Duck blinds run the gamut of sizes, designs and features, based on the whims and resources of their owners. Some are very basic, while others are elaborate. I once built a blind with a flush toilet. A friend constructed a pit blind with a rec room complete with pool table and wide-screen TV. Another friend converted a small houseboat into a “floating island” for hunting along sloughs on the Mississippi River. He and his partners slept inside, cooked breakfast in the galley, then stepped outside to shoot along the rail.
However, fanciness and effectiveness have no correlation in designing and building duck blinds. It’s not that fancy blinds can’t be effective, but effective blinds certainly don’t have to be fancy. In fact, one of the best blinds I ever built in terms of fooling ducks was an afterthought that a buddy and I threw together one afternoon with materials costing less than $40.
We’d obtained hunting rights to a flooded grain field bordering the Obion River in west Tennessee. This river is a natural flyway between two refuges in this duck-rich wintering ground. When conditions are right, mallards funnel up this bottom like honeybees swarming a new hive.
My partners and I planned on hunting from a large floating blind in the middle of the field. We’d built, delivered and off-loaded the blind on dry ground earlier that fall. However, as the season drew near, normal rains failed to come, and we didn’t have the capability to pump water. Just prior to opening day our blind was still high and dry on the edge of the field. We did have some water in the lower swags, and ducks were using them, but the blind was a long way from the birds.
So, we built a temporary blind in the best hole the afternoon before opening morning. The result was one of the simplest, most effective setups from which I’ve hunted.
We purchased materials from the local farmers co-op:
- Six wooden fence posts
- 12 yards of woven fencing wire
- One 4x8-foot sheet of ½-inch plywood
- 1 lb. of framing nails
- One package of black cable ties.
Required tools included a sledgehammer, standard hammer, ax, chain saw and wire cutters.
First, we positioned the blind where we’d seen most of the mallards working. Prevailing winds in this area blow from the southwest and northwest, so we faced the blind to the northeast. Ducks gliding in on the former wind would offer a head-on shot; on the latter wind, a right-to-left crossing shot. Also, facing northeast, we didn’t have to worry about looking into the sun.
We began construction by driving three fence posts into the mud (ends sharpened with the ax) in a straight line with a spacing of 4 feet between each post. Then we drove the other three posts in a parallel line 4 feet behind the first line. The result was a six-post rectangle, 8 feet long by 4 feet wide.
Next, we cut the posts off 4 feet high with the chainsaw. Then we encased the frame with the hog wire, stretching and nailing the wire into the posts as we unrolled it. We left one end unnailed for entry/exit. Adding the wire provided form and strength to our blind, tying all the posts together.
Next, we cut small bushy oak trees around the edge of the field and stood them up around the blind to totally conceal the posts and wire. We secured the little trees to the wire with cable ties. We also arranged the trees in front and back, so limbs intermeshed over the top of the blind, providing overhead cover for the shooting stations.
Finally, we sawed the plywood sheet in half to use as a makeshift floor. We simply laid the plywood atop the mud, and our weight pushed it a couple of inches into the gumbo. This provided a solid base for our folding stools and for standing to shoot. We still had water up to our ankles, but our insulated rubber boots warded off any discomfort or inconvenience.
Our final touch was driving a couple of nails into each post to serve as hangers for shell bags, binoculars and other accessories we needed to keep out of the water.
With this setup, we were able to hunt exactly where the ducks wanted to work. By wearing full camo and keeping still in the shadows of the oak branches, we were hidden from their overhead searching eyes. For two weeks – until the water finally came up to float our big blind - we enjoyed some wonderful shooting in this setup. After a couple of swings, most ducks were convinced all was safe, and they fell right into the spread.
A big, feature-filled blind might be more comfortable to hunt from, but a thrown-together temporary blind can certainly be as effective, or more so, than its lavish counterpart. Good location and camouflage are the requisites for a successful blind. Anything beyond that is icing on the cake!