November 03, 2010
Choices in field blinds allow easy setup in impossible places
As a kid, my field blinds were often no more than a gunnysack made from a hunk of torn burlap and a few clumps of weeds or grass. Out in the fields, I would lay on the ground right on the dirt or in the mud, covering up with the burlap and surrounding vegetation. If the weather was wet and cold, so was I. Some of my sharpest memories from this period of my life were of being too cold to shoot easily, or at all, when the ducks and geese finally came into the decoys.
Later in life, my friends and I built what we thought were "better blinds," made of canvas and wood. They were bigger and less prone to wetness, but we could barely move them. Somewhere and somehow, there had to be a better way. Well, this finally happened--and not just once, but several times with many different types of modern-day, commercially built portable field blinds.
CONCEALMENT The main purpose of a field blind is to effectively hide the hunter so that the birds are none the wiser and get within range. This sounds simple enough, but all of us who have ever dealt with blinds know that a good blind, one that does what it is supposed to do, can often be a complex engineering project.
There are two main factors to be considered when discussing the concealment qualities of any commercially available blind: camouflage and profile. "Camouflage" determines how well the blind blends in or otherwise naturally fits into the field where it is located. Most commercially made field blinds come in several choices of camouflage designs and patterns. Colors are varied and come in several types of material and fabric. Patterns are available from most of the major camouflage manufacturers-- Mossy Oak, Realtree and Farmland companies are just a few providing the most widely available and popular of camo fabric products.
PROFILE Another major consideration in blind criteria is profile. It's especially important in a field blind because a blind with too tall a profile can sometimes cast a shadow making itself conspicuous in a way that doesn't look natural to the birds. An argument can be made that a high profile doesn't matter in field blinds because waterfowl in flight are up high looking down and therefore don't notice the profile of a blind. Besides, good camouflage overcomes profile problems. Just as plausible, however, is the contention that the shadows cast by a too-tall blind are what set it off in the field.
COMFORT A hunter in a portable field blind needs to be comfortable so he (or she) can stay in the field long enough for a successful shooting experience. If the hunter in a blind is cramped, cold, wet, wind-blown and dirty, he will probably go home early. And the more comfortable you are, the more likely you'll be there when the birds fly over. It's that simple.
In evaluating the basic comfort features of any field blind, three things are important. I call them the "sore neck/aching back," the "wet feet/damp butt," and the "cold ears/frozen fingers" factors. In other words, how well does the blind support the body in it? If you're lying down or sitting in a blind, are your neck and back in a comfortable posture that can be maintained over a period of several hours? Does the blind protect your feet and rear end from the damp, cold and dirty ground found in many fields? And last, but not least, does the blind offer sufficient relief from low temperatures and high winds that often go with good hunting in any part of the country?
The Hay Bale blind from Gooseview Industries is a replica of an actual round hay bale commonly found in the same fields used by ducks and geese.
Added to these specific considerations, is another more general one I call the "nap factor." Is the blind so comfortable that during lulls in the hunting action, the average hunter might easily doze off for a moment or longer? If a hunter in a blind has to continually shift position, adjust the blind components or get up to stretch out muscle cramps and joint crimps, incoming birds will probably see all the commotion and hunting success will suffer.
If purchasing a blind from a sporting goods store, make sure you test out these features on the showroom floor.
CONVENIENCE When purchasing a field blind, another thing that should be taken into consideration is convenience. A portable field blind should be truly portable, that is, easy to transport in a vehicle (whether pickup truck, SUV, station wagon or van), easy to hand-carry into a field (for moderate distances) and easy to assemble (and disassemble) once in a hunting situation. In addition, the blind should not be difficult for the average person to enter and exit. And, most important, the blind should not be a problem to see out of and shoot from. Unless the hunter can visually spot birds and get a reasonable shot at them, the blind isn't fulfilling two of its most important purposes.
The following are other "blind factors" to test for in the sporting goods store. The "clutz" consideration. The fact that some people are innately clumsy, not mechanically inclined, and certainly-inclined-to-have-something-go-wrong-if-it-can should also be considered. Especially when it involves dealing with anything that has parts and steps and requires assembly in windy, wet, cold, dark places. In other words, just about any waterfowl field on a late fall or early-winter morning.
Cost is another factor. The field blinds covered here range from $50 to $400, perhaps a bit steep for hunters already strapped for equipment expenses. In most cases, however, buying a good quality field blind is a long-time investment that definitely will provide more versatility in where and how ducks and geese can be hunted. And who can put a price on concealment, comfort and convenience.
