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Banding Together for Waterfowl

Ground Game - Layout Blinds

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  • photo by Avery Outdoors
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By Wade Bourne

Lightweight, portable layout blinds provide effective concealment in a variety of waterfowl habitats

It was one of those spots where ducks wanted to be—the point of an island bordering a main river channel on a reservoir. Whenever a freeze forced the birds out of surrounding ponds and shallow wetlands, they headed for the lake. Invariably, some would raft up around the point, which was a mudflat covered with short yellow grass.

A duck-hunting friend who had observed this behavior decided to try to hunt the point when the next cold front blew in. He and his son boated to the point, tossed out some decoys, and unloaded a couple of ground blinds. The boy walked the boat down the shoreline while his dad grassed the layout blinds. The two crawled in and began their wait for mallards, which weren’t long in coming.

Layout blinds enable hunters to hide in open spaces where ducks and geese feed or loaf. These lightweight portable blinds were developed mainly for goose hunting in fields, allowing hunters to scout for a field where the birds are feeding in the afternoon and then set up there early the next morning. Used in this manner, layout blinds are extremely effective, which explains their popularity among field hunters.

But these blinds are more versatile than many hunters realize. While perfect for dry fields, layout blinds can be equally effective in other settings. They allow hunters to virtually disappear around potholes, ponds, sandbars, beaver sloughs, streams, and many other waterfowl haunts. They can also be equipped with waterproof liners to hunt in sheet water in marshes or flooded agricultural fields.

Here’s how four resourceful waterfowl hunters combine mobility and creativity to use layout blinds in a variety of settings. Follow their lead and you will find that these blinds can open up a new world of hunting opportunities.

Sandbars

During extreme cold spells, Clint Roby of Brunswick, Missouri, shifts his hunting to sandbars on the nearby Missouri River. When the area’s shallow waters freeze, ducks and geese feed in dry fields and then hit the river to loaf during midday.

“We use low-profile, sand-colored layout blinds on the sandbars, usually setting them right at the water’s edge,” Roby says. “We space the blinds close enough to put one or wo decoys between them. If the sand isn’t frozen, we may dig the blinds in several inches to lower their profile.”

Roby hides the blinds among goose decoys, setting up to four dozen full-bodies around the blinds and as many as six dozen sleeper shells at the water’s edge. Then he tosses four dozen duck decoys into the shallows just off the sandbar.

If driftwood or other cover is available, Roby uses it to further conceal his layout blinds, but he uses only cover that is natural to the hunting spot (no netting or grass mats). “If at all possible, I’ll set up with the wind at my back or side,” Roby adds. “I also like having the sun at my back. This really helps keep incoming birds from seeing me.”

Roby won’t get on the river until after breakfast. “I’ll go out around midmorning. If the weather is really miserable, the birds won’t move until midday,” he explains.

This style of hunting on sandbars can be extremely effective. “It comes down to how much you put into it, especially scouting,” Roby says. “The more you use your binoculars, the better your hunting will be.”

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