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Banding Together for Waterfowl

The Lowdown on Layout Hunting

Modern layout boats and coffin blinds have revolutionized waterfowling in open-water environments. Here's how to make the most of these deadly forms of concealment
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The Deadly Coffin Blind

Despite the versatility of layout boats, nothing beats a coffin blind for concealing hunters on the edges of wetlands and in extremely shallow water. Built without a keel, coffin blinds are designed to rest on the bottom below the water level rather than to float. This gives coffins an even lower profile than layout boats.

An expert in the use of coffin blinds is goose and duck calling champion and outfitter Kelly Powers of Union City, Tennessee. A member of the Drake Waterfowl Systems pro-staff, Powers has hunted ducks with the patented Stakeout blind in many areas of the United States and Canada. Powers says the blind is especially effective for hunting flooded agricultural fields. "After a big rain, ducks love to feed in sheet water in harvested grain fields," he says. "There usually isn't enough cover to hunt these shallow areas with a traditional blind, and since you can't lie down in the water, you need something to hide you and keep you dry. Coffin blinds allow you to do it."

He also likes the mobility provided by coffin blinds. "To have consistent success, you have to be able to hunt the areas that ducks are using on that particular day," Powers contends. "Coffin blinds are small and light enough to be transported in the back of a pickup or by an ATV. And once you get to where you are going to hunt, you can also stow your gun, decoy bag, and other gear in the blind, and carry in all your equipment in one trip."

While hunting from coffin blinds, Powers likes to keep the number of hunters in his party to a maximum of four. "The more unnatural objects that you have sticking up out of the water, the tougher it's going to be to decoy ducks," he says. "I like to put plenty of decoys downwind, so working ducks have a lot of birds to look at instead of my blind."

"But you should also set your decoys according to the wind conditions," he adds. "I usually put a good little group of decoys right at my feet and then scatter several smaller groups to the sides and downwind. The harder the wind is blowing, the closer you want to set your decoys. On calm days, you should put your decoys farther out. Whenever possible, I like to put out a few field decoys on nearby patches of dry ground or mud. You always see a few mallards and pintails walking along the edges of flooded fields, and adding some field decoys to your spread provides an extra touch of realism."

Like McCauley, Powers is a stickler about camouflaging his coffin blinds as well as possible. "I cover the lids on my blind with a layer of carpet glue and then sprinkle them with a little bit of dirt and crop stubble," he says. "This is a much more subtle way to conceal a blind than piling up a bunch of stuff on top of it. I also attach bungee cords to the sides of my blind with eyelet screws and stuff them with stubble to break the blind's outline."

Coffin blinds can be further concealed by partially digging them into the mud in shallow water. "The ideal situation is to dig a hole in the mud bottom that is just deep enough for your weight to hold the blind down in the hole without it floating up," Powers says. "You can also stake down your blind to hold it down a little deeper in the water. This will get you down as far in the water as you possibly can."

As anyone who has watched thousands of mallards and pintails feeding in a flooded field or canvasbacks and scaup rafted offshore knows, waterfowl frequently gather in great numbers in open-water habitats. But until recently, many of these areas have been difficult if not impossible to hunt. By providing effective concealment in sparsely vegetated wetlands and fields, modern layout boats and coffin blinds have opened up a wealth of productive new hunting territory for waterfowlers across the continent.

Manufacturers of Layout Boats, Coffin Blinds & Accessories

Carstens (www.carstensindustries.com)

Drake Waterfowl Systems (www.drakewaterfowl.com)

Four Rivers Layout Boats (www.fourriverslayoutboats.com)

Mighty Layout Boys (www.mightylayoutboys.com)

MoMarsh (www.MoMarsh.com)

Otter Outdoors (www.otteroutdoors.com)

Ron Banks Hunting Boats (www.banksboats.com)

Quotable Layout Quotes

Positioning the boat to either the left or the right side of the spread will give layout hunters greater flexibility for shooting birds approaching the decoys. —Mark Rongers

I have learned that the key to success in duck hunting is to be exactly where the birds want to be. —Ira McCauley

I like to put plenty of decoys downwind, so working ducks have a lot of birds to look at instead of my blind. —Kelley Powers

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