November 28, 2021
Snow swept the Dakotas, whisking ducks southward toward Kansas where Charlie Radford, along with a hunting buddy and his 12-year-old daughter were waiting. Hunting from Radford's boat blind, the men were participating in the special hunting season for youth, veteran, and active-duty military hunters.
"It was October 2020, the week before the regular season opened and just chilly enough for wearing jackets," Radford said. "We hadn't had a good push of ducks, yet, but the Dakota blizzard drove down a huge wave of mallards. We went out Saturday morning to hunt Perry Wildlife Management Area. We launched the boat in the dark, set it up next to some five-foot high brush and the blind blended in perfectly."
They were cooking breakfast when shooting time came. The sky filled with ducks that flew so thick they were landing in the decoys. The shooting was over in minutes. "We shot our five-mallard limits plus one spoonbill each," he said. "My friend's daughter wasn't hunting, but her eyes were wide. She's really excited about shooting next season."
Radford is a 75-year-old retired U.S. Army veteran, who was also a civilian contractor at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. A resident of Lancing, Kansas, he began hunting at age 13 with his father, Ed. He shoots a Winchester SX3 loaded with Federal No. 2 steel. He sets three dozen Dakota flocked-head decoys. When he hunts divers, he adds a dozen goldeneye and scaup decoys.
Most of his duck hunting takes place at reservoirs in northeastern Kansas. For geese, he heads for the Kansas River. His hunting buddies Steve Hammack and Brad Nelson helped build his blind. "When I first started building boat blinds in 2010, I had a Phowler boat and tried some things that didn't work well. Some of the blinds were modified commercial blinds, some were homemade and they were on different boats. I kept selling the boats with their blinds. After building eight blinds I finally got it right."
A Beavertail Blind on a 1644 Phowler Sneak Boat gave Radford great ideas for his current blind. It taught him that a blind must be easy to enter and exit and set up quickly. However, it is vastly different from a Beavertail Blind, in that it is not a flip-over blind with different-sized frame tubing. The overhead shooting port doors are also wildly different.
• 32 feet - 1" square steel tubing
• 60 feet - 1" steel conduit
• 2 sections - Hydroturf
• 2 sections - Rancho Safari Ghillie Net, 4 1/2 feet wide x 18 feet long
• 1/4" bolts and nuts
• 5/6" bolts and nuts
• 6 - 5/16" Thumb bolts
• 1 1/2" eyebolts
• Pop rivets
• 30 feet - 1 1/2" PVC
• 2 feet - 1 1/2"x 1 1/2" steel angle
• 6 pieces - steel plate for cams
• Spray paint
• 2 - Buckle straps
• Artificial twigs with leaves
• Approximate materials cost: $850
The Boat & Build
His current blind is built on a 1750 Phowler Sneak Boat powered by a Go-Devil 25 horsepower engine sitting on a used Caravan roller-bunk trailer. Most of the camouflage blanket stows inside the boat, with tarp covering exposed material when the boat is towed.
The rectangular, solid-sided cockpit is key to the blind's success. The blind is built in two identical sections, port and starboard. Each side has three square tubing uprights with bolts attaching them to the gunwales acting as pivot points. A tubing section bolted similarly to the uprights' tops allows them to rotate in unison - forward to set the blind up and rearward to set it down. When erect, the bottoms of the blind's forward and rearward uprights fit snugly into notches cut into bases made of angle iron bolted to the interior cockpit walls. The blind is held upright with two thumb release buckle straps. One hook goes into a hole in the angle-iron base and the other slips into an eyebolt at the top of the center upright.
There are six top doors or shooting port covers, one on both sides for each of three hunters. They attach to the blind's blind top frame section with eyebolts. Each door is a welded, D-shaped conduit frame with a center support and a straight tubing bottom section that aligns with the blind's top frame. The straight section goes through the eyebolts to allow the doors to pivot. Each door opens from horizontal to near-vertical and is held in position by a homemade steel cam bolted through its center near the top of each upright. Each cam has holes from the 3 o'clock to 6 o'clock positions. A thumb bolt inserted through the appropriate hole and threaded into a hole behind it in the upright lifts or lowers the door to the desired height as the top edge of the cam contacts the door's center support.
Three conduit tubes welded to the doors' top edges hold decorative artificial twigs with leaves. Hunters look through the opening, or walking aisle, between the doors. When they rise to shoot, hunters flip open the doors or stand up through the center aisle.
The floor was covered with Hydroturf. Camouflage netting was ziptied and riveted to the blind frame. PVC pipe inserted into a factory hem at the bottom of the netting adds weight to keep the netting taut. If more weight is needed, a piece of conduit is slid inside the PVC.
Hunters sit on Bird N Buck swivel bucket seats with backrests. A portable aluminum gunning box holds a camp stove, PFDs, spare ammo and other gear. A Baja light bar on the bow aids night navigation. LED lights on the stern aid in backing the boat down the ramp and setting decoys in the dark. Hammack's female Lab, Maize, sits on the boat's integral stern platform, which was covered with Hydroturf.
During a hunt, a piece of netting is draped over the engine and opening between the stern overhead doors. The bow opening was covered the same way. "That was the only thing I changed," he said. "I didn't like all that loose netting on the floor. So, last summer, I made a fold-down door for the bow."
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