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Mobile crow's nest: this plastic sneak boat is the perfect one-man blind.

LIKE MANY WATERFOWLERS, Garrett DeBruhl is a public land hunter. The area he hunts has an average water depth of one or two feet with good footing. However, a system of dikes and canals drains and floods the impoundment, and the dikes can be more than five feet deep and 15 feet across, making the hunting grounds accessible only by boat.


The small craft he built his blind on was an ABS plastic crow boat. The blind sits high enough and is stable enough to stand up inside while taking a shot (most hunters would have to remain seated to shoot from such a small boat). This taller blind is comparable to sitting in the crow's nest of a large ship, and enables DeBruhl to see birds approaching from longer distances.

"The oak wood used to build the blind came from my father's furniture business," he said. "Oak is decay-resistant and sturdy. I used bull-nose and flute joints to build the frame. That type of joint made the blind stable without having to use external bracing, which would have added to the weight of the blind."

All of the wood used for the frame was 3/4 inches thick and 2 1/2 inches wide except for two, 3/4-inch square stringers on top of the frame. Wooden, 1 1/4-inch dowels were used for the axle of the dolly and for the supports that stabilize the boat while hunting. The dog platform was made of 1/2-inch treated plywood.

The bull-nose joints were made with a groove cut into the ends of each member about 1 1/2 inches from the end. A bolt is inserted through a hole drilled in the center of the groove and through the center of the end of the member that is fitted into the groove. After the bolts are tightened, the joints become stable. The top stringers that hold grassmats in place are bolted into place and have no grooves.

"To build the blind, the first thing to do is to install the 49-inch base rails with the back rail behind the seat area and both rails centered across the boat and the grooves in the rails for the bull-nose joints facing downward," DeBruhl said. "The rails are bolted to the boat gunwales. After that, install 38-inch base side rails to the 49-inch rails, bolting them into the grooves. Bolt the four, 34-inch vertical supports through holes cut into the edges of the 49-inch rails. Install the top rails and top side rails in the same manner. Attach 12-inch front pieces on the outside through the holes that are drilled into the edges of the front vertical supports. The front pieces are used to taper the center of the grassmats farther out away from the main frame to provide a larger interior. After that, attach the 38-inch stringers on top of the frame 12 inches from the edges of the frame."


The next step is building a wooden dolly to transport the boat over land. The cradle is custom-fitted to the angle of the bottom for stability. It is held tightly to the boat with a ratchet strap.

A 1 1/4-inch dowel is cut for the axle and tapered to accept the wheels. The wheels are golf caddy wheels bought from a thrift shop. A bolt on either side holds each wheel in place. The cradle is made of wood and has 2 1/2 x 4 wood hangers bolted to the cradle with 1 1/4-inch holes drilled through them to accept the axle.

Next, the boat-blind stabilizers are built and installed. The stabilizers are also made of 1 1/4-inch dowels and cut to lengths appropriate for the water depth. DeBruhl cut his stabilizers to a length of four feet. The feet of the stabilizers are made of 3 x 3 x 3/4 oak. A metal insert was installed inside a 3/8-inch hole drilled into the end of each dowel and a bolt was inserted through a hole drilled through each foot. When the bolt is threaded into the insert, it creates a tight joint.

A series of 3/8-inch holes were drilled into each of the dowel rods starting from the top to align with a corresponding hole in the upright members of the frame. Two bolts are used for each stabilizer, and the stabilizers are adjusted to the water depth by moving the bolts.


Four round-head screws are installed about 8 inches from the corners of the top of the frame to hold grassmats or chicken wire in place, and four similar screws are installed on the stringers near the center. Zip ties are looped through the mats and over the screw heads to hold the mats in place.


The sides of the dog platform are cut to the shape of the boat and extend 1-inch past the outer gunwales. The platform is made of plywood and bolted in place. To provide a sure grip for the dog's feet, 1/8-inch thick wooden strips were glued to the platform.

The factory seat wasn't high enough, so the replacement seat is a bucket or plastic garbage can turned upside down. A piece of plywood fits between the tracks where the factory seat was fitted and a piece of lumber cut to fit the inside of the mouth of the bucket or trashcan is bolted to the plywood. Screws are inserted through the edge of the plastic seat and into the lumber.

The boat weighs about 50 pounds, and the blind, including mats, weighs less than 15 Pounds. DeBruhl fills it with 42 decoys and easily wheels it about a quarter-mile to the launching area. He hauls it on a trailer then installs the blind and grassmats once at the parking area.

"It takes just a few minutes to put it together once I get into the parking lot," he said. "I go about 300 yards into the water and set up the stabilizers. The boat is so stable that the dog can run around inside. The blind turned out so nicely my dad wants to use one of the other canoes for himself. I will be able to use it for years and stay hidden no matter where I set up, whether I'm near a tree on one of the dikes or out in the in the middle of the impoundment, hunting in waist-deep water."

RELATED ARTICLE: Duck addiction.

Garrett DeBruhl is a 23-year-old junior studying accounting at North Carolina State and lives in Raleigh. He hunts on weekends, heading home to stay overnight with his father, Ray. The area he hunts the most is Catfish Lake Impoundment, an 800-acre public waterfowl hunting area in Croatan National Forest that is open on Tuesdays, Saturdays and designated holidays throughout the waterfowl season.

His father owns a furniture manufacturing business, which inspired much of the design and materials used in building the blind on such a small boat. The joints and fittings he used to stabilize the blind are also used in Furniture manufacturing and were vital to creating a sturdy blind on the very small craft.

The crow boat is about 10 feet long, 40 inches wide across the gunwales and 36 inches across the bottom. The family purchased three used crow boats for a total of $100.

DeBruhl became serious about hunting after a friend introduced him to some public hunting areas where ducks abounded. He shoots a variety of waterfowl and routinely takes home ringnecks, scaup, redheads, canvasbacks, blue- and green-winged teal, mallards, wigeon and pintails. DeBruhl also hunts some smaller sloughs and another public impoundment called Pamlico Point, which is accessible only by navigating water too big for the Crow Boat, so he has to hunt it with a friend who has a powerboat. All told, he hunts about a dozen days each waterfowl season.

"A friend of mine, Kevin Cauley, took me to Pamlico Point, 30 minutes north of Baybora, N.C.," DeBruhl said. "He and a buddy of his were telling me what I should expect to see and told stories of hunting there in the past. When we got there, they helped me set up in some brush near the outside dikes inside the impoundments. They went to a spot further into the impoundment with my friend's Lab. I did not have my Lab since she was just a pup. That day I did not shoot any ducks, but I was hooked on it for life. "
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Title Annotation:BOATS & BLINDS
Author:Marsh, Mike
Date:Mar 1, 2013
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