Images and story by Thomas Allen
Endure tough conditions and work hard now. The effort will pay off later when it matters. — Anonymous entrepreneur
On our 600-acre property we have 11 shooting houses. Ten of those sit overlooking BioLogic food plots, and one is completely out of use. Of those 10 huntable locations, four were absolutely trashed and two of those needed relocated to better accommodate access and seasonal wind directions.
When we started the club in September of 2017, we knew adjustments to those houses and their locations would have to be made at some point. But during our first year we decided to hunt them as is due to budget and timing.
It was a decision that could have negatively impacted how productive our hunting was overall, but it was still educational seeing first-hand how the deer reacted to each spot. I believe it was essential to witness movement on the club is it was, now the changes we accomplish make more sense.
We decided to add two new shooting houses to existing food plots where the existing house was in very poor repair, and add one. Then two new shooting houses on new food plots.
We started 2018 with a pretty big list of tasks and expectations. We were able to get a head start on that list, and on a reasonable budget, which required sweat equity and creativity.
As we stand, we’ve got a good handle on Project Critical Relocation.
If you followed last year’s series, you know that one of our members owns a small sawmill. His brother-in-law happens to own a tree-cutting business, and has seemingly unlimited access to pine logs.
All to our potential benefit.
To buy the 4x4s, 2x6s and 3/4-inch pressure treated plywood for decking it would cost us over $300 per platform. That’s not including building a solid shooting house on top of the platform. You may as well just figure another $300+ for that.
With Paul’s sawmill and access to uncut timber, factor in a few tanks of gas, a few saw blades and several hot Alabama days at the sawmill’s helm we accomplished the goal of generating materials at a fraction of the cost.
I’d like to show you a few of the finished products and why we did what we did.
Knowing how much it cost to build a complete shooting house from top to bottom we evaluated our options. Based on our available budget, we just couldn’t build multiple brand new shooting houses. But we could manage a few platforms built out of milled lumber.
Time was also a factor to consider. It took several days to mill the lumber for four new shooting house platforms. It would take at least that long to produce lumber for the top halves.
To save on both we came up with an alternative that I believe will prove just as effective, perhaps even long term. I designed the shooting house platforms with dimensions to comfortably accommodate two to three hunters inside a standard 5-hub ground blind.
That produces a savings of over $200 if we were to buy the materials to build hard-side permanent houses.
I can’t think of a good reason to do otherwise.
At first, I thought the ground blind option would be a temporary solution until we could afford to build a permanent house. But the wasps don’t seem to mess with the blind nearly as much as they do a solid, wooden structure And we can take the blinds down at the end of the season to help lengthen it’s lifespan.
We had two houses that were in the right location, but needed a new structure. I mean, they were in very. Sorry. Shape. Not to mention very uncomfortable.
This video shows a platform that we completely overhauled and put an Ameristep blind on top of in place of a “permanent” house.
There is one more remodel that we hope to have accomplished before the season arrives. But this one in particular is ready to go.
There were two shooting houses overlooking BioLogic food plots that were really in the exact wrong spot. Access — in and out — was the primary concern for each house. One in fact was in the middle of the food plot; you were literally bumping deer off it every time you left after dark.
Honestly, I'm not sure what the original builder was thinking. Perhaps they didn’t want to kill any deer. (I jest, but seriously)
On Field 10, we built a platform with an Ameristep blind on it that is now directly adjacent to the access road. Now you can slip out of the house and get down the road without deer seeing you, even if they are feeding in the field. This particular spot will now require a specific wind, but when conditions are right it could be one of the best sits on the club.
The second spot we relocated was in a bottom field covered in BioLogic Maximum. It was a beautiful food plot last year. We’ll be planting it the same way again this year.
The shooting house, however, was a mere 10 yards off the edge of the field and you had to walk across half of it to access the house. It was in the basin of the bowl-like formation of the surrounding land, meaning any forecasted wind would swirl bad, no matter what.
My daughter shot the first deer on the club last year over this food plot. It worked once, but many visits after that ended up in a goose egg. We decided to move the house back 70 yards and up the hill. The new position will allow for better scent control as the wind is much more consistent in that spot, and access is 100-precent better.
We’re very excited about both spots now. They are completely revamped with new platforms and blinds in locations that will reduce human presence and scent dispersion.
More to come…
About the author: Thomas Allen calls central Alabama home, where he lives with his beloved wife, Kathryn, and two growing children, Tommy and Taylor. Follow Thomas on Twitter: @ThomasAllenIV and Instagram: ThomasAllen4