By Chris Hustad

Field blinds can be deadly when used right

In my neck of the prairie, the month of November officially changes our waterfowl season to the late season. While this means changes in rules and regulations such as a season close for canvasbacks and pintails; it also means the rest of the waterfowl world will be tougher to decoy. Try decoying a large flock of lesser Canada geese on a sunny day in the middle of November and you'll see what I mean. The birds are getting weary, they've been there SEEN that. In order to stay successful at bringing waterfowl into close range in the field, you'll have to pay close attention to fine details. And it's these small details that will set your field decoy spread apart from everyone else; and most importantly, the small details surrounding your field blind.

I'm really starting to become a bit skeptical to field blinds. Yes, that's right. I'm starting to lose faith in their ability to conceal hunters consistently. Have you driven by a decoy spread with field blinds lately? Whether they were ¼ mile, ½ mile or maybe even at the other side of the section; I bet you can pick them out. And everyone uses them these days so waterfowl of all species are getting pretty darn good at picking them out.

Field blinds can produce some nasty shadows

The past 8 or so years have brought some unusually warm fall weather and more often then not, we're hunting with sunny skies. This absolutely cripples a field blinds ability to do what they're supposed to, hide your position from the birds. The sun means shadows, and no matter how hard we try, they remain visible. I don't care what camo pattern the blind has, a dark shadow in a bright stubble field pretty much seals the deal with the advantage going to our winged adversaries. I honestly don't think many hunters pay attention to this and I'm seeing more people shelling out thousands of dollars for the most realistic decoys available on the market (okay, so I'm guilty of it too...boys and their toys I guess). I don't care how many real moving, fully-flocked decoys you have, the birds will have a hard time noticing them with 2-8 large shadows sticking out among them. And to make things worse, guys will be quick to grab a hand flag during the bird's approach to help the birds pick out their position even more. So what's a guy to do to help this situation?

Pole extensions keep the movement away from your blind

Don't feel you ALWAYS need to use your blind. If the weather is nice and the sun will be shining, leave the blind in the trailer and get back on the ground. Put decoys around you and try to lay under any you have that are off the ground.

Get an extension on your hand flag. Keep that movement AWAY from your position and your blind, don't let them know where you are. If you must use a hand flag, don't use it when they're within 150 yards.

If you are using your blind on sunny days, try stacking the blinds right next to each other. And make sure you take the time to put stubble over the cracks between the blinds. The purpose is to create a level plane with the blinds and reduce or even eliminate the shadows. As we've started experimenting with this, it works. But keep in mind, if you have no wind this will really hinder your ability to shoot to the sides. Not only is it a bit unsafe, you'll be blowing your hunting partners ears out. Keep this in mind when calling the shots.

Keep your head down whenever possible

Don't stick your head out of the blind, keep it hidden inside as much as possible. After I went over all of our hunting video footage last year, I noticed time and time again that hunters failed to do this. And do yourself a big favor, fork out 10 bucks for a face mask. I carry one at all times and I'm so used to mine that I rarely take it off during the hunt. There is nothing that shines more than an oily face. I'm convinced that a head sticking out of the blind on a sunny day without a face mask is only giving the birds the upper hand.

Put decoys around the blinds and on top of blinds as much as possible. Strap decoy shells to the blind doors, put flying decoys like the Goose Magnet over your blind, or even use longer stake extensions on your Sillosock decoys to have them hang over the blind. Doing this will help break up the shadow and appearance of the blind.

More often then not, hunters will put their blind location on the downwind side of the spread, right behind the landing zone. It does make sense of course, especially on windy days. But what this does is put your blinds as the first thing they see on their final approach. I'm also noticing more and more that geese, especially snow geese and lesser Canada geese will approach a spread from the side, instead of downwind and they will swing over the back half of the spread. I can't begin to count how many times this has happened to us this year already where your only shot is to pop out of the blind and shoot behind you. Not only is this unsafe, but it's a great way to cripple birds. Try putting your blinds in the middle or even the back part of the spread, in the middle of the biggest clumps of decoys. Keep their eyes around the landing zone, not you.

We layed in the decoys without blinds on this sunny day and it paid off with close working birds

Pay close attention to the field the geese are using or the field you plan to hunt. Is there any natural cover in the field? And are the geese flying over or feeding near this natural cover? That's what you should look for in the morning, use it to your advantage.

And last but not least, allow yourself plenty of time to properly conceal your blind. The camo pattern on your blind is
usually not enough, and many of the materials used in blinds are shiny when new...don't forget to mud them up. For more information on camouflage see the article on Field Blind Concealment.

Field blinds are one of the greatest tools to come to the waterfowl world in the past decade, but to get too over-confident in their ability can produce some sloppy habits. If you're noticing your hunting is getting tougher and tougher, take a step back and take a closer look at your concealment. I'll bet there's room for improvement.

Good luck and happy experimenting for the rest of the season.