May 31, 2023
It was opening morning of the second split of the Colorado duck season in January, 2021 and Copper Wahl heard that dreaded crunch.
“We heard ice breaking beneath the boat,” Wahl said. “The ducks had kept a hole open, but we used the boat to break a hole at another spot because there wasn’t anywhere to put the boat. We pushed ice from the hole with the engine, set floating decoys and staked silhouette decoys along the edges.”
Starting at at 2 a.m., Wahl and his father, Rob, waded through the hole, keeping it ice-free until shooting time. An air temperature of 10 degrees and a 20-mph north wind meant mallards would move come daybreak. The boat was anchored against the shore with two spud poles. Tree limbs gathered from the bank leaned against the boat complemented the boat’s tumbleweed covering, making it look like an ordinary brush pile.
“Ducks decoyed in small flocks of 3 to 12,” he said. “Every shot was less than 20 yards. We were picking out mallard drakes, but shot one hen accidentally. Our total was one duck short of a limit because a bald eagle took one off the ice and I counted it as one of my birds. We could have shot 100 because they paid no attention to the boat. On some hunts, ducks have landed on the boat.”
Wahl is a 29-year-old veterinarian from Denver. He learned to hunt from his father, who helped build the blind. (Rob passed away in April, 2022). They built it over intermittent weekends during 2020.
Wahl shoots a Browning BSS loaded with BOSS Shotshells bismuth No. 4s. He sets four dozen Dakota Canada goose floaters, 10 dozen Canada goose silhouettes and shells and two dozen G&H and Dakota floating mallards. Mostly, he bags mallards, but also takes wigeons, gadwalls, teal, diving ducks and Canada geese.
The boat is a 1999 SeaArk with a 1998 40 hp two-stroke with 60 hp carburetors. It has an electric jack plate and Kick-Back Plate and is steered by tiller. Wahl purchased the used boat for $2,000 and made a conduit framed blind with Bimini fittings that he hunted from for three seasons. However, the flip-up blind’s fabric billowed when the boat was towed. Also, the blind did not blend into the shoreline of the reservoirs he hunts, which seldom have any cover due to winter drawdowns. He longed for a hard-sided blind, but had no welding skills.
“While I was in veterinary school, I was at a dairy and noticed the pipe railing was not welded, but connected with pipe fittings,” Wahl said. “I figured if it was strong enough to hold cows, it would work for a hard sided duck blind so I started looking for a smaller version I could use with ¾ EMT conduit since its cheap, strong and readily available.”
The solution was Maker Pipe Structural Connectors, which screw together to clamp EMT conduit in place. Wahl initially applied red Loctite to the screws, but found it unnecessary.
He gutted the boat of its console and seats and had a fabricator make aluminum pod seats for the stern corners. He also installed an aluminum floor covered with Hydro-Turf. The entire boat was coated with Kem 400 Flat Cobblestone Brown paint.
The Boat Blind
With a conduit bender and tubing cutter, Wahl went to work. Nothing was measured because every length and angle was different. Each section was bent, cut and fitted by trial-and-error. The base was attached to the gunwales with six U-shaped SteelTek fittings and rivet nuts. After hunting season, the nuts are removed and the blind hoisted to Wahl’s garage ceiling with a hand winch.
A small door at the port stern and a large door in the port side allow loading and unloading guns and gear. The large door opens with assistance from two gas shocks. A small starboard side door near the stern provides hunter and dog access. Two doors provide access to the huge bow decoy compartment. One is a top hatch that provides access to the propane tank and two Mr. Heaters that are moved beneath the shooting area cooking shelf. The other is starboard side door below the top hatch that allows wading hunters to handle decoys
The skin is 0.090” ABS plastic sheeting, which was heated with a hair dryer, bent to shape and riveted to the frame. Hunters sit on an aluminum gun box on the port side. It is made of aluminum sheeting left over from construction of the cooking shelf on the starboard side. The gun box has two marine plywood seat-doors covered with vinyl-wrapped closed cell foam. Vinyl-wrapped foam backrests are screwed to the blind frame.
Duck Boat Blind Materials List
- (8) 1/4”-20 aluminum rivet nuts = $6.18
- (8) 1/4”-20 hardened 2” screws = $15.47
- (6) SteelTek 3/4” fitting = $31.38
- (25) 3/4” EMT conduit 10ft = $280.25
- Maker Pipe 3/4” structural pipe connectors = $324.25
- (72) Tee connectors
- (9) 45-degree connectors
- (13) 90-degree connectors
- (1) 4-way connector
- (4) 180-degree connectors
- (2) 90 lb gas shocks = $46.70
- (7) ABS 8’x4’ 0.090 = $294.12
- (300) 3/16” aluminum blind rivet = $28.41
- (50) 1/4” ID Galvanized steel loop clamp = $11.65
- (1) 4’x50’ welded 2”x3” wire fence = $44.50
- (30lbs) Raffia from JStern = $111.93
- (2,500) 4” black zip ties = $54.75
- (1) 1/16” aluminum 8’x4’ = $117.82
- (8) cooler latches = $31.96
- (1) 8’x16” closet shelf = $23.99
- (10 lbs) Broom corn $59.99
Total Cost: $1,454.90
Hunters shoot over the port side, which is 40 inches above the floor. The starboard side arches 50 inches, overhead. The walking/shooting aisle is 22 inches wide.
The boat was rewired. It has charging ports, navigation lights, interior LED lights and two angled work lights on either side of a SeeLite bar mounted on the bow.
Aluminum shooting aisle covers are held in place by cooler latches. They cover unoccupied hunting positions and keep out precipitation when the blind is not in use. The high side of the blind has hinged flaps of closet shelf grate covered with bundles of broom corn. When hunters stand to shoot, the flaps flip up and off their backs as they slip through the broom corn.
Wire fencing attached to the frame and shooting port covers holds raffia grass and tumbleweeds attached with zip ties. The camouflage stays secure when the boat is towed.
“It is perfect for two hunters and my black Lab, Angus,” Wahl said. “It is made for four hunters, but that would be a crowd. The only thing I would change is to start with a bigger boat.”