This story was first published in the 2005 November/December issue of Wyoming Wildlife News
Let’s get one thing straight right now: building a duck blind is nothing like an ordinary carpentry project. You can’t learn skills like this from a book. They are handed down from father to son, uncle to nephew, or old duck hunter to young duck hunter. True vertical and horizontal?? That’s for sissies. Mitered corners? What are you, some kind of latte-sipping, granola-crunching, tofu-eating civilian?
To build a proper duck blind you must put aside your preconceived notions of what good carpentry should look like. You should even put aside your notions of what lumber should look like. Or all building materials, for that matter. You must learn to think outside the box. In fact you should probably tear up the box and use it in your duck blind. The well-drawn plans you see for blinds in magazines are all hoaxes.
You only BUY lumber for duck blinds as a last resort. The best blinds are fashioned from lumber that was originally intended for other purposes. Remodeling you basement? When you tear out those old studs, save them for your next duck blind. Some blinds are even made from – dare I say it? – stolen materials. I don’t mean actually STOLEN stolen. STOLEN means they were taken from their rightful owners. Say you saw a 4X8 sheet of plywood lying around and you instantly recognized the fact that it would make a perfect roof for your duck blind. So you loaded it into the bed of your pick-up and took it someplace where it would be put to good use. The fact that it was lying around near a construction site is immaterial.
What about tools, you ask? Cordless drills are indispensable, unless you forget to charge up the batteries like I usually do. But in that case you can use the drill as a hammer. If you should happen to have a measuring tape you can also use that as a hammer. In fact you can use any heavy object as a hammer. Remember the old joke about a guy who walked into the hardware store and said “I want a wrench” and when the clerk asked what kind of wrench he said, “Don’t matter. I’m gonna use it for a hammer”? That guy was probably building a duck blind.
What ordinary carpenters call measuring is unnecessary in duck blind carpentry. If you are building your blind on-site you are probably using a chain saw and your cuts will be less than precise. Simply get one of your partners to hold the board for you and when he says “cut it along about here somewhere” you cut it along about there somewhere, making sure all feet, fingers, and dog noses are safely out of the way.
Imperfections that would drive a real carpenter batty can be an asset to a duck blind. That four inch gap on one end between the door and the floor? No problem. It just makes it easy to relieve yourself without leaving the blind. I’ve probably shot at least fifty ducks in my lifetime with my pants unzipped.
Take that eight foot 2X6 you ripped long-ways with the chain saw so it would plug the three inch gap between the front wall and the southeast corner 4X4. You know, the gap that was left because you didn’t have a tape or pencil to make the measurements you needed so you just “eye-balled it”. You thought you were cutting a straight line, but when you stepped back and looked at it, it looked like an elevation line on a topo map. No problem. It looks more natural this way. Have you ever seen a straight line in nature?
That dog ramp you worked so hard on, the one that juts off the front of the blind at a funny angle. Forget about it. If it looks okay to your dog it’s fine. Besides, this way it looks more like a beaver-chewed log. That’s probably what you wanted but you just didn’t know it.
Corrugated tin from barns and outbuildings makes excellent duck blind material. It is easily attached to a wood framework and is impossible for beavers, muskrats or squirrels to destroy. It is best to wait for the tin to be removed from the buildings by forces of nature such as tornadoes, as removing it yourself can result in animosity from your neighbors and possible legal hassles.
Any job that requires physical exertion makes a man thirsty. A recent scientific study has proven that beer is the best thirst quencher known to man. The fact that all the scientists who participated in the study were beer drinkers is not important. However, a subtle law of physics is at work here: the Law Of Diminishing Returns. If you and your partners consume… say… a case of beer while building your duck blind, it does not necessarily follow that your blind will look twice as good if you consume TWO cases. In all probability it will look worse. But then again, one objective of blind building is to build a blind that does not LOOK like a duck blind, the idea being that it might actually fool a duck or two. In this case beauty is in the eye of the beholder and the beholder is a duck.
When you and your fellow carpenters have finished your blind – and your beer – stand back and take a good look at it. If the floor is level , the walls perfectly vertical , and the roof straight then you have probably screwed up somewhere. But take heart. A lot of camo in the form of marsh grass, oak limbs or willows will hide this embarrassing perfection. And after a season or two your blind will sag on one end and have a hole in the floor. Some of your purloined four-by-fours will be sporting beaver notches, and muskrats and raccoons will have left their droppings here and there. Feathers, empty shotgun hulls, and junk food wrappers will litter the floor.
In other words it will look like a respectable duck blind.