May 18, 2022
By Mike Marsh
A warm, sunny day is the bane of most waterfowl hunters' existence. But not for Herb Ward, Mike Barkett, his daughter Katherine Byrd, her husband Adam Byrd, and Brent Bean. Hunting from Ward's skid-scaffold blind on a bright morning in January 2019, they took dazzling, multiple-species bag limits.
"I like bluebird days," Ward said. "We shot the early morning rush when ducks were leaving the marsh. Around 8:30 a.m., they returned in waves. We bagged our mallards then filled out our limits with gadwalls, green-winged teal, wigeon and a pintail. There were thousands of gadwalls, but we prefer greenheads so we picked our opportunities."
Back at camp by 9:30 a.m. for breakfast, the lifelong friends and family members were clowning around. Ward hunted with such passion when he was young that he tallied his season's take. Now, his duck hunting is a social event.
Ward lives in Brandon, Mississippi. A 70-year-old retiree, he was a federal wildlife officer before becoming Mississippi's Director of Safety for Associated Builders and Contractors. He shoots a Mossberg 835 stoked with Federal Black Cloud steel 3s and sets G&H and Carrylite mallard, gadwall, shoveler and wood duck decoys and Herter's and Higdon Canada goose decoys.
The Blind Build
His original scaffold blind won first place in the 2010 Boats and Blinds Contest ("Professional Grade" - Metal scaffolding blinds are burly and beaver proof. Wildfowl, Nov. 2011). The spark of genius for using scaffolding ignited after he wearied of rebuilding wooden blinds. In 2009, he erected it 75 miles north of his new skid-scaffold blind's location in the Mississippi delta near Greenwood, MS, on hunting pal Mike Upchurch's property.
Ward can no longer climb the original blind's tall ladder because his lower left leg was amputated in 2018. The prosthetic is covered in Mossy Oak Duck Blind camouflage pattern.
"My new blind is not as hard to get into," he said. "We first set it up in a farm field near Menter City, MS in 2016. Although we moved it three times to take advantage of different crops, the area didn't pan out. Ducks could be anywhere because there was too much water. In 2018, we moved it to its current location, where it's been ever since. Adding skids was the perfect solution."
Whereas the original blind had screw jacks set in concrete, the new blind's screw jack feet are welded to skids that have a lateral brace to keep them from twisting under towing pressure. The scaffold legs simply telescope over the jacks' shafts. Height and leveling adjustments are made with the jacks' giant "wingnuts," which are rotated with a hammer.
While the original blind is a two-story structure with a high boat hide beneath the floor, the new blind's floor is only 5 feet off the ground. The original blind is 16 feet long, 8 feet wide and 18 feet high at the roof front. Taking six months to build in Ward's shop, it was disassembled then hauled and reconstructed at the hunting site.
2 4' Wide "H" Frame Scaffold Sections With Gravity Locks For X-Bracing
4 4' Long "H" Frame Horizontal End Braces
4 18"- 24" Leveling Screw Jacks
2 7' Diagonal X-Braces
10 7' Long Guard Rails
2 9" Frame Connector Pins With 1" Collars
3 19 1/4" Wide X 7' Long Aluminum Deck Boards
2 19 1/4" Wide X 7' Long Aluminum Deck Boards With Plywood Floor Inserts
2 20" Wide End Knee Braces
2 Guard Rail Post With Gravity Locks
1 6' Long Bolt-On Mid-Section Scaffold Climbing Ladder
2 Bolt-On Scaffold Ladder Support Brackets
2 4" Door Hinges
2 Screen Door Latches
6 3.17' Wide X 8' Long 29 Gauge Ribbed Metal Siding
1 Box of 50-100 1/4" X 1" Self-Tapping Galvanized Roofing Screws
1 3.17' Wide X 10' Long 29 Gauge Ribbed Metal Siding
3 1" X 8' Long Square Metal Tubing
4 3/4" X 8' Long Square Metal Tubing
2 3/8" Thick 4" Wide X 12' Long Sections Flat Steel
1 1" X 8' Long Square Metal Tubing
2 3/4" X 8' Long Square Metal Tubing
Assorted Spray Cans of Camo Paint
Military Grade Camo Netting
NOTE: New scaffolding can be very expensive. Find a scaffold distributor that has used, worn and slightly damaged scaffolding that no longer meets OSHA Requirements and cannot be sold for construction use. You can usually find everything you need and save big bucks.
Time for an Upgrade
The new blind is 12 feet long, 4 feet wide and 10 feet high at the roof front and took two months to build. It was winched onto a trailer and hauled to the camp. From there, it was skidded to the hunting site behind a tractor and maneuvered into place with the same Ranger ATV that transports hunters. Hunters set decoys from a Coleman canoe.
Ward said scaffolding saves time over other construction styles because it doesn't require bolts or fitting and everything is joined with gravity lock pins and spring buttons. The first order of business was determining the blind length and width by joining the scaffold sections, cross braces and knee braces together. Once the sections were fitted, the legs were lifted onto the jack shafts. The threaded shafts were greased for lubrication and to prevent corrosion. The jacks' feet were welded to the skids and a cross brace was welded between the skids to prevent them from twisting when under tow. The skids are made of 4-inch-wide, 1/4-inch-thick steel plate. Six inches of each tip is upturned 45 degrees to slide over objects. A towing eye is welded to the interior of each tip.
The flooring and seat materials are standard scaffolding parts that hook to the frame and lock in place. The floor is metal. The seat is wood, with a full-length treated wood 2"x6" backrest screwed to the frame.
The access door and dog door frames are 3/4-inch square tubing. They are secured with screen door hooks and swing on hinges. The roof frame is also tubular steel. The roof is 5 feet high at the front, slopes downward to the rear and can be pivoted open backward to perpendicular for easier shooting during early morning conditions. Pivoting at the rear on homemade steel saddles with clip pins, the roof is also secured at the front by steel saddles and clip pins. The front has a full-length knee cover that flips forward to open when hunters rise to shoot. Foam pipe insulation covers the interior edge. Beneath the knee cover, a full-length treated wood 2"x4" screwed to the frame has rubber-coated screw hooks installed to keep shotguns upright. Mesh cupholders hold cups and small items.
The skin is green-coated steel siding attached with self-tapping screws. Ward cleaned the siding with acetone prior to applying camouflage patterns using aerosol cans and store-bought stencils. Military-style camouflage netting completes the camouflage.
Hunters gain access via an external ladder that is the middle section of a standard scaffold ladder. The dog platform has a metal scaffold flooring ramp with wooden runners screwed to it for sure footing. The dog section floor is a cut-down section of scaffold flooring running front to back, rather than longitudinally like the main blind floor, and is supported by knee braces attached to the blind's scaffolding frames. The dog ramp slides into the blind when the door is closed to keep swamp critters out after hunting season.
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