So, let me begin with the premise: We went duck hunting for the first time last year. We went on the first day of the season. We researched what happens like crazy, before we went…we researched what happens in the air… Basically, the process was a comedy of errors. We had purchased a couple packs of duck decoys, a sled to haul our stuff into the hunting site, chairs to sit on since we were going to be sitting there for quite some time before shooting light, and warm gear to keep from freezing in the chilly morning temps. But, have you ever tried to haul 80 pounds of gear through shin high muck, in the dark, half awake for a mile from the parking lot to legal public hunting land shooting lanes? And remember my comment about it being opening day?
The silence with just the occasional coo of owls, the distant howl of a dog from an adjoining farm, even the rustling of the tree branches from the wind the was picking
up a bit while we waited for first light were peaceful and soothing.
AJ checked her phone for the time. 10 minutes to shooting light. And like an alarm clock (those 1960s, wake the dead, rip your flesh from the bones, grinding while screaming broken bell alarm clocks) the first beer can cracked open not 50 yards behind us in the next cove over. Instantly, every animal within a mile went silent. By first light we had heard at least 14 cans crack open and the voices were getting louder with each crack. By shooting light we didn’t need our timer to go off. The group was yelling for each other to shoot and the shotguns were popping one after the other. We were dodging pellets left and right. And not a single duck was in the sky…
By the end of our trip we’d seen a grand total of 6 ducks, all too far away to shoot, none going anywhere near the next cove over, but the party over there was still roaring. We learned some valuable lessons that day, lessons we are working to remedy and lessons we are passing on to you.
The Project of the Day: John Boat Duck Blind
Today’s lesson is a bit of an all-around project that we found could provide multiple solutions for us. We are still experimenting and fine tuning the project so feel free to modify and perfect this as you see fit. After all, hunting (no matter what you are hunting for) is a very personal experience that must be tailored to suit you personally.
We bought a John Boat last summer with the intention of fishing from it only to realize there were so many more possibilities. When we realized duck season was fast approaching and there were still a few speed bumps from last year that we had not resolved, we decided to put the John Boat to more use. AJ found some advertisements for duck blinds that could be purchased and placed on a John Boat, but they were in the $1,000 + range…A price neither of us were all that interested in spending. So AJ set out on a mission: Find a way to use the John Boat as a safe and efficient way to travel to our hunting spots and use it as a duck blind without spending a fortune in the process. Many, many, hours of YouTube and internet research later, she had the start of a solution. With this new setup we would be able to get out, further into the marshes, away from the party troops, take substantially more decoys with us without sinking into oblivion, and hunt in a bit of comfort!
Our plan started with a basic layout:
As we figured it, there would be less weight if we used EMT electrical conduit piping
and it would hold up longer than PVC piping. So we bought our supplies:
• 60 feet of EMT conduit piping (¼” at 10’ each)
• A box each: ¼” Hex head bolts, ¼” nuts, ¼” flat washers, ¼” lock washers
• 4 – ¼” EMT “L” joints
• 6 Eye bolts (¼” x 4”)
• 2 – 3/4” PVC pipes (10’ each)
AJ found a company that sells duck blind grass, hand woven, in sheets that are easy
We originally ordered 3 packs of grass for a total of 12 panels. As you’ll see we ended up needing a 4th pack which, at the time of this post we have not yet installed…
We measured and set the C clamps at 1 foot in from each of the 4 corners of the boat after drilling a ¼ inch hole in the center of each clamp. We cut the two base pipes to fit the width of the boat at each pair of C clamps then drilled holes through the pipes to allow us to connect the pipes to the C clamps. We ended up deciding to go with about an inch and a half overhang at each C clamp to ensure there was plenty of material on each of the base pipes to work with as we experimented with this layout. And why C clamps? Not only can the blind be taken on and off to accommodate non-hunting trips, but the blind can be set up in a field independently if you don’t want to take the boat.
We cut the 4 cross bars at 5 foot each so we could ensure there would not be too much overhang on either side of the boat. As a side note — our plan is to have the blind installed on the boat before leaving the ranch then just raise it up into position once we are parked and ready for the hunt. To make this easier, we set up a rope that would wrap front to back around the frame a couple times. It became easy to keep the grass tight with the frame and move the frame on and off the boat. We drilled a ¼ inch hole one inch in from the edge of each cross pipe to attach each to their respective C clamps.
Once all of these pipes were measured, cut, drilled, and placed where they belonged, we bolted everything we had so far into place. We then attached the L joints to the opposite ends of the cross pipes and attached the Top Pipes. One bolt ½” in from
each end of the L bracket will secure the remainder of the pieces to create your two wall panels.
