Upgrade Your Waterfowl Field Blind with this Innovation
A flock of Canada geese coasted the final yards toward the decoys. Completely fooled, they answered Sean Fritzges’ finish calls. Some geese landed on the ground while others still hovered. It was late morning when 11 hunters rose to shoot, finishing out limits on Christmas Eve, 2017.
“That was one of our best hunts from my new blind,” Fritzges said. “It was the beginning of the coldest weather all season and birds were really working. Temperatures were in the low 20s and the wind was perfect. It was blowing out of the northwest, which makes geese decoy in front of the blind. Big flocks were coming in. We would shoot into a flock and, while we were picking up geese, another would come in.”
Fritzges, a 44-year-old construction representative for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is from Abingdon, Maryland, and was hunting with family members and friends. He has leased a farm on Maryland’s Western Shore near Jarrettsville, a few miles southwest of the Susquehanna River, for 10 years.
The blind is a classic wooden pit, but has improvements that make it better than Fritzges’ previous blinds. It is on the edge of corn and soybean fields totaling 110 acres.
He only sets 12-dozen GHG Canada goose decoys, and the blind is on such a great flyway that he and his friends hunt three to five days each week and not burn up the field.
“I built it at home with the help of my neighbor, Wayne Wienecke, and it cost about $1,000 for materials,” Fritzges said. “It took a weekend to build the walls. Then, we scheduled a half-day work party with the dozen guys who hunt with me and put it in the ground.”
The previous blind was 4 feet wide, 4½ feet deep and 16 feet long. What makes his Super Pit super is that it is 24 feet long, with different bracing to make it last longer. Width and depth are the same.
The old blind had a standard 2”x4” stud frame on 16” centers and plywood sides. The problem was earth load, which bowed the walls inward. He typically replaced pit blinds every five years. To prevent bowing in past blinds, he installed 2”x4” braces between the front and rear walls every four feet.
Anyone who has run through a pit blind with similar “hurdles” to grab a shotgun knows what it feels like to bark their shins. So, Fritzges came up with a solution.
He braced the walls horizontally to eliminate cross braces. He used treated 2”x6” lumber for the braces and ¾” treated plywood for the walls. He built the front and rear walls in 12-foot sections. Each section has five horizontal braces made with 12-foot long 2”x6"—one along the bottom, three at 16” intervals and one along the top. He spaced vertical cross-braces every four feet, putting everything together with deck screws.
The end walls have eight horizontal braces with vertical cross-braces in the centers. The additional horizontal braces counter the earth load and provide ladders. They also helped determine the seat height.
“Our hunters are different heights,” Fritzges said. “Once we got the blind in the ground, we adjusted the seat height with the guys inside.”
After transporting the walls to the site, the hunters screwed the blind together in two halves. Then they built a rectangular framework to connect the halves. This center framework has a 16" high wall, which is the only obstacle hunters may have to step over.
They removed the old blind and excavated a longer hole with a backhoe. The blind is located on a hill and the soil is well-drained clay.
They dug the hole deep enough to install 8" of No. 57 stone over geotechnical fabric. Prior to placing the blind halves in the hole, they stacked brick pavers for piers, using a laser level to ensure they were at the same elevation.
“We put in the pavers, put the two halves of the blind in the hole and connected them,” Fritzges said. “Then we put down the geotechnical fabric. If I could do it over, I would have put the geotechnical fabric down before the pavers because it would have been easier. Then we dumped in the stone and raked it level.”
The stone infiltrates rainwater and mud from boots. After the season ended, the hunters cleaned the litter and grass from the blind. They raked the stone and it looked brand new.
Once the blind was in place, they back-filled the annular space using shovels and tamped the soil. The two-foot wide roof is made from two sheets of ½” treated plywood ripped in half, lengthwise. The roof braces are 2”x4” on 4-foot centers.
Two strands of wire—one along the centerline and one along the rear —hold bundles of switchgrass secured with wire ties with the tassel ends extending over the opening. Hunters slide the grass apart and pop up through the opening to shoot.
Fritzges’ Chesapeake Bay retriever, Louie, fetched half of the geese shot during the Christmas Eve hunt. He enters and exits the blind on a ramp made from a 2”x8” plank with 1”x2” slats screwed on for traction. When kids are along, Fritzges sets the ramp on milk crates for them to stand on.
“How we set the decoys depends upon the wind direction, so the roof is low enough for us to shoot over the back of the blind,” he said. “The blind is so well camouflaged that decoying geese have landed right on top. We have also had geese falling out of the sky hit the roof.”