Layout Blinds Equal Waterfowl Hunting Success
Author: Derrek Sigler
It’s late in the season and the flocks are acting a little shy. You’ve got a flock coming into your spread though. The word goes out, blinds fly open, non-toxic shot goes up, and birds come down. Layout blinds offer the hunter concealment, comfort and the mobility to hunt the birds where the birds want to be.
The majority of layout blinds available are lightweight, coming in under the 25-pound mark. Most also fold or compact into a smaller size and many have some kind of carry-strap system such as a single or double shoulder strap. This allows the hunter to transport the blind easily to and from the field. They’re usually made from lightweight aluminum, or steel.
But what if you needed to quickly readjust your hunting situation? No problem with a layout blind. This is a big advantage over a fixed-position blind such as a pit blind. It allows you to hunt the birds and not hope that they’ll just fly your way. A good example and one of personal experience, was a time when the decoy spread was as perfect as it could be as was the spread of hunters in layout blinds. As is the case with many early-season goose hunts, the birds wanted the field but wanted a different location. The decoys were set up in the northeastern corner and the birds wanted to land in the southeastern corner. As with most early season hunts, no amount of flagging, calling or life-like spreads will bring in birds to a location they haven’t chosen. The decision was made to leave the decoys and move the layout blinds to the other corner. The next flock that came in locked up in perfect alignment with the blinds, and a frustrating day turned into a successful one.
Layout blinds come in popular waterfowling camo patterns as well as some specialized patterns created for the application. Some of these camo patterns are crop specific, meaning they work best in fields planted with the crops imitated by the camo. Wheat stubble and corn stubble patterns are designed for maximum concealment in those types of fields. Other general patterns, such as the popular Advantage MAX-4 HD and Mossy Oak Shadow Grass, can be adapted to fit any condition. Some blinds come in a basic khaki color that is highly effective for use in tilled fields, or with the use of stubble straps in many types of situations.
Stubble straps are a key feature about blind design when it comes to concealment. These straps are basically tough elastic cord woven into the design of the blind that allow you to weave in natural foliage. If you were hunting a cornfield, you’d obviously weave in some stalks to further blend in your blind. These also provide a 3-D effect, giving you depth. Also, as natural foliage moves with the slightest breeze, the better the blind blends in with the surroundings and the greater your chances of a successful hunt. You can also use artificial blind material that is made to imitate the natural foliage. A bonus here is that artificial materials can be altered to fit specific situations.
For hunting those late seasons, you can pick up a snow camo cover for some blinds. These allow you to blend into the snow and also use stubble straps to conceal the blind a little more. They work great in cornfields for late season Canada’s.
Layout blinds have a third element to the concealment factor and that is profile. The construction of the blind allows the hunter to comfortably lie in a prone position in the field and especially using stubble strap camouflaging, the blind appears as a natural rise in the land. Add decoy placement to the equation and you disappear enough that birds won’t flare as easily.
Some blinds have a smaller profile than others. This being said, there are models available that offer the larger hunter room to maneuver. You’ll want to find a blind that fits you. Do you want to lie in one position, or do you want to be able to move around in the blind? Check the specifications and dimensions of each blind before making the final decision.
Get in the Thing and Hunt!
These blinds are comfortable and camouflaged well. But that wouldn’t mean anything if they weren’t easy to hunt from. Many are designed with a mesh-screen over the area where your face is. This screen can be used at your discretion. This makes the blind perfect for calling as it keeps you concealed while you’re working the call. This is a great feature when you want to move the call around to spread out the sound, or if you are concerned about incoming birds flaring from movement you make while calling. You may want to use a camo facemask to completely blend in with the camo of the blind.
Let’s say you’re a gear-head hunter. You’ve got a plethora of calls, a ton of ammo, a headlamp, a camera, and other miscellaneous things that always seem to end up in the field with you. Much of this stuff gets thrown by the wayside when the call to take incoming birds goes up. Instead of losing it though, as might happen in when lying out on bare ground, it is all kept in the blind. If you drop a call or two, the chances of mud and dirt getting into the barrel and ruining the reed is greatly reduced.
Another great feature involves the increasingly popular technique of flagging birds in. Flagging imitates the movement of birds dropping into a spread, those last strong wing-beats as the bird touches down. The technique is highly effective for drawing attention to your spread. Flagging can often make the difference between a flock coming in from a distance or not. Layout blinds work incredibly well for flagging. Most have some form of port or opening to allow the hunter to flag. This allows you to flag and not have to open the blind until it is time to take ’em. Some blinds even have built-in pockets to hold flags, keeping them at the ready for when you need them.
