How to hide on the hunt: 3 common hunting pitfalls and how to fix them
By M.D. Johnson
You ready for some reality? Hunting — without hiding — is a waste of time. So why aren’t you hiding?
In most cases, you’re lazy. You’ve grown complacent. That’s common pitfall No. 1. Despite the birds telling you otherwise (literally flock after flock after flock either sliding off or, worse, flaring wildly), you’ve chosen to ignore the fact that something might be amiss.
Fortunately, laziness and complacency is easy to fix: Don’t be lazy. Understand that you’re doing this purely for recreational reasons. The birds, on the other hand? To them, this is serious business. If something doesn’t look right, they’re going to find somewhere else to feed or loaf. And trust me — there’s plenty of great loafing puddles in the area.
Granted, sometimes the location doesn’t offer much in the way of a good hide. I have a pasture field not far from the house that’s a prime example. I’d say it’s about 40 acres of short-cropped green grass, without a single hump, divot, weedline or shrub in sight. Think putting green, and you’re getting close. The geese love it, but for two straight seasons, I haven’t known how to hide well enough to hunt it with great success.
I’ve tried layout blinds. I’ve tried ghillie suits. I’ve tried hiding among the decoys while wearing a ghillie suit. Nothing has worked so far. One morning, though, while lying among the decoys not shooting anything and watching the cows, I had a revelation: cows. The bane of all field goose hunters.
I thought, These walking burgers might actually be an asset. What if I took two lengths of easily bendable ½-inch PVC, angle-cut the ends, bent them into a half-hoop and stuck ’em in the ground? Over the top, I’d drape a black felt cloth with white blotches painted on it. For $12, I can buy a latex cow head mask on Amazon. I put the mask on a lightweight pole in front of my PVC/felt “cow,” and voila! An effective, albeit tremendously homely bovine blind. Will it work? We’ll know next month.
My point here is this: Sometimes you have to be innovative when considering how to hide. Continuing to hunt a difficult area without trying out a creative solution is pitfall No. 2. There will be times when you can’t dig a hole or build a traditional box-style blind — times when Mother Nature provides nothing to hide in, behind, under or alongside. You may look at your surroundings and have absolutely zero idea how to hide. It is possible to overcome those hurdles. But what you cannot be is lazy. Get lazy, and you’ll go home empty-handed.
The third pitfall I see is typically to do with the blind itself. Or rather, what you’ve done to it. I’ve seen a lot over the 47 years I’ve been playing around in the water with plastic ducks. So I’d feel safe saying that in 75% of bad blind situations, the problem lies in too much as opposed to too little. In other words, hunters get overzealous when it comes to incorporating brush into the blind.
I see this a lot in situations involving layout blinds. And it’s understandable. It’s human nature to want to “hide” the blind with blind material; that is, make the hide invisible with sticks, grass, cattails, tumbleweeds, wheat stubble or what have you.
What’s wrong with that? Well, think of it this way: You’ve either built or purchased a blind (e.g., a layout blind) to hide you and your gear. Now you get into the field and envelope it in so much natural vegetation that it looks out of place. It looks unnatural. It’s now a $250 very obvious blob of something that really shouldn’t be there. Ducks see this. Geese see this. And they fly away.
The key to using brush or stubble is to go light, but not too light. Layout blinds, box blinds, boat blinds — they’re all the same. They all have straight lines and 90 degree corners that aren’t found in the natural environment. What you’re trying to do, then, with stubble and brush, is break up those lines and corners. To eliminate the box, so to speak. That, and no more.
Looking for some other solutions to remedy a bad hide? Check out the second article in this two-part series: How to hide with a blind.
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:
- Target acquired: Everything you need to know to hunt widgeon
- The ‘Skinny’ on Silhouette Decoys
- Duck Identification: Part 1 & Part 2
- A hunter’s guide to waterfowl guns and ammo