How to hide with a blind: 5 waterfowler tips for blending in better
By M.D. Johnson
This is the second article in a two-part series focused on solving the common pitfalls of waterfowler hiding. If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out part 1: How to hide on the hunt.
Hiding from ’fowl — especially wary, been-there-seen-that late-season ducks and geese — isn’t hard. But it can be challenging. It can be frustrating. It can be work. It’s not a task for lazy folks.
We’ve already talked a little about why a bird might shy away from a blind — specifically when that blind has been overwhelmed by brush and stubble. But that’s not the only reason your hide might not be working.
Hiding with a blind? Here are five tips to help you hide better and solve your concealment dilemma:
Check out your hide
It’s imperative, once you think you have your hide complete, that you try to look at it as much from the birds’ perspective as possible.
Do I know guys who evaluate their blind(s) pre-hunt with the use of a drone? Yes, I do. Would I do that, even if I had a drone? I would not. Being that anal about your hide is fine — I’m not poking fun. But I don’t go quite to that extent.
What I do is stand back at a distance and check out my handiwork. Does my blind blend into the setting well? Are there unnatural shadows? Is it too dark? Too much stubble? I really give it the once-over. Then, if something’s out of place, I fix it.
Quarter the wind
Sure, it looks great on YouTube: Mallards in your face. Geese in your face. Wind at your back. Everything working right into the blind. Straight into the camera.
And it does. It looks awesome. And it works. Sometimes.
Me? If I’m going to hide with a blind, I’m partial to setting it — be it layout, A-Frame, Aquapod, or what have you — to quarter both the wind and the decoy spread. Rather, instead of the birds approaching the decoys/blind from straight downwind, they’re working the spread from left to right or right to left with the wind.
This way (in theory), they’re looking at nothing but decoys as they work. The blind(s) are off to one side and out of the picture. For me, such a quartering-to setup works for two reasons: One, I would much rather shoot side-to-side than at oncoming birds. And two, this quartering-to setup allows for a margin of error on the hunters’ behalf. You have guys with you who can’t hide? Who fidget? Who won’t keep their doors shut or their faces hidden? This helps.
Use the sun
No, you can’t control Mother Nature. Some days she gives us clouds; other days, sun. Me, and for ducks over water, I’ll take a good sunny day. That seems contrary to what’s thought of as “good duck weather,” but let me explain.
On a gray, cloudy day, those mallards can look down and surgically pick apart a blind. It’s easy. Don’t forget — ’fowl have tremendous eyesight.
A sunny day, however, is all about the glare. Oh, they can hear the call. And they catch flashes of decoys here and there — which, by the way, simply look black now — but they’re partially blinded by the sun’s glare on the water. They can’t see. Or at least they can’t see you. So put the sun behind you and your blind, if possible. Better for it to be in the birds’ eyes than your own.
Refresh, refresh, refresh
I have a friend down in Tennessee who spends most of his duck season in Arkansas. Bill and his cohorts have several different permanent blinds scattered around a couple different parcels of leased property.
Long before their season begins, he and his pals cut brush for their blinds. Not a unique practice, but what might come as a surprise is that they cut enough for each blind so as to have plenty to refresh the hides throughout the season. The extra is stored out of sight, yet nearby, and allowed to age/brown like both the blind brush and the surrounding live vegetation.
Mid-season, Bill and his friends can easily touch up their blinds using stuff that’s not only handy, but also matches what’s already in use. Smart.
Great for a permanent blind, yes. But what about a boat? Or layout blind? Or other portable device?
On any and all three, I’m constantly refreshing the natural material. When the bunch grass gets off-color, it’s time for a change. When the cattails on the ’Pod get ratty, leaving too many of the lines uncovered and visible, it’s time to refresh.
Hiding with a blind is all about stepping back, looking things over and then taking the time to make it right. To cover it up. Blend it in. And that’s the key — blend. Don’t obscure. Don’t construct a secondary blind over the first using 45 acres of reed canary grass. Sometimes blending in is as easy as carefully slapping a thin coat of mud over the hull of your Aquapod and tucking it into the tideline. Nothing tough about that, is there?
How to hide with a blind — final thoughts on different types
I’ve rambled enough. Let’s make this brief. Here are a few different kinds of blinds and what I like (or don’t like) about each.
My favorite kind of blind. If I can hunker in the cattails, crouch in a fenceline, wiggle into some ’berry bushes or simply hide in the shadows alongside a big ol’ cottonwood, that suits me just fine.
This is a love/hate relationship. Ghillie suits are incredible portable blinds, BUT ghillie suits are a bugger to shoot out of because you’re always catching something on something as you move to mount the gun. Maybe I need to practice more, as they can be tremendously effective.
I spend a lot of time in layout blinds from September through early March. Personally, I’m partial to a full-frame layout; there’s simply more room, especially when the weather turns, and you’ve bulked up with clothing. My go-to layout is an Avery/Banded Ground Force, however there are dozens of great layouts on the market today.
I’ve lived in apartments that were smaller than Fred Zink’s original A-Frame blind, but the damn thing works. Yes, it’s situational. But where it works, it works ridiculously well. And there’s just something about sitting in a comfortable folding chair, drinking coffee in front of a small propane heater that’s … well, nice for us poor ol’ duck hunters.
Meet M.D. Johnson
Originally from Ohio, M.D. Johnson, and his wife/business partner, Julia, spent 18 years in Iowa before relocating to her native Washington state in 2015. A full-time freelance outdoor writer since 1992, Johnson, with the photographic assistance of his wife, has authored and illustrated six full-length books, including three on waterfowl hunting. Today, The Johnsons reside in Wahkiakum County, where they both enjoy a 107-day duck season, salmon fishing, and everything the wonderful Pacific Northwest has to offer. Oh, and if you ask, M.D. will tell you he prefers 16 gauge doubles to anything else.
Read more from M.D. on Slayer’s Blog: