By Bill Buckley
If hunting around the country has taught me anything, it's that not all blinds are created equal. I've sat in structures so bereft of camouflage, or so difficult to shoot from, that bagging a duck was nearly impossible. I've also hunted from blinds where the birds were so clueless I almost felt guilty pulling the trigger. To build a blind that will keep you well concealed and comfortable in the marsh, consider these tips from veteran waterfowlers Spencer Halford and Brook Richard.
Location, Location, Location
Because a permanent blind is by definition something you can't pick up and move, choose its location carefully. Where do the birds typically want to go, and under what conditions? What are the birds' flight patterns? From which direction will they likely approach the decoys?
Next, think sun and wind. To ensure that you and your hunting partners won't be staring into the rising sun, never face your blind east. Bird identification and shooting will suffer, and your faces—plus any deficiencies in concealment—will stand out. If the wind blows predominantly from the west in your area, face the blind north or south, favoring the birds' preferred flight path. Spencer Halford, owner of Rolling Thunder Game Calls, likes to build his blinds on points of land because they can be hunted in two or three different wind directions. That said, no blind will be perfect in all conditions.
Hide Your Blind Brook
Richard, who is corporate relations manager for Higdon Outdoors, says that while being in the right spot is important, hunters shouldn't lose sight of the fact that concealment is a blind's primary job. "The main consideration for me when I'm building a blind is ‘Can I hide it?' I look for natural features that will be taller than the blind, so the structure will sit in the shade when the sun is up," Richard says. "Shade hides a lot of imperfections. If I have to choose between being in the best place for ducks or in the best cover, I'll take the cover every time."
Natural vegetation provides the best concealment. Although artificial camouflage materials such as FastGrass and KillerWeed work well as a base layer, you'll want to finish covering the blind with vegetation from the surrounding area. Halford recommends using a hedge trimmer to cut tall grass or weeds—but not near the blind—that can then be zip-tied and "stuffed and fluffed" vertically on the exterior of the blind. If you hunt in an area with oak trees, fully leafed branches can provide excellent camouflage, but cut them prior to first frost—the leaves will stay on longer. Halford covers his blinds with tumbleweeds, a common feature of the landscape in his area, which provide three-dimensional concealment.
To safely and comfortably accommodate four hunters, Richard builds his blinds 12 feet wide, with an allowance of 36 inches per hunter. For a stand-and-shoot blind, he counts on the tallest hunter being a little over six feet tall, then adds another foot of clearance. In areas where the cover is short, he builds his blinds with a roof just high enough for hunters to shoot while seated on comfortable folding chairs. To keep retrievers hidden and safely out of the way, Richard builds his blinds with two dog boxes—one on either end. The finishing touches include a propane heater for especially cold mornings and battery-operated lights for predawn activities.
The More the Merrier
Richard doesn't keep all his eggs in one basket when it comes to his duck-blind options. In other words, having two or even three blinds is always better than one. "While I might build one blind facing west for migration days with strong north winds, I have two or three others oriented for different winds," Richard says. "If you build only two blinds, have them set up for opposite wind directions; then you'll always have options."