March 25, 2023
As forecasted, the cold front arrived, sparking a frenzy of activity in a farm field in Marion County, Ohio. Jack Curtis had called his friends several days ahead of the front. In turn, they called their friends. During the last hour of darkness, hindered by slippery ice and snow, they unloaded gear and shotguns from vehicles parked beside the Magnum Mega Pit Blind. After helping Curtis set the goose decoys towed to the site in his decoy trailer, they drove their vehicles to the field edges and returned in small groups via a Gator ATV.
“There were 11 hunters and some of them had never been in a goose pit,” Curtis said. “Over the years, lots of people who hunted with me have asked if they could bring a buddy. Some of the guys had only experienced hunting ducks from boats.”
While they were waiting for shooting time to arrive, dusky flocks of Canada geese were loudly working the decoys. Curtis was in the kitchen, cooking. Rather than shoot geese, he usually shoots videos while enjoying the camaraderie.
“A good migration was coming through and the hunters wound up shooting more than two dozen Canada geese,” he said. “Geese were flying over every 15 to 30 minutes. The blind is set up for migratory birds, which decoy better than geese that have been in the area for a while. The guys who had never hunted from a pit had a great time. Seeing them all lit up meant so much to me.”
Curtis is a 50-year-old pipefitter, who shoots a Remington 11-87 loaded with Federal Premium Black Cloud 2s. He began hunting with his 84-year-old father Dan, who shoots a 10-gauge shotgun. When he hunts from the Magnum Mega Pit, Curtis sets 15 dozen Big Foot decoys.
The original Mega Pit, made from a 20’x8’x8’ shipping container, won the 2014 Boats and Blinds Contest. Curtis also had a larger container that was used for farm storage. Therefore, like any great waterfowler, he was already planning to lengthen, or “Magnumize” the Mega Pit.
The original Mega Pit had three shooting ports. The additional container has five. With two hunters per port, 16 hunters can hunt from the shooting platforms. However, geese usually decoy to one side or the other, so hunters must defer to other shooters.
The original container required some rust repair, but the second container was in good condition. Where they were fitted together, a natural gravel layer leaches water, keeping the pit dry. When they aren’t in use, the 5’x2.5’ shooting ports are covered with treated plywood lids that slip into channels in a welded, 3” angle-iron rim. The rim opening is covered with 1/8” wire mesh to prevent rodents from entering and allow air to circulate.
The original pit has an access ladder. The second container has a staircase that folds against the ceiling, making it easy for older and younger hunters to enter and exit. The entrance has a sliding door. There are also two air intakes in the top of the second container.
Power is supplied by an inverter generator that sits in the decoys, hidden beneath a hollow decoy. Underground conduit protects the power line that provides electricity to 110V receptacles throughout the blind and kitchen. The blind has a TV, coffee maker and LED lights.
A 100-pound propane cylinder slides into a buried pipe sleeve. When it is empty, the cylinder is replaced with a spare. It services a wall-mounted heater, two smaller forced-air heaters and a double-burner cooktop. Gas piping was also installed to serve heaters at each shooting platform. In the original Mega Pit, hunters used individual Mr. Heater heaters. A rain guard/gutter system routes overhead moisture to the drainage area, keeping the bunks dry.
“My best friend, Paxson Nash, who owns the land where the pit is located, helped,” Curtis said. “Dan Prewitt, who helped on the original pit, said he would be honored to come with an excavator again. He came all the way from Toledo, staying to work three days before heading home.”
Shipping containers stack like Legos and lock together at the corners. The hole for the additional container was excavated at the end of the first one so they could be joined at the doors. The doors were cut off both containers. A laser level was used to assure the containers were level. The corners were butted together and 3/8” steel plate was welded along the seam. Gaps were filled with caulking.
The sides of the original 20’ container did not deform under the earth load. However, the second 40’ container, due to its length, buckled inward about ¾” at the center. It has shown no further deformation.
Out with the Old, In with the New
The installation of the second container began in March 2018 and was finished in in May 2021, before crops were planted in the field. After the backfill settled and the field was harvested the following fall, Curtis completed the final details. More soil was brought in, placed and compacted. Camouflaging ground cover was added and the shooting doors were built. The project had taken 3½ years and the Magnum Mega Pit was finally ready to hunt in December 2021.
“I can’t estimate the total cost and number of hours it took to build everything and install the second container,” he said. “The first container cost $700 plus $200 for shipping. The second container cost $1,200. With inflation over all of those the years, it would probably cost $4,000 today.