It’s November and the deer are moving. This year, unlike years past, I have decided to move with them. To facilitate this, I obtained a pack-in deer blind. Since I don’t know how successful my tactic is going to be this year, I decide to borrow one instead of outright purchase it.
A friend of mine happens to have one that he isn’t using and offers to let me try it out. It is an Ameristep Multi-Season Doghouse Pack-In Blind. It reminded me instantly of the three-man dome tents I used to use when my brother and I would go camping as kids.
The blind is camouflaged in typical late summer and early fall pattern. To help it blend in more, it even has little leaves attached to it. While it sticks out like a thumb in the snow, some strategic placing makes it really easy to conceal.
On the first day out, I decide to hit an area off a swamp with a ridge I can see along. I set the blind up with ease the day before, snuggling it in some balsam trees. It goes up quick, requiring just two poles to be inserted in the interior to act as a frame. I stake it to the ground and slide inside. The first thing to note is that there is a ton of room inside. I am a big guy who often finds himself in a tight squeeze inside devices like this built for the regular Joe. Inside Ameristep’s blind, I was more than impressed with the spaciousness. Two of me could sit in there comfortably.
The blind has three main shooting windows that zip down. They are each about three feet wide and offer great viewing through them. For those, like me, who are watching a particular run and don’t need all three open, Ameristep has made it so each of the large windows has an inset smaller window that can be opened instead to allow for observation and for shooting. The particular blind even featured mesh window covers that helped hide any movement inside.
I built a small wooden stand that I staked into the ground as my shooting platform, but there is ample room to use a shooting stick or a tripod if you prefer.
The downside to the blind, I discovered, was not in its size or functionality, but rather in its cold-weather usage. There is no use in trying to heat the blind itself. Even with all the windows battened down, heat simply ran out of the pack-in, which is made of lightweight material for ease of transportation.
The other cold-weather related downside was the fact that the zippers were not really heavily made. After the first day, a cold snap came through the area. The zippers froze shut on the door. In the dark, I rubbed the zippers with my fingers until the ice melted away enough to get the zipper partially open. Unfortunately, that trick didn’t help the zipper itself. After getting it closed back up, I watched as the zipper began to split as the ice formed on it again.
I tried to fix it by running the zipper back down, which only succeeded in jamming it and, eventually, breaking it. For the rest of the night, I hunted with the door being wide open, which just so happened to be facing the same direction as the heat-sapping cold wind was blowing from. By the end of the hunt that day, I was frozen so bad I could hardly unload my rifle.
Now, this unfortunate breakdown of a basic essential of a pack-in blind may not even be Ameristep’s fault, as it is a used blind that I borrowed. The only thing that leads me away from that suspicion is the fact that the zipper itself is not a high-quality one, but rather one that would be found on an every-day tent instead of something that you’d expect to be rugged and tough and all-weather.
All in all, I like the idea of a pack-in blind and the camouflage it provides you and the way it is designed to keep the elements off you. However, my experience with Ameristep’s version left me wondering if during the fall hunt I might not be better off simply buying warmer gear and finding a brush blind to watch for deer from.
Yet, I don’t doubt that if you’re hunting when the weather is better and you’re not contending with frosty temperatures, then you’ll likely be fine in Ameristep’s blind. And, for the price of $80-$110, you’re likely not going to find a comparable blind.
In the end, it’s really going to come down to where you’re hunting, what time of year it is and what the weather is like. For me, Ameristep’s Doghouse blind just isn’t going to cut it in the frigid north where I like to hunt.