March 21, 2016
When Mark Buckwalter was nine, he hunted an oxbow that flowed into the Susquehanna River. It was shallow enough to wade, and an abundance of acorns in the river's floodplain and row crops on a nearby farm attracted and held waterfowl in the area throughout the season.
Though he moved around a bit, the 47-year-old federal law enforcement officer from Wrightsville, Pennsylvania, is back hunting where it all began.
"I left the area to work in other places for many years, and when I returned, I went to see the farmer and he still remembered me," Buckwalter said. "He gave me permission to hunt there again and now I take my 18-year-old son, Bryce, hunting in the same place where I hunted as a kid."
Father and son hunted from a permanent blind on the bank. Then, about three seasons ago, floodwaters destroyed the blind. Buckwalter eventually found an easy solution by turning a trash can storage container into a blind. The storage container worked well, and anyone can head to their local discount store, purchase one and begin using it.
However, it was his wife, Diane, who discovered the potential blind and saved it from disposal at the dump. The blind is so easy to use (and effective) that it earned an honorable mention in the 2015 Boats and Blinds Contest.
The family has a working Lab, Remi, who hunts out of the blind as well. There are doors in front so the dog can kennel and be sent for dead birds. They usually set out 12 to 18 Avery Greenhead Gear decoys and primarily kill wood ducks, mallards, black ducks and Canada geese. Shots are close, often within 25 yards and seldom longer than 40.
"The first time we hunted out of the blind, we shot a drake and a hen wood duck and two drake mallards," Buckwalter said. "We took it to the site, situated it on the bank, added some more natural brush, pitched the roof back and we were ready. I didn't even get my first cup of coffee down before the wood ducks were flying. That may not seem like many ducks, but in this area, four birds is a great hunt anytime."
Last December, Buckwalter was sitting in his office when his wife sent him a text message. She had been walking Remi when she saw a large piece of trash a neighbor had placed at the end of the driveway for garbage collection.
"I texted her back and asked to send me a picture," he said. "She sent back a message saying that it was a plastic storage container and she thought I might be able to use it for something. She then sent a picture of the gray plastic box and I immediately said I could use it and asked her if she could get the box down the street and into our garage."
About 15 minutes later, she called Buckwalter back and said it was in the garage, but commented on what a struggle it had been. The day was pretty blustery and she had to push the box down the street against the wind. In fact, it was blowing so hard that the box had lost its top three times in the process.
"I laughed and asked her if any of the neighbors saw her and she said she was so embarrassed to be seen pushing someone's trash down the street and making all kinds of noise," he said. "Then, I told her my idea. She could not believe she had done all of that work, struggling with the box and the wind, just so I could use it to make a duck blind. I smiled and told her she was the best!"
Cozy Little Hide
Later that evening, Buckwalter talked the project over with Bryce, explaining that with only a few simple modifications they could turn the storage container into a nice duck blind that would hold them both and their Lab.
"We cleaned out the inside of our newly acquired 'trash blind' and I cut up a few pieces of 2"x6" wood that I had around my home and used them to make a nice bench seat for us to sit on inside the container."
Buckwalter purchased a box of assorted bungee cords for $13 and some black and brown spray paints for $8 and began to work on the exterior. He drilled half-inch holes through the blind and then inserted the different length bungee cords across the front door panels, the roof, sides and back of the container. After the cords were in place, he painted the container with the aerosol paints. Then he camouflaged the blind further with native grasses and brush.
"The bungee cords hold the brush on the blind," he said. "They snapped tightly over the brush to hold it all in place. I cut up two old broom handles and used them to prop open the roof of the blind. I made four pieces from the wooden handles that we can use to either slant the top or completely lift it to enable us to see all around the blind. The blind with the top slanted provides complete shelter from rainy weather."
A single-tank propane heater inside keeps it toasty and warm on cold days. Buckwalter also cut two small semi-circular grooves in the top of the outside edges with a Dremel rotary tool to provide two gun rests.
The blind is very light and portable. To carry it to the hunting site along the river, Buckwalter and his son tied it on a deer cart. He estimated that the blind weighed about 80 pounds, brush and all. The cart tipped sideways a couple of times during the half-mile trip across a cornfield and through the woods. To prevent the wind from blowing it away or flood waters from floating it off, he used a rope to tie the blind to a tree on the bank.
"It is a very nice little blind that was once someone else's trash, but it is now serving a better purpose, providing enjoyment for my son and I. I should really thank my wife for being awesome and supporting my duck-hunting lifestyle. She truly is the love of my life and I recognize that it takes a great woman to push a piece of trash down the street to make her husband a happy hunter."