So, which type of blind should the waterfowl hunter buy? That, of course, depends on the type of hunting to be done. If you're a walk-in hunter restricted to carrying gear on foot over long distances, the light and more easily portable the blind, the better. Or if you're hunting super-spooky birds that will flare from anything suspicious looking in a decoy set, then maybe an easily concealable "lay-down blind" would be best.
If your hunting opportunity requires an all-day stay in a picked cornfield, long hours in a pasture full of hay bales or an extended time in flooded grain stubble, an ultra-comfortable, easy-to-shoot-from "sit-in" blind might be a first choice.
No matter where or how you hunt, there is a blind made for every circumstance and condition.
The Eliminator by Final A
pproach (877-9 KOLPIN), the first commercially successful portable lay-down field blind, was the prototype for all the lay-down blinds now on the market. Made with an aluminum frame covered by a durable, waterproof, camouflage nylon fabric, the Eliminator provides the waterfowl hunter with a very low profile, complete concealment and a warm, dry and comfortable hammock-like system that suspends the prone body a few inches off the ground. Two aluminum-framed doors can be flipped open giving the hunter instant shooting convenience.
Because the Eliminator is most easily transported in an assembled state, Kolpin has added to its line of lay-down blinds the X-Lander and Air-Controller as two more compact and portable products that roll up into easy-to-carry backpacks.
All Final Approach lay-down blinds are available in Shadow Grass, Advantage Wetlands and Natural Gear. Likewise all the blinds come with elastic "Stubble Straps" that give the hunter the option of attaching local vegetation to even better blend into whatever field is being hunted.
Field blinds from Gooseview Industries (800/399-5034) include several types ranging from the lay-down blind to the sit-in blind. The Destroyer lay-down blind has a uniquely solid plastic, totally waterproof, sled-like bottom and a camouflaged fabric top with spring-loaded covers that pop open when the hunter is ready to shoot. When disassembled, the plastic sled can be used as a gear carrier for hauling guns, ammo, decoys, extra clothes and other equipment in vehicles and across fields.
The Hay Bale Blind, as the name suggests, is a facsimile of a real-life hay bale in size and appearance. An aluminum frame is covered with a nylon fabric to create a very weather-resistant sit-in blind that will comfortably hold two to three hunters. A flip-back top allows for convenient shooting opportunity. The base of the Hay Bale has a plastic sled design and construction, which means the blind can be set up on any sort of wet ground or in snow keeping the occupants comfortably dry, warm and clean. And, as with the Destroyer lay-down blind, the Hay Bale can be used to transport guns, ammo and decoys.
The Cow Board, a new product introduced by Gooseview, is a life-size silhouette of a cow. Made from lightweight corrugated plastic, the "cow" can be staked into the ground next to a decoy rig to provide a place for hunters to sit and hide right out in the open.
New to duck and goose hunters this year is the Fieldfowler, a lay-down blind designed by goose guide John Devries and offered by Innovative Wildlife Specialties (IWS) Pop-Up Blinds (402-454-3334). The Fieldfowler has the same shape, size and dimensions as other popular lay-down blinds. This product, however, doesn't have the metal frame common to most other blinds. Consequently, the Fieldfowler is ultra-light at nine pounds and extremely compact when folded up into a 29x20x6-inch package.
In addition to these low-weight and condensed features, the Fieldfowler has an adjustable air-chambered headrest and a closed-cell foam mat for maximum comfort. The hunter in this blind is covered by fabric "wraps" rather than metal framed doors, which keep the total profile down to 10 inches. Without a rigid metal frame and bottom structure, the Fieldfowler will easily adapt to fit into uneven terrain in most any type of field from cut corn to wheat stubble. The Fieldfowler comes in all the popular camouflage patterns, with built-in stubble strap and a waterproof bottom.
The Pop-Up one man, portable field blind by IWS has a sturdy square tubular steel frame covered by Cordura nylon fabric with a snap back spring-loaded roof. When triggered by a foot release, the blind's top instantly opens to give the hunter inside the chance to shoot in a 180-degree motion. When the top is closed, the hunter is completely concealed and comfortably protected from wind, rain and snow. Side ports and a quarter-cocked position in the blind cover provide ventilation when needed and give a good view of incoming waterfowl. A nylon floor seals out cold and moisture for another level of comfort.
