Back when I first started field hunting for geese and ducks, we didn’t have layout blinds. It’s not that they weren’t available, we just couldn’t afford them. A pit blind was out of the question too, as where I lived, they were illegal. So we camo-ed up the best we could and would pull brushed-up sheets of burlap over ourselves for concealment. We did pretty well, to be honest. But I still wonder how much better those early hunts would have been had we had the cash for some blinds.
So here you are now. You’ve gone and got yourself a bright, shiny new layout blind. Maybe you were like me when I started hunting and have worked your way to affording a blind. Good deal. Layouts are more comfortable to hunt from, and they do a better job at concealing you from the birds. As the season goes on, and those birds are getting shot at more, the more concealment you can get, the better.
So what do you do with your blind now that you have it? Good question. There are some good instructions in the box about putting it together, but there’s a lot more to it than that. You can’t just throw the thing together and hope it magically works the first morning in the field. You’ve got some serious setup work to do, but don’t worry. It’s actually kind of fun!
Many years ago, I was working my way through college behind the counter at a local sporting goods store. Every year, the day or even the night before the firearm deer season would open, some guy would come in and buy a shiny new deer rifle. He’d buy a scope and I’d mount and bore-sight it for him. Without fail, he’d buy only one box of ammo too, because he was planning to go hunting the next morning. Yeah, without sighting the rifle in, or even shooting it first. I’d ask where these guys were hunting, so I could be far away from them. And without fail, at least half of them would come back in and demand the rifle be returned or fixed because they either missed the deer or just hated the gun for some reason. I know you’d never do that with a gun yourself, but you also don’t want to do it with your blind.
First things first. Take your new blind out of the box and set it up in your house or yard, if it is nice and warm out. A blind like the Hard Core Man Cave is made of a very heavy-duty nylon material that is going to be stiff and hard to work with at first. Let it warm up first. Take your time and set it up slowly.
Let it sit in the yard for a day or three. Hard Core’s Mike Galloway, who designed the Man Cave blind, said he tells everyone to let the sun bleach out some of the shine of the fabric. Part of the problem when using heavy nylon fabrics to make blinds is that we want to buy something that is going to last for years of hunting. To do this, the fabrics get treatments to resist rot and tears. We also want them to look good, so we buy blinds in camo patterns like Realtree’s MAX-4. It looks great and helps us be more successful in the field, but all of these treatments together make for, you guessed it, a shiny new blind. You’re not going to hurt or damage your blind by letting it sit out in the elements for a few days, Galloway said. In fact, the next step goes way beyond letting the blind get a little sun.
Remember when you were a kid, how much fun it was to play in the mud? Well now you get to do it again. Galloway suggests taking a bucket and mixing up a good slurry of mud. You then take an old mop or paint brush and give your blind a good coating of nice thick mud. Let the mud dry and then shake or sweep it off. It helps take the UV edge off the blind and helps it blend in better when you’re brushing the blind in. I know it sounds weird, but it works. If you have little kids, get them to help. My kids get really happy when I bring home a new blind because they know that not only will they get a cool fort to play with in the back yard for a few days, they’ll also get to make a big mess with mud and not get yelled at. My wife, well, she used to not be as happy as the kids, but now that she’s hunting out of one of the blinds too, that’s better.
You want to do the same steps whether you’re using a camo blind or a field khaki blind. The Hard Core Man Cave comes in both, as does the HC Apprentice two-man blind. The Run-N-Gunner only comes in field khaki, but you still want to go through these same steps. You’ll want to take the same steps for the HC Dog Cave blind too.
If you know where you’re going to be hunting, it is ok to start brushing out the blind before you go. Yes, the camo helps, but you need that depth and extra realism of brush to conceal the blind properly. Synthetic blind materials are available to help match the conditions. I have a harder time finding longer green materials for those early-season hunts in alfalfa fields; I’m always stocking up on green blind materials so I can properly brush the blinds in for that time f year. Then I switch it out as the season moves along. By the end of the season, I’ve usually got so much stuff tucked and piled on the blinds, they don’t look anything like they did when I took them out of the box.
The best compliment I ever got was from one of my good buddies who hunts with me. He wasn’t out one morning due to work, but came by the field on his way in and saw all these geese in my field. He pulled out his binoculars and watched for a while before calling me to let me know he was watching all these geese in my field. As he was telling me how there was a couple dozen birds in that spot I was talking about hunting, I opened the blind and waved to him. He not only couldn’t tell the Hard Core decoys weren’t real, but he never saw the blinds, even with good binoculars