November 06, 2021
On an overcast morning on November 4, 2017, a 25-knot wind was machine-gunning wet sleet and snow against the hull, and John Salamon's scouting expedition was about to pay off big-time. Salamon, his wife, Jasmine, and Branson Keough set up where they had seen a raft of 4,000 diving ducks the day before. As night's curtain rose, ducks started dropping from the sky.
"After a 15-minute ride through 3-foot whitecaps, we set up in the bay near a river," Salamon said. "The decoys were 20 yards away and we hid the boat in some pencil reeds. Twenty 20 minutes after legal shooting time, we had our limits. It was load and shoot, load and shoot as fast as we could go. Our shots ranged from 5 to 20 yards and we shot teal, lesser and greater scaup, redheads and two drake bufflehead"
The blind has a spring-loaded roof that allows hunters to watch through such a narrow viewing gap that approaching waterfowl have no-notion hunters are inside.
Salamon, a 28-year-old welder from Rosalyn, Ontario, began hunting with a friend 10 years ago. He shoots a Beretta A350 Xtrema loaded with Score no. 2 steel ammo and sets Avian-X decoys. He hunts Lake Superior's Thunder Bay mostly for scaup and redhead, but also decoys green-winged and blue-winged teal, mallards, pintails, Canada geese and white-fronted geese. His retriever, Harley, is a male Lab-German Shepard mix.
The boat is an 18-foot Alumacraft, 48 inches across the bottom and 76 inches across the gunwale tops. It is powered by a 40-horsepower Yamaha and sits on a ShoreLand'r trailer. It is Salamon's third boat and he has built five blinds on them. He sold the other boats with blinds installed. Frustrated with wind whistling through fabric blinds, putting them up and folding them down, he wanted the convenience of a hard-sided blind.
The first step was modifying the seats for better access. He removed the middle seat and cut out the center of the stern seat. The two stubby sides of the stern seat were converted to battery storage compartments.
Flooring of 1/8-inch aluminum sheeting was attached to the boat's bottom braces with pop rivets. Two-inch thick closed cell foam beneath the floor was secured by 2-inch angle welded to the flooring edges. Welding was done with a TIG welder and spool gun. The floor was covered with carpet to dampen noise and prevent slips.
The blind frame is 1"x1"x1/8" square tubing. Bottom rails are made of aluminum channel that fits over the gunwales and is bolted in place. Legs at the bow and stern are attached with clip pins inserted through holes in the legs and mounts made from 1/4"x1/4" solid stock welded to the floor. A double door swings open behind the bow deck. The skin is 16-gauge aluminum sheeting attached to the frame with pop rivets.
Hunters shoot over the port side, which rises 2 feet from the gunwale before angling inward to the floor edge. The starboard side rises 3 feet from the gunwale before angling inward to the floor edge.
The roof is the same type of construction as the sides and opens on three hinges. To adjust the roof height, clip pins are inserted into holes spaced at intervals along the center brace and each frame end. The roof braces simply rest on the pins.
Damper springs from dairy barn exhaust fans are attached to eyebolts on the front of the roof and to flat bar bases welded to the back of the blind frame. A Bungee cord hooked to one top eyebolt and to another eyebolt on the floor holds the top down. The top Bungee hook is straightened slightly and a rope tied to it. When the moment of truth arrives, Salamon tugs the rope, which pulls the hook from the eyebolt and allows the roof to spring open. Bungee cords hooked to eyebolts at each end of the blind hold the roof down during transport.
The bow deck was modified for mounting a 4,500-pound Warn electric winch. New decking made of 1/4" aluminum plate with support ribs of 2"x2"x1/4" square tubing were welded in place. The original rear bulkhead of the bow deck was retained and a top hatch installed to for access to storage space. When Salamon encounters a beaver dam in a creek, he attaches the winch cable to a tree and hauls the boat across.
The interior sides and roof were coated with Line-X to attenuate the echoing of duck calls. A HPLV sprayer was used to paint the boat and blind dark green and a sandy brown grass pattern was added with the help of a stencil.
A camouflage blanket of shredded burlap zip-tied to military camouflage netting was attached to the interior edges of the blind and roof with strips of aluminum flat bar riveted at 6-inch intervals. During a hunt, natural vegetation is woven into the netting. After a hunt, the vegetation is removed and the blanket flipped inside.
During a hunt, two 15-pound anchors hold the boat in place. Gunners sit on the boat's pedestal-mount swivel seats.
"I am constantly tweaking my blinds and wish I had made the stern more concealable because I have to use a fabric cover to hide the engine," he said. "I am also going to add interior LED lights."
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