Advice on Wildlife Observation Hide

I am planning on setting up a semi-permanent wildlife observation hide (shelter) on the northwest-north-facing rim of a gorge in a semi-arid landscape. about 20 feet leading up to the rim are flat and are covered with lushly shade, mature pine, and the steep descent into the gorge is prickly bushes, of the tumbleweed and perennial types, interspersed with old dead-fall wood felled by snowstorms.
What is needed is to build a very light hide, maybe a tarp sheltered corner among the pines, partly to keep curious humans from disturbing close approaches by very shy predators - desert wolves, jackals, foxes. These animals and raptors have gotten used to my presence, but maintain infrequent curiosity approaches, lacking reinforcement by my short time spent in that environment. The approach distance is just too far for any photography (I am not an expert zoom photographer).
Maybe I need a camo tarp for extended stay in that spot? Would the tarp need any special pattern, considering the vegetation, or the animals? Maybe two tarps - one stealth-oriented towards humans, and one with observation holes toward animals?
Thoughts on expedient materials?

Tarps are noisy, rip with the wind, and deteriorate in the sun. I’d use camo netting. But even better in a natural area may be to build a blind using natural materials like branches with dead leaves. You may have to re-build it often, but aren’t adding plastics to the environment.


My first question is: are you planning on setting up on private property or public land?
If you’re planning on public land use, you need to contact the land authority. In Michigan we have Department of Natural Resources and US Forest Service. They have rules on hides, blinds and stands.
Next question is expected weather. It’s cool to sit inside or under cover in some weather, but miserable if it takes a turn. And the wind direction is a huge factor for carrying your scent.
How experienced are you in sitting still and being quiet? I have difficulty with sitting still, so I do need a good shield.
My preference in blinds on public land where I do not want to leave equipment or sign of my presence would be a portable hunting blind, camouflaged appropriate for target environment. The backpack pop-up blinds work well, but practice first. And don’t forget a seat. I need a backrest to be able to stay long.
This way you can easily change placement to adjust for wind and range, packing up and not risking the loss of the tent.
If you need a preset hide, you can use natural items as suggested before. Again, checking rules. Done well, these can be ideal. Deadfall tree is a good start. Remember your comfy seat. Camo netting can help, too.
I “rough it” with a small folding chair, a blanket and umbrella (all in camo of course.) sometimes. I can easily move to accommodate wind, and view, and can still carry it all at 65.
That was how I learned to deer hunt. I use a monopod as my walking stick,but carry my camera with a “bino-buddy” harness.
Best advice is whichever technique you choose, practice your equipment before going out.
Good luck and have fun!


Assuming you have permission to use the property, or that it’s yours, etc, etc, etc.

In my experience the key thing, even more than the concealment aspect, is your ability to sit quietly with minimal movement for extended periods. That’s a whole skill in and of itself, and if you’ve mastered that then a blind is kind of a bonus.

If you have a specific field of view you’re using as your spotting area you don’t need a full shelter, all you really need is a low wall, or maybe a slightly curved one that covers you a bit from the sides. That does depends a bit on the weather though.

You mention that the area has dead-fall wood. That suggests that there are some trees there. I’d probably make as much of the blind as I could from the deadwood that’s already there, maybe placing it adjacent to one of the trees or larger bushes to provide cover front one side, and a bit overhead if the tree is tall enough.

As @williamwisephoto mentioned, tarps tend to flap and make noise, as well as have durability issues. These can be overcome with proper placement and by not leaving them up, but if it’s possible to use natural materials, or to bring some plywood out for a small roof to protect from sun and rain, I’d go with that instead.


In addition to the advice here about materials, think about direction of light, time of day you’ll be there, and how best to orient your view. Sounds like you already considered that by pointing your blind to the NNW. Also consider what obstacles might block your view or create shade before positioning your blind.


I do not know if this would meet your needs, but an acquaintance uses a camo ghilley suit for observing nature on preserves. Historically, they were used by foresters in Scotland, now used by the military. She said hers, which is made for hunters, is made from polyester, so it can get hot in direct sunlight. It looks like a loose hooded jumpsuit, with strips of camo fabric of varying lengths, sewn all over it.


