I began hunting in the 1980's and camouflage choices basically consisted of military camo or the original Treebark® pattern. Although both helped in certain situations, I spent many hours in the woods thinking about how to hide better. The trees, the forest floor and the brush piles all had their own unique colors. The idea of having to be right next to a tree to blend in was too limiting. That's when two ideas came to me. First I thought, if only there was a way to take a photograph of a habitat and apply that image to the clothing. The modern camouflage revolution and vast array of photo-realistic patterns remind me every day that I missed the gravy train on that one. The other idea was to use a mirror. If a large mirror could somehow be held up in front of a hunter, the image seen by an approaching animal would exactly match that of the surroundings. Although the idea was promising, several problems troubled me. How do you carry a mirror big enough to hide behind but light enough to actually use? What about the sun's glare? How do you keep the approaching animal from seeing itself?
I was recently introduced to The ShadowShield, a line of portable, mirrored blinds. I have to admit when I first heard about them, I had those same feelings about missing the gravy train but when I got my hands on the Predator version I was excited to find out if it worked as good as it sounded and how the inventor, Steve Prock, overcame my twenty-year-old questions.
The Predator version of The ShadowShield is a three-piece design intended for stationary hunting. The first thing I noticed when I opened the box was the old-fashioned "military" camouflage pattern on the carrying case. This was actually a plus in my book, as it meant that Steve wasn't wasting money paying licensing fees for fancy camouflage on a carrying case. After all, it is just a carrying case and less cost for him means less cost for the consumer. He didn't however skimp on the construction of the case. It is made of heavy duty material that secures the blind and protects it against damage. Thick, nylon straps with sturdy buckles are used to close the case and for the attached, adjustable shoulder straps. With a weight of only 5 lbs., The ShadowShield Predator blind is carried comfortably as a backpack and almost forgotten until you are ready to use it.
As with most people, I will not use a product very often that is difficult to setup. The ShadowShield Predator couldn't be much easier. The three rectangular, mirrored pieces slide together quickly by inserting the plastic male ends into the aluminum female ends. Once the base is assembled, the optional headpiece and viewing port can be attached to the top by sliding it onto the aluminum frame. To hold the blind up, a pair of "legs" is unfolded on each side. Total unpacking and assembly time: about 30 seconds. Disassembling the blind is just as easy and just as quick. For the setup-call-move, setup-call-move sequence of predator hunting, The ShadowShield Predator makes the setup portion almost effortless.
So, how did Steve tackle those mirror-blind obstacles? He knew that using an actual mirror would be too heavy and too fragile to be practical, so the product is actually made of highly reflective acrylic with a lightweight aluminum frame. The glare from the sun and the potential to scare an approaching animal with its own reflection were both reduced by simply incorporating adjustable legs that allow you to tilt the blind slightly forward. When tilted at the proper angle, your prey is within a few yards of the blind if he sees his reflection and you should have already pulled the trigger.
The ShadowShield Predator looked like a good idea and setup easily, but most importantly did it work? My wife was subjected to my first test. She doesn't spend a lot of time in the woods, so I wanted to test her in an environment she was used to seeing. I noticed she was getting ready to leave the house, so I hurried outside and quickly setup the blind in the front yard with no trees around and the only cover being four-inch grass. When she came out the door, I spoke to her from a distance of about 30 yards but she could not figure out where I was until I peeked around the blind.
Test one succeeded, so I then placed the blind in a variety of habitats. All of the photos below were taken within 30 yards of the blind. As you can see, since the image on the blind is not a manufacturer's "all-purpose" camouflage and is instead an actual reflection of the immediate surroundings, it blends in better than anything else.
Although The ShadowShield Predator is an innovative, exciting, very effective product, there are a few minor considerations to overcome and possible improvements that could be made. Since it is a small, flat blind, any animal approaching from the side or behind will not see the camouflaging reflection and will be more likely to spot your hiding spot. Wearing camouflage clothing that closely matches your surroundings and tucking yourself into a brush pile or patch of tall grass will help but not eliminate the problem. The backside, frame and fold-out legs of The ShadowShield Predator are silver in color which does not help the situation. No camouflage pattern would match all hunting situations, but silver doesn't match any of them. Some sort of dull color or pattern on the back, frame and legs would decrease the non-desirable visibility of the shiny surfaces. The small size of The ShadowShield Predator makes portability easy, but when using a fold-up turkey seat the top of my chest and shoulders stuck out above the blind. This was easily eliminated by sitting on the ground, but a couple more inches of height on the blind would allow us six-footers to use a seat and be a little more comfortable. It is possible to position the legs so that the blind sits higher off of the ground, but then you run the risk in terrain with short or no vegetation of an approaching animal spotting movement in the gap underneath the blind.
Despite the trivial enhancements on my wish list for The ShadowShield Predator, Steve Prock has come up with a product that truly revolutionizes blind hunting in many situations. When you know which direction the game is coming from, like to setup quickly, want to disappear into the habitat and become virtually invisible, The ShadowShield Predator would be hard to beat. Although this particular model carries the name Predator, it certainly isn't limited to that use. If you are going to be gun hunting it should work equally as well for deer, turkey and any other ground-dwelling critters. When I head out this season, I don't see myself leaving it at home. It is too easy to use and too effective to not carry along. In the mean time, if I get in the doghouse at home I can use it to hide out in the front yard until my wife forgets what I did to get myself in trouble.
The ShadowShield Predator is available at www.theshadowshield.com  for $160 plus shipping and handling. A 4 ½ foot ShadowShield Sport model is also available that can be used for stalking game. The aluminum-framed acrylic can be purchased separately for those do-it-yourself types that want to make their own blind with a lightweight frame.
Larry R. Beckett Jr. is a full time freelance writer, photographer and videographer. His greatest joy is spending time fishing, hunting and hiking with his wife and son. Larry discovered his enthusiasm for the outdoors at a young age and devotes much of his time trying to instill that same enthusiasm in future generations.