June 04, 2021
By Mike Marsh
In a blithe little backwater off the Willamette River, a flock of mallards drifted in, cupping their wings to a small decoy spread. Two hunters sprung their trap and jumped from their seats, completing their limits of greenheads, each with .410s. “I was shooting a Winchester Model 42 and my friend had a double barrel,” Kurt Rose said. “It happened about 12 years ago and was one of so many great hunts from my boat blind. We had taken all but two apiece of our seven-mallard limits with our 12-gauge shotguns and were going to hunt snipe with the small-bore shotguns later in the morning. It was warm and the river was calm, a bluebird day in October. I scouted the place the day before and found a place with no current. Those ducks decoyed without ever knowing we were there. What really made the morning memorable was that they worked so close we were able to shoot them with .410s.”
Stick With What You Know
Rose is a 72-year-old retired general contractor in Lebanon, Oregon. He hunts the Snake River and Willamette River from his blind, which is built on a 17-foot TBD (The Duck Boat) fiberglass boat. His favorite duck gun is a 12-gauge Beretta A303 stoked with 2 3⁄4-inch loads of No. 3 steel shot. Twelve Dakota flocked-head decoys make up the mallard component, with a half-dozen GHG wigeon, gadwall and wood duck decoys tossed out to finish the spread of a dozen-and-a-half. He has been hunting since he was eight, when he accompanied a 12-year-old pal who downed the first wood duck he had seen.
“It was so beautiful I never forgot it,” he said. “When I was in my 20s, I hunted tidal islands in the California deltas, jump-shooting ducks from canoes and bending over tules to hide it when hunted with decoys. It seemed we could do better with a john boat, so I bought a 12-footer and put in some aluminum tube holders for setting up a blind with dowel rods and camouflage netting.”
Kurt Rose and his hunting buddy, Mark Rose (no relation), bought a used 17-foot TBD and removed its popup blind. Mark possessed modest welding skills and built the duo’s first blind. When Mark moved, Kurt sold him his half. He tried hunting from a 14-foot TBD, but it was too small. Waterfowl hunters who find what they love, whether it’s shotguns, decoys, dogs or boats, stick with what works. So, in 2000, he bought a long-discontinued 17-foot TBD, driving six days to Pennsylvania and back to pick it up and spending the nights sleeping in a camper shell.
Back home, his first order of business was buying a new EZ Loader trailer to replace the rusted-out original. Then, he mounted a 125-horsepower Mercury with a jet drive, and a six-inch-high aluminum plate added to the transom to accommodate the engine. When needed, he also mounts a 4 horsepower Evinrude on the transom for picking up decoys and making way through grass because it is more maneuverable than the jet drive. Two, fold-down swivel seats on pedestals accommodate a pair of hunters. However, Rose usually hunts with only his male black Lab, Ty. The engine is steered by its tiller handle.
“The boat’s shape is perfect,” he said. “It has a rounded bow that comes right down the waterline so it looks like a mound of grass. The sides are also rounded so it has no hard angles. Our original boat’s blind was redone about 14 times and that gave me the ideas for creating one of my own.”
Built for Function
The frame is made of ¼” and 3⁄8” steel rod, bent and welded into shape. Flat 1⁄8” steel plate mounting pads welded to the rod ends are bolted to the boat gunwales at various locations. A top center cover about four feet long rotates to the shooting side on steel sleeves around the rod frame. Air shocks aid in flipping it up and down. When closed, it leaves two shooting ports, one fore and one aft. Similar covers over the fore and aft shooting ports have torsion springs that are adjusted so a hunter has only to bump his head against them and they spring open. When open, they stop parallel to the water, creating shelves for stacking decoys as they are picked up.
Galvanized steel fencing with 2” x 4” welded mesh covers the frame. The wire ends are cut long enough to wrap around the frame at least twice. A canvas tarp skin is attached with zip ties. A skirt extends to the waterline on each side. Lengths of PPE tubing with eyebolts at each end inserted into factory hems make lifting the skirts easy. Elastic cords with hooks through the eyebolts hold the skirts up. Lifting the skirts prevents ice from accumulating on them. The canvas is painted with Parker Duck Boat Paint and aerosol paints in flat colors.
Palm seed pods, reeds and raffia grass complete the outer camouflage. The seed pods are so durable that they last at least six years, even with the boat towed at highway speeds. A fabric cover with raffia grass attached hides the engine.The frame has double doors at bow and stern, rotating on steel sleeves. The bow doors dangle knotted hemp ropes from the top edge that part to allow the dog access. The dog usually reenters from the bank, but sometimes uses a dog ladder Rose made with aluminum stock. Knotted hemp ropes also dangle from the bow frame to hide the bow’s shadow.
During a hunt, Rose slips the boat against the bank, where it is held in place with hand-spring limb grabbers. He uses a power poles-saw to cut overhanging willows that could interfere with shooting. “Sometimes floating grass accumulating on the decoys can move them in strong current,” Rose said. “A great trick for preventing that is setting a willow limb in the water upstream. The grass collects on the willow limb instead of the decoys.”