Who doesn’t shudder at the thought of staying penned up in the house over a bleak winter while your hunting and fishing gear calls to you from the garage?
If you have a hunting blind stashed with your gear, you may have a get-out-of-jail-free card. Grab your blind, head to the ice, and let the fishing begin.
Can I use My Hunting Blind for Ice Fishing?
The simple answer isn’t really so simple. Yes, many hunting blinds can do double duty as ice fishing shelters. With that said, a better question is: should I use my hunting blind as an ice fishing shelter?
The answer to this question depends on the type of hunting blind you already own, where you live, and how much time you plan to spend on the ice.
Not all Hunting Blinds are equal.
The term “caveat emptor”, let the buyer beware, applies here. Take the time to be sure the blind you buy suits all conditions you plan to use it in. A hunting blind used in Ohio or Missouri might not meet the environmental demands of a blind used in Colorado or Montana.
Portable hunting blinds and Ice shelters both protect users from wind, rain, sun and pests. The design of popular Hub style blinds is most easily adapted to meet Ice fishing needs.
Where do you Live?
A friend who grew up in Minnesota often talked about using the family pickup to tow their ice house out on a nearby lake. It stayed there for months as part of an ice fishing village.
If you live in a similar region, you’re probably better off investing in an actual Ice shanty or at the very least in a well-constructed and insulated hub style ice shelter.
If you decide otherwise, the propane you’ll need to stay warm year after year will gobble up any money saved by not buying the ice shelter.
How Often Will You Use It?
If you live in a less severe climate and plan to hit the ice as much as possible, for however long the ice lasts, then buying a good quality, pop up, hub style thermal ice shelter is your best bet.
Are you an occasional weekend ice angler who lives in a state with fairly limited hunting seasons, is that why you haven’t sprung for a hunting blind yet? Then buying a well-insulated hub-style hunting blind to do double duty as an ice fishing shelter like the Ameristep 4 person thermal hub blind Amnf1009, is a win-win extending the blind’s useability and justifying its cost.
Choosing a Hunting Blind or Ice Shelter
The brush and wood hunting blinds your grandpa or dad built back in the day are quickly giving way to highly portable hunting blinds. Constructed of lightweight, waterproof nylon or polyester fabrics and aluminum frames.
With many blinds popping up in minutes, you can quickly move where the game is, helping to assure a successful hunt.
Fabrics used in basic hunting blinds are typically nylon blends of varying weights. The denser, heavier-weight fabrics offer greater durability.
Thermal hunting blinds use these same materials bonded with fiberglass, resulting in a thicker, stronger fabric, with increased wind resistance and greater insulation capabilities helping you keep more body heat.
While all hunting fabrics have some water repellency, better fabrics get treated with several passes of polyurethane to maximize water repellency.
Hub designed blinds are open to the ground, making them easily adaptable to ice fishing.
When choosing a blind, more windows means greater visibility and shooting area, both of which equal more games. There are various types of windows to choose from:
- Simple openings – found in entry level blinds allow for good visibility and being quick and easy shooting. The downside? You’ll also be visible to the game as well.
- Mesh windows – mesh windows conceal you better. Higher end manufacturers like Ameristep offer maximum concealment with one-way mesh blinds that bow hunters can shoot through.
- Zippered windows – Typically these aren’t the first choice for hunters, but necessary if planning to use your blind for Ice fishing.
Ice Fishing Shelters
There are various types of ice shelters on the market today. In this article, we’re focusing on the pop up hub style ice shelter because of their ease of transport and quick setup and teardown.
Similar to hub-style hunting blinds, these ice shelters have a few adaptations necessary to shield anglers from the extreme cold and biting winds encountered on the open ice of frozen lakes. Let’s look at these differences:
High tech has replaced simple nylon or polyester shell fabrics in ice shelters, triple-layered fabrics. Modern fabrics feature:
- Insulated layers rated at R 1.4.
- Maximum wind resistance.
- Water repellency.
- Fire retardant letting use a heater with peace of mind
- U.V. resistant.
Unlike hunting blinds typically set up in sheltered forested areas, ice shelters have to stand up to gale force winds on an open icy surface. To keep ice shelters in place, they have three primary differences:
- Base flaps – The perimeter of an ice shelter has flaps around the base of the shelter. When covered with snow, they weigh the shelter down, helping keep it in place and seal out the biting gust of wind.
- Base loops and screws – Metal loops at the corners hold large screws similar to tent stakes securing the shelters in place. Pro tip, a ¼ or ½ cordless drill speeds up the process. Some shelters may also have straps to secure shelters in harsher conditions.
- Windows and doors – as mentioned above, all windows and doors need to zip securely shut.
Where Should I Put my Hunting Blind?
You use a hunting blind is so deer will come to you, that means placement is critical to a successful hunt. Don’t wait for the first day or night before deer season opens. Scout the area in advance to find the best location.
The forest is a big place, to speed up the scouting process you want to look for:
- Choke points are areas that force deer to walk through a narrowed area, such as a densely wooded trail or dry creek bed.
- Food or water sources.
- Trails or crossings.
Once you’ve got your location, and to avoid being plainly visible, put your blind away from the chosen spot, but in a range of whatever weapon you’re using.
It’s a good idea to cut some brush and lay it around your blind to make it less visible.
Ice Shelter Placement
Where you put your shelter is more about safety than finding fish.
You can always move your shelter, but fall through the ice and your fishing days may be over, for good.
Keeping this in mind, let’s review some basic ice safety guidelines.
When the ice is:
- Two inches or less, keep off, it’s safe for no one.
- Four inches is safe for ice fishing and ice skating.
- Five to six inches is safe for snowmobiles and ATVs.
- Eight to twelve inches is safe for cars and small trucks.
- Twelve to fifteen inches is safe for medium trucks.
- Rivers – Because of the moving water below, I recommend four inches as the minimum safe thickness. Also, look for areas where the water flow naturally slows.
So, what’s the takeaway? Whether you should use a hunting blind as an ice shelter really depends on you, and how and where you plan to use it. An occasional user living in a moderate climate can save a few bucks and get away using a basic hub style hunting blind.
Do you live in an extreme northern climate or plan all but live on the Ice, it’s probably best for you to take the plunge and buy a high quality thermal ice shelter such as the Clam 14478 C890 thermal hub ice shelter.
Finally, when deciding where to place your hunting blind, let the blind do the work of hunting by locating your blind near choke points or other areas frequented by deer.
Whatever you decide, use an existing hunting blind or buy an ice shelter. You’ve got your get out of jail card in hand and it’s time to use it.