fasteners which are fiddly as well (do you sense a recurring theme?). They are toggle buttons akin to what one might expect on a 9th century Viking’s tunic. They are quiet to operate, but you need two hands and cannot work them with gloves on. A serious consideration when you sometimes hunt in sub-zero (Fahrenheit) temperatures.
The windows are all designed to shoot through and have a camouflage screen over each one. Ameristep claims you can shoot either bullets or arrows through the mesh without mishap. I question the wisdom involved in firing a gun with the muzzle inside the blind, but I’m sure Ameristep’s legal department would advise you to wear ear protection to avoid deafness from the blast. The screens are replaceable, which is also why the manufacturer encourages owners to shoot through them. Wink-wink, nudge-nudge.
|Outside view of main window with mesh screen installed.|
The large, trapezoidal shaped main windows on each side offer a sizeable view, but the small shooting port in their center is too low to stick a rifle barrel through if you are seated on a camp stool or up-turned bucket. I suspect they were designed with a kneeling archer in mind. On actual hunts, we were forced to peel the screen down half-way to sight our weapons which reduces your concealment in the blind quite a bit.
|View through main window’s screen from inside the blind.|
The main door is a two zipper affair. Ingress and egress are a bit cumbersome, especially if you are dressed in heavy winter clothes. However, a few practice runs will have you coming and going without major impediment, if not style.
|Door is adequate, if a bit cumbersome.|
Pay no Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain
I had the Boss take a seat in the blind. I stood outside and backed up until I couldn’t see her through the window mesh. If a person stays still, they are, for the most part, invisible beyond twenty-five yards. Note to bow hunters, if your quarry is closer and you move the least bit, they’ll see you. With the mesh removed, minimum detection range is around forty yards.
|View from 25 yards away. The Boss is seated in there as far back from window as possible.|
We took our blind for its inaugural hunt when general rifle season opened. We situated it in a spot we knew whitetail deer came through every evening. They filter from the thick timber and into a wide-open field intent on a particular rancher’s alfalfa. We thought the blind sat in a perfect position. We could cover a large section along a fence line and all shots were 100 yards or less. I mean, how hard could it be?
Turns out whitetails are not as stupid as you might think. As soon as our first contestants for the day appeared, their lead doe took one look at the blind sitting alone in the field and ran away as fast as she could with her herd in tow. Drat.
Then something happened. A wonderful, amazing something happened. Twenty minutes later, the doe reappeared and led her bunch along the fence. She didn’t dare cross the fence–figured it made them safe, somehow. They stopped for a moment to rethink things. The lead doe got herself behind a tall pine sapling which took her off the target list. The Boss lined up her .300 WSM on the next deer in line and now we have more meat in the freezer. Thank you, Ameristep.
What We Like. What We Don’t.
We like the fact we now have a blind. Granted, they are not a perfect solution to all hunting problems, but used with thought and skill, they give a hunter a distinct advantage. The Ameristep Battlefield blind is easy to deploy, and once you get the hang of it, easy to stow. It is portable, and we found it a great match-up with our game cart. Just strap the blind, camp stools, and shooting tripod to the cart and wheel the whole business to your chosen ambush site. We recommend if you need to carry the blind into an area, attach it to a sturdy frame backpack rather than rely on the case’s strap.
The pegs are the weak point. We already mentioned how delicate they are, but they did hold the blind down even in a 20 mph wind. In the future, we plan to replace the Ameristep pegs with serious mountaineering tent pegs which will drive into rocky soil and hold tight in gale-force winds.
About the wind. The blind’s skin flaps against the frame in anything more than a light breeze. This makes a thumping, drum-like noise. We’re not sure if the noise is sufficient to scare game away, but it wouldn’t surprise us either. Pronghorn hunters in Wyoming take note.
We don’t like the shooting ports built into the main window mesh screens. We plan to raise the ports somehow so we can sight rifles through them while seated on our camp stools. Lowering the mesh reduces concealment too much and is not a good option. The blind seems designed more with Mid-western or Eastern bow hunters in mind than rifle hunters in the windy, wide-open West.
The toggle-type window closures need improvement, but for now, we’ll live with them.
The blind is in reality a two person structure, despite Ameristep’s claims. It does a keep the wind off you when it’s cold outside. On a sunny day, if the temperature is above 50 degrees Fahrenheit, you will get quite warm inside, but don’t give in to the temptation to open the windows for ventilation. The more light you let in, the more visible you are. As with most hunting, you must become comfortable with being uncomfortable. Ameristep does have blind fans you can purchase, but we haven’t tried them yet, so we don’t know how well they work.
Overall, though, we are pleased with this blind. We just need to make a few modifications and learn how to use it better. For some great tips on how to use a blind, watch this video Secrets for hunting from a ground blind. With proper care, our blind should last many hunting seasons. The Ameristep Battlefield ground blind is a good product for its price. We’d recommend it for anyone on a budget who wants a usable hunting blind. It is far superior to the blind we didn’t have before.
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