Excellent idea! They also come as ponchos, which would also cover equipment. Another plus could be protection from insects, instead of repellent. Check material for noise! If you can hear it, animals can too.
Also if you go with a blind and use netting or such material, the wind can easily whip and tear and flap. This can be very disturbing and may easily happen, keep in mind if you leave it there.
Edit, adding: You can make a roll-up blind with netting or material stapled to stakes that would be easy to carry and set up. You can add local sticks/leaves/branches to fill in.
So many affordable options that are easy.


The land belongs to the State, and this observation activity is fine with the rangers and police as long as no plants or no animals get destroyed, there’s no fire source, and no drug activity or holding celebration with minors.
Gillie suits and camo BDUs attract attention here. Wearing beige, yellow, green is fine with the nature and the authorities.
The flapping tarp issue can be addressed by making it out of a bedsheet, it seems to me. Except it still needs to match the terrain.
So the crucial element is a good seat and being motionless. I have tried that, for 20-30 min at a time, long enough not to spook the shy wildlife. I think I can fashion a good chair out of the deadwood.
The NNW orientation is not my choice, but the direction to the spot where predators and raptors frequent.
It’s very cramped under the shade of a pine tree. By the time the arid weather sets in, the branches accumulate desert dust, which is scratchy.
If one were to sit with least motion for hours (never done more than 1), in the shade, the heat in the 90s deg F, humidity 20-40%, what would be water intake?

1 Like

There are plenty of ready made photography blinds out there. They are essentially a small camouflaged tent with adjustments made with wildlife photographers in mind. An even more portable option is a photography bag hide which is essentially a cross between a tent and a poncho.

Since you want to avoid spooking cautious predators you should also consider your scent. Depending on the wind direction coyotes, foxes etc. will catch your scent long before they see anything suspicious.


I might have set the canines at ease by urinating in a particular rock pile. I think they’ve been approaching my location closer than the the pile. The observation hide is the logical next step. That’s why I suspect there’s a need for two different tarps, one a light and matching my look, for the predators confidence, and a real camouflage, to maintain stealth from dog walkers, hitchhikers, other loud picnickers.

1 Like

what type of a household material can be used to make camo netting?

You could use chicken wire and then camouflage it with branches and other veg material. You’d need a wooden frame of some sort, maybe from branches found on-site. I don’t recommend the flimsy plastic netting as used to cover fruit trees because animals can get tangled in it.

1 Like


1 Like

This sounds very workable.thanks.

Wire or burlap, something like that I do have. Thanks.

Even more basic clothing advice: I can pass along some more information that I learned from watching hawk nests for a number of years. For whatever reason, when I wore my black hooded sweatshirt with the hood up, the hawks seemed relaxed. If I approached a nest without the hood on, the hawks were nervous. My only guess is that, without the hood, my human form was evident. The hood blocked that or gave me a more blob-like shape. Maybe it hid my face, as well.


I’d say it makes sense. During the cold rainy winter I wore rain parkas which disguised my shirt which is usually plaid or striped.
Do you think raptors prefer rainy and cold weather? Something to do with rodents feeling the false sense of security and venturing out?
I don’t know exactly which raptors I am encountering, but they are on the smallish size, one has black eyes, the other one light brown or yellow, as far as I can tell through binoculars.

That’s an interesting theory about rodents and the weather. But, I think some prey animals just get careless, wander out there they are visible and don’t pay attention to what’s going on around them making them easy targets. Birds of prey will hunt in just about all but the most severe weather. Hawks that soar, like red-tailed hawks, can’t soar high up in the sky when it cloudy or rainy. But, they will perch near a field to find prey. But, I have also seen them hunting on the ground in a grassy field on sunny days catching grasshoppers. I think they go where they know they can find food.

1 Like

the slope I am describing is almost 45 deg descent into the gorge, covered with sparse brush, small tree trunks, stopping larger objects from tumbling all the way down. All that live and old vegetable matter is a system of perches for the raptors. Maybe they are buteos, and smaller than the juiciest possible prey being rock hyraxes. The hyraxes are unlike the weary skittish rodents, and I see them staring at me for long time while way off in the distance a jackal is looking at the two of us, and a bird of prey is hovering above.

That’s quite a scene you are describing!

You need to consult a field guide that covers your area to get an identification for that raptor. You are obviously in Africa somewhere if you are seeing jackals and hyraxes.

1 Like