Layout Blind Tips and Tricks (And What Not to Do!)
By M.D. Johnson
Recently, I had the chance to sit down with Michigan’s Adam Ray and talk pre-season layout blind prep. That’s an important first step. Sooner or later, though, unless the world ends, you’re going to have to brush off that coat of mud and pack that new layout blind into the field, surround it with full-bodies or silhouettes, pour yourself a cup of coffee and get yourself ready for the game!
This week, let’s talk about getting the most out of your layout blind during the opening days of the 2023–24 waterfowl season. Some DO’S and DON’TS. Tips and tactics. Learn from my mistakes, eh? I’ve made plenty of them!
Don’t try to ‘hide’ the layout blind
What you don’t want to do is build a great big pile of “stuff” in the middle of a field, where originally there wasn’t much stuff at all.
When it comes to stubbling a layout blind, the goal is to break up the hard edges. Soften the corners and unnatural shapes. Blend it into your surroundings, even if there’s not much in the way of surroundings. Use native materials (e.g., reed canary grass, corn stubble or tumbleweeds, if they’re available). Or raffia grass, as long as the color(s) match what you’re trying to hide in or among.
Quarter the wind, if possible
Feet down in your face looks great on YouTube, but sometimes the geese don’t want to play that way. With the wind directly behind you, the birds have all the time in the world to pick your spread AND the blinds apart. Anything wrong? They’re out. Anyone moves? They’re out.
Instead, and if possible, quarter your layout blinds to the wind. This way, the birds are looking only at the decoys and not at the blinds. Yes, shots are right-to-left or left-to-right, but that’s okay. Better than no shooting at all, eh?
Don’t be afraid to move
This one, I think, goes right along with quartering the wind. If something isn’t right — if the geese favor one side of the spread or are getting to 60 yards and then sliding off — don’t hesitate to pick up the layouts and move them accordingly.
Me? I’ll reposition the blinds first, as it’s only one piece of the puzzle and it’s easy. A lot of times that’s the ticket; if that doesn’t fix it, I’ll start working on the spread block by block until things fall into place. But do NOT be shy about moving if/when the birds tell you to move.
Depression(s) are your friend
Here, when I say “depression,” I’m talking any variation in topography, no matter how small or how slight. A six-inch-deep bowl where the ground has sunk just a little, and I’m putting my layout blind there — if it makes sense.
If I have to, and I have permission from the landowner, I’m pulling out my E-Tool (that’s a military entrenching tool or shovel for you millennials) and scraping out a hollow just deep enough to lower half the height of my blind. Anything to lower the profile, which theoretically isn’t much more than 12 to 16 inches.
Practice mounting the gun
So I’ll be honest here. I’ve written a hundred times advising ’fowlers to practice, practice, practice shooting from the confines of a layout blind. Do it before you take it out into the field and discover — UGH! — you can’t shoot very well from a layout blind. Then practice and get better.
Take it into the field during the summer and shoot clays from it. Have I done it myself? Well, no. No, I haven’t. But in my defense, and at the risk of sounding the braggart, I shoot damn well from a semi-reclining position. Don’t know why; just do. That said, it never ever hurts to practice this art. Shooting from a reclining position isn’t natural, so the more you do it (i.e., practice), the better you’ll get.