Learn how to use a layout blind to increase your versatility in hiding from birds while waterfowl hunting
When it comes to the pursuit of ducks, concealment from the wary eyes while working birds is paramount. Whether you hunt ducks in marsh lands, from the shoreline of ponds and lakes, along river banks, or even in agricultural fields, utilizing a layout-style blind as camouflage during the hunt is an exceptional option.
Layout blind basics
Layout waterfowl hunting blinds are built around a basic concept of a long, cloth covering with brush loops sewn onto the outside. Designed to lay low to the ground, the blind’s basic purpose is to conceal a hunter lying prone on the ground. Layout blinds can be exceedingly effective, allowing you to virtually vanish under the right conditions.
Many layout blinds include a frame constructed of steel or aluminum tubing with pop-open doors and screened viewing windows. Various styles of layout support for your torso including pads, hammocks, and chairs, are often built into the frame of layout blinds. Padding and support provide comfort during the hunt and help position your body better to allow you to pop up to shoot when the time is right.
Brushing or grassing in your blind is arguably the most important factor for concealment when it comes to hunting from a layout blind. Most manufacturers incorporate a series of brush loops that use nylon webbing, elastic straps, or a combination of both to fasten brush to your blind. Matching the terrain of the area you are hunting with the vegetation on your blind is a key factor to blending in and disappearing.
Layout blind hunting situations
Using a layout blind for duck hunting will allow you to be a more versatile and effective duck hunter in a variety of hunting situations. Layout style blinds are the ideal solution for hiding in low brushy cover, on low flat grassy banks, along overgrown fence rows, and on top of marsh dikes.
Hunting from a layout blind takes a little more attention to detail than simply throwing out your blind and crawling in to hunt if you hope to have consistently successful hunts. Scouting ducks to find the “X” and setting up where the ducks want to be remains a critical factor for layout blind hunting, and duck hunting in general.
Ideal situations for using a layout blind include finding ducks using a flooded terrace in a cut crop field, ducks loafing on a small pond, ducks utilizing an open pool on a frozen river, or a ducks concealed in a hidden corner of a shallow marsh.
Remember to keep the wind at your back when you position your blind so that the ducks can land into the wind and into shotgun range. Consider the angle of the sun compared to where you expect your shots to be; being blinded by the sun when ducks are working can be rough. Angle your blind slightly right (for right handed shooters) or slightly left (for left handed shooters) to provide a greater range of movement and better shotgun swing on birds during your hunt. These few tips can help to make your hunt a greater success when it all comes together.
Hunting ducks From a layout blind
With some work, time, and miles, you’ll eventually find some ducks using an area that you can access and hunt. When the terrain looks perfect to conceal yourself in a layout blind to hide from ducks working into your decoy spread, it’s time to give it a go. Here’s a list of a few items that will help make your layout blind duck hunts more productive and enjoyable.
Watch your shotgun muzzle. As with any hunting, firearm safety should always be top of mind. Always keep the shotgun muzzle out of the foot and leg portion of the blind. Your shotgun barrel should remain outside of your blind, pointed out and away from your body. Load your shotgun only after you’re situated in the blind, and unload your gun before you get up and out of your blind. Make sure to keep your safety on until after you’ve opened the blind doors, you’re popped up, and have your target in line.
If you’re hunting in a group or with other hunters, be careful that your loaded shotgun in the blind isn’t pointed downrange if another hunter is out adjusting decoys, retrieving a downed bird, or working a duck dog.
Pack carefully for a layout hunt. Different hunting situations and hunting styles can dictate unique gear and equipment. Duck hunting layout blinds are compact and sleek by design, offering a limited amount of room to stash your equipment.
Pack a low-profile blind bag to place off to one side inside the blind, or between your legs. A couple boxes of shells, a few snacks, and a small Thermos with a warm drink should fit nicely in a small blind bag.
Sometimes having your duck calls on a lanyard around your neck can be cumbersome in the layout position, making them hard to get to. Consider a single duck call in your layout bag, in your pocket, or fastened to a jacket button or zipper pull.
Shooting ducks from a layout blind requires practice. If you’ve not practiced shooting a shotgun at a moving target from a prone position, or popping up from laying on your back, the motion can take a little time to get used to it. Practice the pop up motion and swinging the shotgun with the gun unloaded. Get comfortable, and try it at home with an empty gun. You can even try shooting some clay pigeons from your layout blind to help you adjust to this new shooting position.
Use shadows and natural terrain to hide layout blinds. Layout blinds are a fantastic tool that lend themselves to many situations, but they have their limitations. Throwing a layout blind out in a field of short green wheat or mowed hay might seem like it should work, but the odds are that the birds will see your blind from a mile away.
To keep yourself in the game, it’s important to consider natural shadows, depressions in fields, and vertical terrain that will help break up your low outline. Setting your blind slightly off to the side of where you expect birds to finish can help especially wary birds work in closer without being as suspicious of your hide.
Remember to remain still In a layout blind. While it may seem that there’s no way birds will be able to spot you when you’re hiding inside of a totally grassed and hidden layout blind, remember that motion will still give you away.
Be careful to keep your face tucked in until it’s time to shoot, and try not to move your head around looking for birds. Learning to move your eyes first and your head second will help you to land a lot more birds.
When you feel comfortable and the shot seems right, it’s all or nothing. Once you pop those doors open, the gig is up and the birds will quickly be on their way out. Stay calm, open the blind doors in a smooth motion, pop your upper body up, mount your shotgun, swing through your target, and take the shot.
Keeping a variety of tools in your waterfowling toolbox is a great way to stay versatile and adapt to the duck hunting situations your hunting season may present. Consider putting a duck hunting layout blind in your toolbox this season.
Raised on the prairie lands of Kansas, Rob McDonald is an outdoor writer, blogger, and photographer who finds his home on the tallgrass prairie of the Flint Hills. November and December sunrises often find Rob, shotgun in hand, wearing leather off of a pair of hunting boots behind a hunting Labrador in pursuit of bobwhite quail, cackling rooster pheasants, and prairie chickens.