I know how many of you feel. I used to hunt waterfowl wearing head-to-toe camo and laying in the edges of fields, hoping the birds would get close enough for me to take a shot. Early in the year, they often did, but after they got wise, our success rates dropped like the stock market.
I often thought that if I just had a layout blind, it would be perfect, so I bought the first one I could afford out of college, not paying attention to any of the features it had. Guess what? My success rates took an even bigger hit. The blind wasn’t working and I wasn’t working the blind. So I went back to the beginning.
There are quite a few blinds out there. Select the one that is going to fit you and your needs. If you have a store that has a good display, go and try out as many as you can before you buy. Make sure the blind fits you physically and is comfortable.
“You’re not going to want to lay out in a blind all day if it is uncomfortable,” said John Vaca, pro-staff manager for Final Approach. “Pay less attention to the price tag and more attention to how the blind fits you before you buy it. It’ll pay off in the long run.”
So you’ve picked the right blind and bought it. You get it home and put it together and admire how pretty it is. That’s great. Don’t put it away now and plan to go hunting.
“I tell people to that they need to practice taking it apart and putting it together a bunch of times before they even think of going hunting,” Vaca said. “Just because you can set it up in your basement, doesn’t mean you can do it when it’s zero degrees out and pitch black. Set it up until it is second nature and you can comfortable and quickly set it up with little light and no instructions.”
Also try taking the blind outside and practice getting up out of it and shooting. Shooting clays off your porch is one thing; sitting up and shooting birds from a blind in the field is another.
Next step is to muddy up the blind. That camo pattern you picked out is great, but the process used to make that pattern on the fabric and make it waterproof and mildew-resistant makes for some shiny fabric. Muddy it up. I like to make a slurry of mud with some clay mixed in and paint my blinds when new. I let them sit in the sun until dry and then I knock the dried dirt off.
You also want to take the edges off by using some kind of material to create depth. There should be stubble straps on the blinds for using native vegetation and make the blind look natural to the surroundings. You can augment this with artificial vegetation, such as Whoopgrass or Stubble Ropes.
“You want to take the edge off your blind with pre-fabricated blind materials,” said Vaca. “This dramatically saves time and energy when setting up. You don’t want to be that one guy whose blind isn’t ready when the birds are flying. If your blind stands out, it can flare the birds and ruin your day.”
Place your blind in the area that will present the best opportunity to be successful. This may not be where you think it is, though.
“Far too often, hunters think they have to place the blinds right in the landing zone they’ve set up with the decoys,” said Vaca. “The problem is, sometimes that isn’t the best spot. Yeah, you might not have birds dropping at your feet with cupped wings and feet down, but a good passing shot might be 20 yards further up the spread and you don’t have the blinds sitting there spooking the birds.”
Sometimes putting the blind in what seems like the best spot isn’t the right move. Let the birds dictate where they will go and set yourself accordingly to get the most birds coming in and committing to the spot. Sometimes a blind looks unnatural enough that it will spook a wary bird, even though everything looks right to you.