April 06, 2016
By Mike Marsh
Brad Biere of St. Charles, Missouri, is 35 and has been hunting waterfowl for about 12 years. He is the regional maintenance supervisor for an apartment complex company, so he gets out when he can, usually to Ted Shanks Conservation Area and some other public spots around St. Louis.
"When I hunt from my kayak, I take a bag with about 30 Greenhead Gear decoys," he said. "I set out six blue-wing teal and the rest are mallards. I also use two Mojo mallard decoys. We shoot greenheads, wood ducks, gadwalls, pintails, bluebills and an occasional canvasback."
Biere said he loved the idea of having a layout boat, but wanted to buy some type of watercraft that he could use for multiple purposes, like fishing. It's a problem many other hunters with kayaks face and his solution was so ingenious that it earned an honorable mention in the 2015 B&B contest.
"I bought a 12-foot kayak and knew it would not only make an awesome recreational toy, but would be perfect as a layout boat," he said. "All I needed was a cover."
Blue Bird, No Problem
Once he had the kayak, Biere set forth on a quest to find a camouflage cover. After searching intensively, he still could not find a single cover that was available over the counter or any plans for making one himself. Eventually, he got the idea for making his own cover from pictures he saw of layout blinds.
"My kayak cover is easy to make even for someone who does not have a lot of sewing experience," he said. "I knew a little from a high school home economics course. The cover cost less than $100 to make and the fabric turned out to be just as high in quality as that of a store-bought layout blind."
The first time he used the kayak cover turned out better than he ever could have expected. It was Dec. 2014, late season in northern Missouri.
"The forecast was 50 degrees, partly sunny and no wind," he said. "The area was holding 22,000 birds, but had not received a push in a month due to unseasonably warm weather, so it was not a promising day."
Biere was hunting public land and the vegetation was extremely sparse, a perfect situation for his kayak. The conservation area had been hit by a late flood, so the hide was pretty thin. But he was still able to take four mallards and had plenty more of them within shooting range. That day, 65 hunters killed just 15 ducks.
"This plan will work for any kayak, no matter its size and shape," he said.
Stitch and Stretch
To begin building the blind, Biere laid the fabric on the kayak using the boat as a template to cut out a rough outline. Then, he folded the fabric in half, lengthwise. Next, he smoothed out the shape with scissors and cut a slant in the fabric to accommodate the bow and stern.
"I needed lots of room to sew the 12-foot long cover," he said. "I sewed the slants at the bow and stern together. After that, I sewed the shock cord inside a 1-inch hem along the entire perimeter of the fabric using a zig-zag stitch."
Biere left a 5-inch opening in the hem at the center of the kayak to be able to tie two ends of the shock cord together to adjust the tension.
The next step was placing the fabric on the kayak with the shock cord sewn into the hem and pulling the shock cord taut. Once the cover was taut, he tied a slip knot into the cord.
"Then I cut out a U-shaped flap for the seat," he said. "I also cut out an I-shape for the flaps to allow opening the cover, just like with a layout blind. I took the cover off and released the slip-knot to make the cover easier to sew and used scrap fabric to sew on two, 12-inch wide panels the length of the flaps. This allows the flaps to completely cover you while you are sitting in the kayak."
He sewed webbing around the edges of the flaps and seat cover using a zig-zag stitch to strengthen the edges of the flaps and seat cover so that the fabric would not fray or unravel. He used a butane lighter to melt the edges of the fabric before attaching the webbing.
"In the corners, where two pieces of webbing met, I sewed in a small, ½-inch piece of webbing for strength," he said. "Then I laid out the webbing and pinned it into place on the fabric in order to attach brush later in the field. I spaced the webbing 8 inches apart and secured it with pins about 6 inches apart then sewed a small, ½-inch zig-zag stitch on the webbing every 6 inches next to the pins. Going back over the stitching twice gave it extra strength and the thread will not pull out."
The final step was putting the cover back over the kayak to check its fit. Once the fit was tight, he tied a permanent knot in the shock cord. Leaving the shock cord taut made it easier to slip the cover on or off when in the field.
"As an option, you can tie fake grass to the webbing or brush the duck blind with natural vegetation," he said. "I use a regular kayak paddle to move the boat where I want to hunt, back it into the brush to stabilize it or drag it up onto a bank a little bit. I hunt in shallow water where there is no risk if it rolls over."
5 yards 500-denier Cordura Nylon fabric in Max-4
200 feet "Country Brook Design" tan Nylon webbing (available at fabric stores)
2 spools of tan outdoor upholstery thread
25 feet ¼" elastic shock cord
Note: Sewing machine, sewing pins, five needles (size 90 or larger, butane lighter and scissors are also needed.