Chasing waterfowl for the past two decades has allowed me to experience several different hunting situations. This article refers to the seasons my dad, brother and I spent hunting along the edges of a specific flooded marsh.
What made us try layout blinds?
For a few seasons, we spent our hunting days in a particular flooded marsh that had no standing brush/vegetation other than planted millet which only stood a foot or two above the water’s surface. This provided very little in the way of cover, so the first season we hunted out of one of the permanent blinds placed on a mound out in the middle of the pool.
While we had some great hunts out of it, we noticed that later in the season when the birds became weary and stale, they would completely avoid that tall standing blind that stuck out like a Busch Light at a black tie event.
We noticed that instead, the ducks preferred a certain corner of the marsh that was wide open and surrounded by bare ground. The next season we decided to change our strategy and set up in that corner. The problem was, we knew if we put a tall standing blind there, the ducks would shy away from it. Then entered layout blinds. They allowed us to keep a low profile, hide our movements, and change our location according to the wind.
What is a layout blind?
A layout blind is a fold up concealment device used for waterfowl hunting. It’s placed on the ground and unfolded so the hunter can get inside and stay hidden.
Layout Blinds Pros and Cons for Waterfowl Hunting
During those years of hunting that marsh, we learned a lot about layout blinds. Including what we did and didn’t like about them.
|Layout Blind Pros||Layout Blind Cons|
|Comfort||Limited to dry land|
|Interchangeable Camo||Hard to shoot from|
|Collapsible||Limited storage room|
|Wider viewing angles||Hard to enter/exit|
Layout blinds can hide a hunter as well as, (maybe better than), any other blind option out there. Their low profile means you can set them up on bare ground instead of needing to find brush or other vegetation to hide in.
One thing that can flare birds quicker than anything is unnatural movement on the bank/water’s edge. A layout blind totally eliminates the chance ducks or geese would see a hunter’s movements because they provide a physical barrier between the hunter and the birds.
I’ve hunted in permanent duck blinds that range in comfort from cardboard box to Ritz Carlton. While layout blinds aren’t the Ritz, they are designed for hunters to lay down in so you can stretch your legs.
Layout blinds are designed with a backrest inside them (think hospital bed). Most of these backrests are adjustable to fit the hunter’s height and the the angle they want to be positioned. This adjustability helps with comfort (so you don’t have to be stuck in the same position all day).
- Interchangeable Camo:
Most layout blinds come with some type of “straps” or clips on the outside to which you can attach brush/vegetation. This’s helpful if there’s something close by that you can cut down/pull out and secure to the blind.
One thing we learned we needed was some type of concealment cover to place over over our blinds. We made sure to bring multiple different patterned covers because:
- In case we decided to set up in a different area with different ground cover than we had originally planned on.
- We found it worked best if our blinds looked different from each other’s when viewed from the air. With 3 same colored “piles” on the bank, it could look suspicious to overhead flying ducks and geese.
One of our favorite layout blind covers is this one made by North Mountain Gear. They’re durable and more “3D” looking than other options we’ve seen. They also come in different patterns. Click on the image below to check out reviews and pricing on Amazon:
Layout blinds are big and bulky, but can be collapsed for storage and packing in and out of hunting spots. Although heavier than a marsh seat, a-frame blind, and other concealment options, layout blinds can be folded up and strapped on the hunter’s back for easier transport.
- Wider viewing angle:
Hunting out of traditional blinds usually allows waterfowlers to watch for ducks and geese from a limited angle of sight. A benefit of setting up in a layout blind is that, other than directly behind you, you’re able to see in every direction. This can help detect those birds that often go unnoticed when hunting with limited viewing angles.
Even though they can be folded up, the material makeup and size of layout blinds is still bulky and can be heavy to walk with to your hunting spot. They can also we hard to lift in and out of vehicles and take up a lot of room when transporting/storing.
- Limited to dry land:
Layout blinds offer many options for setup location, but only if it’s on dry land. Even a small amount of standing water or sticky mud will cause issues when packing up and hauling out.
- Hard to shoot from:
When shooting from a layout blind, you must pull yourself up into a sitting position (like doing a sit up in gym class) and shoot from the ground. You might not believe it, but this is VERY different than shooting from standing up/sitting on a chair or stool.
Another aspect that makes it harder to shoot out of them is the process of getting your gun up. While you’re in the blind, your shotgun’s sitting either right beside you or on the ground nearby.
In order to shoulder your gun, you have to open the blind’s flaps with your hands, sit up into position, and pick up/shoulder the gun. Since this usually requires you to look at something other than the ducks for a brief second, you then have to reevaluate which bird to shoot at and how far to lead them by. Often times when you open the flaps, the ducks begin to immediately backpedal/flay away, so all the steps must be done very quickly and it’s easy to rush things.
- Limited storage room:
While layout blinds can fit more than just a hunter inside them, the spare room isn’t much. Most of them have room for a blind bag and maybe a snack, but anything more makes it pretty crowded. Also, the way you’re positioned in the blind makes access to the “stuff” laying beside you very awkward.
- Hard to get in and out of:
Referring to entering and exiting a layout blind as difficult is an understatement, especially if you’re wearing waders and/or heavy clothing. This can become a real nuisance when getting out to stretch your legs, rearrange decoys, or answer the call of nature.
When and where to use a layout blind:
Layout blinds would be good if:
- You’re hunting dry fields with limited access to nearby cover
- The water you’re hunting is butted up next to dry land
- You have enough storage in you’re vehicle to haul the layout blinds within a short walking distance to where you’ll set up
- You’re hunting stale birds that seem to be “blind shy”
When not to use a layout blind:
There’re better options than layout blinds if:
- You need to walk long distances to your hunting spot. A better alternative in this situation would be a marsh seat.
- The ducks or geese you’re hunting are working the middle of the pool vs. the edges. Once again, the better alternative would be a marsh seat.
- Physically it’s hard for you to get up and down from the ground repeatedly throughout the hunt. In this instance, a better alternative would be an A-Frame blind.
Tips for using a layout blind:
- “Mud” them down before using (see the video below). This hides the shine that the blind’s material gives off.
- Carry several different pattern options to cover your blind with. Click on the images below to check out Amazon reviews and pricing for one of our favorites:
- Make sure it’s completely dry before putting it away. Moisture can cause mildew and rot very quickly
Are layout blinds good for waterfowl hunting?
Layout blinds are an effective option for waterfowl hunters who want to keep a low profile while hunting from dry ground. They’re available in different sizes and camouflage patterns to fit various hunting situations.
They can however be challenging to get in and out of, and are heavy and bulky when walking long distances, and are difficult to shoot out of.
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