From here, we raised the two panels up so they crossed near the middle of the boat. We decided that, for our purposes, we wanted the back panel to be taller than the front panel to create a staggered effect for more of a camouflage appearance from the sky. We set our locking bolts where we wanted them to allow for these different heights which caused the cross point to be off center from the center of the boat. We drilled ¼” holes for this also. — We placed the cross pipes on opposite sides of the C Clamps so they would not be folding down on top of each other so we chose to use the extra pipe scraps to make small spacers to fit between the cross pipes at this intersection in an attempt to limit the strain on the hinge point. We have not decided if we will continue to use them, but we have them just in case.
We took everything apart and painted all the pieces camouflage so they would not stand out or scare off the birds. It also helps it blend into the grass a bit more so the final product will look like a patch of marsh grass just sitting along the bank. Once the
paint was dry, we reattached everything and secured all the bolts. *We used locking washers any place the pipes are not intended to move but only used flat washers any place the pipes will be twisting when we raise and lower the blind to make the process a
little smoother and reduce the risk of hang-ups.
We took the top bars off and slid PVC pipes, cut to 1 inch shorter than the cross pipes, over these bars so we can apply the grass to the PVC pipes then roll the grass like a paper towel dispenser. After re-securing the bolts we started hanging the grass. Folding the top ½ inch of the panel before attaching it to the PVC pipe allows some of the grass to stick straight up and helps with the camouflaging effect. We overlapped the panels about 1 inch as we put each panel on. Larger zip ties are necessary at the top of the panel to attach to the PVC pipe. It’s best to use the small 1 inch zip ties to attach anchor points between the panels as they hang.
This is as far as we got following the recommendations and instructions we found on various YouTube videos. We had some concerns and disappointments that made us take off on a tangent after this.
We did not like how visible we were from the front and back of the boat so KL made some cross beams by cutting PVC pipes to the width of the top pipes. She notched the ends so they would sit over the pipes and not slide, then drilled holes on each notched end that we can attach to the eye bolts with bungee cords. We then draped grass panels off these pipes to create sides for the blind. We also decided the breeze coming through the woven grass was more than we would want to deal with on the cold hunting mornings so we got camouflage burlap tarps from the local sports store to
drape on the inside of the panels.
We draped these from the PVC pipes just like the grass was hung. Another concern we noted was the droop in the center of the side panels from the grass handing on those long pipes. KL made some joists to rest in the center points of each side panel to help hold the pipe straighter, but decided that this prevented the grass from having a natural pattern so we opted to allow the grass to droop in the center. As mentioned earlier, we have ordered more grass panels. Ultimately we will have a double layer of grass for all 4 sides of the blind. Each portion of the blind which already has this double layer is so well camouflaged that you can not see the person in the boat without getting about 1
foot from the boat.
Incidentals and Using the Blind:
The frame can be attached to the boat with the C clamps and the grass is then rolled or folded into the boat for transport. We use our boat cover to transport the boat, with the frame on, to and from waterways. This protects the grass from wind damage and keeps everything in place during the drive. Before dropping the boat in the water we remove the boat cover but leave the frame down. Once we are parked where we will be hunting we raise the blind frame and place the bolts into the two cross bars to keep everything upright and secured. The back panel, we made a little long so it can drape over the motor.
What would we do differently?
Keep everything marked/labeled/tagged, something to ensure none of the pieces get moved and placed in the wrong location. We did not do this and ended up with a few displaced pieces that resulted in needing to drill a few new holes.
Start first thing in the morning so you can get the project done in 1-2 days. We kept using the mornings for our normal routine and started on the blind in the afternoons so it ended up taking about 4 days to complete.
Drill holes through the PVC pipes to put the zip ties through so the grass can be rolled more smoothly.
Lay out the grass a solid week before you are going to use it so the material relaxes, then determine what lengths each of the panels truly are so you can hang the panels in more appropriate positions. We didn’t realize the panels have slightly different lengths so there are long panels in the front where they will drag further in the water than we truly wanted and there are shorter panels in the back where a bit of the boat is going to be exposed below the grass.
Have at least 3 people available to work on the project. We did this with a 2 person team and, while it was doable, it was definitely not ideal. Trust us, you need that third set of hands!
Watch for sales, check your hardware stores frequently, and collect pieces over time before you start your build. There are a few things we had to buy at full price because we put this plan together last minute…I’m noticing a theme in our projects…but you could build this for even less if you keep an eye out for the deals.
YouTube is a key resource for any project you’re unsure of these days.
G2 Outdoors: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hk5lNxgZGWA
Nick Jewell: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mjVq72tOv3A
Fire mountain: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=raMkQihSR4I
Mudder Ducker Adventures: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=duck+blind+for+john+-boat
*These are just a few of the videos out there that AJ studied to come up with our project.
Moral of the Story:
We have learned over the years that we can accomplish just about anything
that we set our minds to. You may need to do a sizeable amount of research and
practice through trial and error before you find what works for you; but never
give up. You want to hunt, you can find a way!