November 03, 2010
Hunters sling steel from the bed of a farm implement
Mike Babcock of Walton, N.Y., saw an advertisement in a bargain section of a local newspaper. Most waterfowl hunters wouldn't have given the ad a second look. But Babcock immediately thought of converting the manure spreader into a field blind.
His ingenuity earned third place in Wildfowl's 2009 Boats & Blinds Contest. For submitting his entry, Babcock was awarded prizes from FA Brand and Foiles Migrators.
"The people I bought the manure spreader from included a 275-gallon oil tank for nothing," Babcock said. "The tank had all kinds of surface rust on it, and the whole floor of the manure spreader was rotted out."
The first order of business was to remove the oil tank, as well as the spreader chain and beater mechanism of the manure spreader. Except for the floor, Babcock left the rest of the manure spreader intact, because he might want to use it again someday to broadcast fertilizer.
"For the blind flooring, I used 3-inch-by-5-inch-by-8-foot landscape timbers," he said.
"To hold them in place, I used 3-inch long screw bolts extending upward through the angle iron of the original spreader frame and into the timbers."
After a solid floor was in place, Babcock set out to create heavy-duty seating. He decided to build folding benches on both sides of the spreader bed by using three landscape timbers for each seat, and tying them together with 2-inch-by-4-inch braces screwed in place. The seats are hinged to the body walls of the spreader to allow them to rotate upward. The bench seats can be lifted to provide more hunting room and easier access to the storage areas beneath the seats.
The awning of an old camping trailer became bench seat covers, with the seat cushions made from a 6-inch-thick foam mattress. In the center of the blind, Babcock added a pair of inexpensive swivel boat seats he bought at a yard sale. To mount the swivel seat pedestals to the floor, he used 1-inch scrap metal poles and bolted them to plywood bases screwed to the landscape timber floor. The swivel seats rotate 360 degrees to allow shooting in any direction.
The spreader body, which is essentially a heavy-duty steel trailer with pneumatic tires on steel rims once the spreader mechanism has been removed, was used to support a blind frame covered with fabric. Babcock made the blind frame using metal piping salvaged from an outside storage garage. Since the pipes were not long enough, he joined them using 1-inch plastic pipe couplings. Four frame sections are bolted at the each end to a length of 2-inch-by-4-inch lumber cut at an angle on the ends to perfectly match the top angle of the manure spreader body sides. They slide into place, with gravity keeping them from slipping into the bed of the spreader. The metal pipe top frames are 31 inches high and 12 feet long to extend the length of the spreader body.
The frame is held to the body with four 6-inch bolts with wing nuts. Two hunters can attach or detach the frame in a couple of minutes. The top blind frame can also be removed for use without the spreader body simply by adding four legs made of 1-inch metal pipes cut to 26 inches long. The legs are attached at an angle in pairs on either side of the 2-inch-by-4-inch end pieces by using wing nuts and bolts.
"The material I used to cover the blind was a camouflage burlap," Babcock said. "I used five pieces of burlap that measured 5 feet by 8 feet. I also have a snow camo material. I also bought some brown and green material that I can use for a rain fly."
Beneath the floor of the blind, Babcock built two side-by-side storage compartments from 2-inch-by-4-inch lumber. They slide open from beneath the floor to the rear of the spreader. A plywood cover keeps soil and debris from falling into the compartments through the cracks in the floor.
Babcock added a kitchen cabinet to store a 20-pound propane tank and a 12-volt automotive battery. The propane tank fuels a 10,000-btu heater and a cooking stove and the battery operates a pair of halogen lights. The kitchen cabinet is mounted to the guard on top of the spreader's PTO shaft. A solar panel shed lighting system was also installed in a nod to the "green" revolution.
The blind is even equipped with a stereo sound system. Babcock converted a Plexiglas watch display case into a compartment to hold and protect the stereo system and two speakers. He placed the stereo compartment in the front of the spreader. Two additional speakers are located inside of protective boxes on the dual back doors of the spreader.
The back doors swing out to allow easy access for hunters.
The stereo system is used for hayrides and parties during the off-season, as well as for calling snow geese during the conservation order season. Halogen lights and solar light were added to illuminate the hunting area and inside of the blind while placing decoys and setting up.
Babcock fashioned a dog ramp from a tree stand safety bar to add to the rear of the spreader. He screwed a plywood platform to the metal tree stand safety bar frame, and then covered it with straw that is held in place by a spray adhesive. The ramp pivots down and is held in place by chain attached to the floor timbers with screws and wing nuts.
Babcock built and installed a gun rack that holds eight shotguns. Each gun butt fits into a separate slot filled with silicone adhesive to hold the guns securely without scratching the stocks. Velcro strips are secured across the top slots to hold the guns in place while the trailer is being towed to and from the hunting site. The rack is bolted to the floor using two 6-inch pieces of angle iron.
Babcock said he completed the entire blind by himself, except for the sound system, which a friend who works at an auto body shop helped him install.
The trailer is equipped with a jack on its tongue. To set up the manure spreader blind, Babcock tows it to the hunting area, drops the jack, levels the trailer and then unhooks the trailer from the truck or tractor and swivels up the top blind frames.
"Pop up the blind and put out your decoys, turn on your radio and you're ready to rock and roll," Babcock said. "If you get cold, you can always turn on the 10,000-btu heater."
With a bit of searching, Babcock was able to save money on nearly every aspect of his blind. He bought the h
eater, the solar light and a towing light kit on sale. He even salvaged the lumber from other projects and bought the paint he used to camouflage the blind at less than retail price.
"All of the lumber came from a 16-foot handicapped ramp that was no longer in use," Babcock said. "All of the paint needed to camouflage the spreader and other blind areas came from discount stores and I got good prices on them because I bought paints that other people had returned to the stores."