Layout blinds are much more than a piece of camo fabric covering a hunter in a field. They offer features that greatly increase the enjoyment factor of a hunt. Gone are the days when one would have to lay exposed on frozen ground or cold, wet mud. In fact, the fabric these types of blinds are made from is usually quite thick and waterproof, which will block out the wind and elements when the weather turns five shades of mean.
Just about every blind on the market has a seatback of some kind. Not only does this make for a comfortable situation, but also you’re at the right angle to see approaching birds while remaining concealed. Options include plastic or neoprene construction, allowing you to have a waterproof blind. One option in particular allows you to place your field blind inside of a neoprene tub. It is constructed just like a pair of waders, giving you the option of hunting in up to eight inches of standing water. This is a great option for hunting flooded fields or shallow flats where others aren’t willing to go.
You can conceal yourself to the point even the guy in the blind next to you has a hard time deciding where you are at, but it’s all for naught if your retriever is bouncing all over the field when the birds are coming in. You have options with layout blinds. If you have a highly trained dog, you may be able to get them to come into the blind with you. If you have a mellow dog that is highly trained, they may stay still and get the job done. A bonus there is you won’t have to worry about getting cold.
Chances are, however, that your pooch is not going to want to sit in a compact blind all day while dad or mom hunts. You could get the dog its own blind though. A dog blind allows your dog to have unrestricted movement, yet be concealed when needed. There are a couple of options on the market and both feature the same stubble straps as the human models to properly camouflage the blind with natural vegetation. They also feature that same heavy, waterproof fabric construction, meaning your dog will stay dry and comfortable even on days when the wind is cold as it is often during waterfowl hunts.
Hay is Not Just for Horses
During early goose seasons, many flocks will head for green fields. Hay and alfalfa fields will see quite a bit of pressure. Layout blinds are great but consider the option of round-bale type blinds. These operate and function on the same lines as layout blinds and imitate the large, round hay bales often seen in fields during that time of year.
Layout blinds are also effective in green-field situations. But you may notice that the green of the field doesn’t match the muted browns of the camo patterns these blinds come in. The answer is the aforementioned stubble straps. Either with natural vegetation or with artificial grasses and materials, you can turn your "cornfield killing machine" into an "alfalfa-field annihilator."
A layout blind is just like any other tool for hunting. This in mind, you will want to practice with it first before you hit the field. See how it opens and closes. Try shooting from it. It wouldn’t hurt to take it out and shoot some clays from it. You must know exactly how you’ll shoot from it to position it in the field.
If you’re a right-handed shooter, it is natural that you’re more comfortable shooting toward your left. Therefore, you’ll want to position the blind to the right of where you’re planning to shoot. The opposite goes for left-handed shooters. This gives the shooter the full range of motion for swinging the barrel of the gun.
It is also a good idea to place a few decoys between blinds, if hunting with one or more other hunters. It cuts down on the possibility of birds thinking the mounds are unnatural. One thing I’ve done is to have one or two hunters reach out to the decoy with a heavily camo-ed arm and move the decoy slightly when birds are present. This added bit of movement works really well because as we know, birds in the field move around a lot.
Field patterns for decoys vary and calling the spread a pattern is a bit of a stretch. What often works well for layout blind placement is to create a landing zone close to your blinds. One very successful "pattern" involves setting the dekes in a reverse funnel, or ice-cream cone design, with few dekes spreading out into more as they close in to the location of the blinds. Then the landing zone is at the head, or "mouth" of the funnel, right below the location of the blinds.
Another technique that works great on days when the wind or birds can take an unexpected shift is a modified "X" shape. You set decoys in the "X" pattern with your blinds positioned at the center of the "X." The bulk of your decoys will be on the side that you expect the best action, but the "X" pattern allows the versatility to swing blinds around to match a new direction for the wind, or if the birds want to come in from a different direction.
With all of the advancements in layout blind design, using one can greatly increase the enjoyment and success factors in your hunting endeavors. They offer a comfortable way to conceal a hunter in the field, and by using natural vegetation as well they can all but disappear. With the relative lightweight they offer, they also allow hunters to quickly change positions if needed. They offer everything a pit blind does, except maybe a place to make breakfast. They also have the added attraction of hunting the birds where the birds are, not just hoping the birds come to you. That alone makes them worth every penny.
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