The Rapid Blind from Arctic Cat
is an ATV accessory that rides conveniently on the side of the machine and deploys in a matter of minutes. A shooting hatch at the top drops to allow the hunter's shot.
The 22-pound Pop-Up can be popped down into a 30x36x4-inch carrying size, easily transported in a vehicle or when hand-carried, then set up in a few seconds as a 30x48x48-inch field blind. The Pop-Up is available in several camouflage designs.
Avery Outdoors (800-333-5119) makes three versions of lay-down field blinds with each incorporating some of the best features offered by other field blind makers. Each Avery lay-down blind comes in a choice of several camouflage patterns including "Snow Cover." Two models also accommodate the "Neo Tub," a waterproof boot that will keep a blind's occupant dry in up to eight inches of water.
"The Power Hunter" lay-down field blind is a very portable 11 pounds with an aluminum tube-frame and an arched Flip Top camo mesh cover. Because of high-impact nylon hinges, the Power Hunter will fold-up into an easy-to-carry package of 30x26x5 inches with built-in backpack straps.
The Finisher Blind weighs in at 18 pounds with a full-size padded seat, fully adjustable headrest, angled Flagging Ports and a large window opening for a full view of incoming birds. The Finisher folds up into golf-bag size in a second so it's compactly transported in any vehicle and easily hand-carried in the field.
The Migrator is Avery's lay-down field blind for big hunters or anyone who wants lots of room for extra ammunition, a lunch box and maybe a Labrador retriever. At 22 pounds, the Migrator has zippered Flagging Ports and a Flagging Sleeve as well as a padded seat, head rest and barrel rest. A zipped Boot Bag feature allows for easy cleanup while an adjustable rear window provides instant ventilation when necessary. Camo Straps make possible the addition of field vegetation for total concealment.
Advertised as "The Truly Portable Hayhouse Blind" by Ameristep (810-686-4035), the Hayhouse when set up in the field is an exact facsimile of a 5x5-foot real-life hay bale. Yet, the whole structure folds up into a 6x28-inch backpack weighing a mere 12 pounds and easily carried in the bed of a pickup or the trunk of a sedan.
Camo mesh windows in the upper third of the Hayhouse give 360-degree views while still hiding up to three hunters sitting upright. Shotgunners can easily stand up, flip back the top and shoot when the ducks and geese are near.
The Hayhouse has three rows of horizontally positioned "brush pockets" that will hold most any kind of vegetation from t
he field. Zippered doors allow for quick and easy access.
The Fieldhouse is Ameristep's version of the lay-down field blind. At a mere eight pounds, this blind is compact and easy to backpack when folded up into a 2x24-inch package. Unfolded in the field, the Fieldhouse becomes a roomy 19-inch high and nine-foot long blind with an adjustable reclining chair. A tug on a ripcord instantly pops open the door flaps for effective and convenient shooting. Both the Hayhouse and the Fieldhouse come in Shadow Grass and Ameristep Tangle Camo.
The Rockpile from Condo Hunting Blinds provides total concealment in any setting--marsh or field. The easy-to-remove top allows for accessible shooting.
The Comfortzone lay-down field blind by Beavertail (800-413-0020) is aptly named because of its major emphasis on keeping the hunter comfortable while in the field. Constructed completely of closed cell foam with a waterproof floor and bottom, this blind has no metal frame to assemble, bend or break. The entire blind folds-up to a compact and portable 36x18x16-inch package weighing a mere 12 pounds. All-fabric double doors make for quick and easy shooting convenience. Stubble straps cover the entire blind for fast, effective concealment. D-rings sewn onto the main body are handy for attaching and hauling other gear.
The Field General by Double Bull Archery (888-464-0409) looks like a chaise lounge that lays on the ground. This may be the ultimate in comfort because of a heavy-duty, super-thick ergonomically designed foam bed sculpted to match and support the curves of the human body. The urethane-coated shell of the Field General has a multitude of elastic brush ties, a screen-type viewing cover, and a spring-loaded, wire-framed cover flap for total concealment.
There are no parts to assemble with the Field General because the entire unit comes ready for instant action. The blind comes in most popular camouflage patterns.
Available from Condo Hunting Blinds (651-283-4846) is the Rockpile. The Rockpile provides total concealment in a sturdy lightweight shell that is easy to transport, assemble and sit. It is roomy and comfortable with easy entry and exit. When placed in a marsh or field, this blind functions in a natural, undisturbed manner, allowing the waterfowl hunter total concealment from the weary ducks or geese.