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River blind dedicated to drowned hunter: victim's partners complete grand construction project.

THE BB&T BLIND is named for the team of hunters who designed it--Brock, Berry and Tatem. The unique blind was dedicated to the waterfowl hunter on the team who lost his life hunting the nearby waters and never saw the blind's completion, Tommy Brock.

The BB&T blind was built at the confluence of Chappel Creek and the Perquimans River in Northeastern North Carolina, on a point of land in a dense cypress and gum swamp, just downstream from spot in Chappel Creek where Brock lost his life on Oct. 8, 2009.

"The 2009 duck hunting season started a little different for me and Tommy Brock, who was an avid duck hunter for 35 years," Paul Tatem said. "He kindled a fire in me for duck hunting and rekindled a fire for duck hunting in my good friend, Ernest Berry. This was not unusual for Tommy, as he considered sharing his love of duck hunting with new duck hunters, as well as his son, Shawn, a privilege."

The 2009 season began with Tatem taking his first wood duck. Berry and Brock visited favorite spots and other places where they planned hunts for the upcoming 2009-2010 hunting season. One of the new spots they found was already owned by Berry. They began drawing up plans to build a blind, and thought it would be a good idea to enter it in the Wildfowl Boats and Blinds contest.

"They spent hours designing the blind, which included all the comforts of home," Tatem said. "Once they showed it to me, I thought they were out of their minds. But being young in the duck-hunting world, I was a sucker for anything. Then, in matter of weeks, tragedy struck as Ernest and Tommy were duck hunting out of a canoe."

After the hunters killed a wood duck, their canoe capsized. Both men made it to shore. Brock was the stronger swimmer, so he went back into the water to retrieve the canoe. The experienced swimmer reached the canoe, but went under and did not resurface.

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Berry ran through the swamps looking for help. Four hours later, the Perquimans Underwater Search and Rescue Squad found the drowned duck hunter. It was later determined he had suffered a heart attack, which caused him to drown.

"After taking our time to grieve for Tommy, it became imperative upon myself, Ernest and his son, Troy Berry, as well as Mrs. Brock and Tommy's son, Jason, that we complete the planned duck blind, which we would name BB&T for Brock, Berry and Tatem. Mrs. Brock had thought of the name weeks before Tommy's death."

Berry took measurements at the blind site so the blind would fit between the trees and atop the limited swampy soils, and then began pre-construction at his home. The blind's sections and pieces would be assembled later, after they were ferried to the site.

Weather delayed construction several times. But finally, on Dec. 2, 2009, transportation of the floor sections to the blind site started the assembly.

In a single day, the support posts and floor were assembled. Jason Brock, Tommy's youngest son, took the photos and helped build the blind. Berry took Jason Brock to visit the place where his father had drowned, which helped him through his grief.

The second and third days were spent erecting the pre-fabricated walls and roof. On the fourth and fifth day of construction, the crew brushed the blind and added a propane heater, benches and a cooking stove.

The blind was primarily built of wood from a tree on Berry's property, cut on a portable sawmill at a cost of 25 cents per board foot, saving $5,500. Total cost for the lumber was $560, including the use of treated wood for structural areas and plywood for benches and roof.

The men used a tobacco-barn style of construction, with the wall planks running vertically rather than horizontally. The cracks between the planks are covered with narrow strips of wood.

The floor was built in three sections. Two sections measured 8 feet by 6 feet, while the other is 4 feet by 12 feet. The floor joists are 2-inch-by-4-inch lumber set on 24-inch centers with 2-inch-by-6-inch headers along the ends of each section for stability. Support posts were 4-inch-by-4-inch lumber.

The completed floor footprint is 12 feet. The sides rise from the floor 40 inches, and then angle inward and upward. These angled wall sections are 18 inches front to back. A mid-wall runs from the back of the blind to a distance of 8 feet and supports a roof. The 11-foot-long roof is gabled, extending 40 inches on either side of the mid-wall. Height from the floor decking to the roof peak is 7 feet. Hunters enter the blind from a door in the rear and can walk around the mid-wall at the front of the blind to the other side.

The blind has three wooden benches. The front bench is 18 inches wide by 6 feet long. The side benches, located back to back along the mid-wall, are 24 inches wide by 8 feet long. The front bench attaches to the ends of the two side benches. The benches are made of plywood and are boxed in around the bases. The tops are hinged for access to the compartments. Metal swing gates cover vent holes in the bench lids and sides to allow gear inside to dry.

Two 25,000-btu propane heaters are located along the front wall, and an RV cooking stove/oven is positioned in the rear corner. Another 30,000-btu propane heater set at the rear of the blind inside the bench seat nearest the cooking stove delivers forced hot air.

Slats nailed to the vertical strips along the outside of the blind create brush holders in the gaps left between the strips. Notches in boards set along the top of the blind's sides create gun racks. The notched boards are also angled toward the outside of the blind and attached to backboards, creating a continuous shell and gear trough all along the edge of the blind behind the gun barrel notches.

The completed blind allows shooting from three sides. A three-rung aluminum stepladder allows access from the ground level to the blind.

RELATED ARTICLE: 2009 CONTEST WINNERS

FLOATING HOTEL TAKES TOP HONORS

Jim Jones, a long-time duck hunter from Greenville, Mo., was judged as the grand-prize winner of WILDFOWL's 2009 Boats & Blinds Contest. The winning entry details plans to construct an elaborate waterfowl blind with amazing amenities.

For his winning entry, Jones receives a generous prize package, including a layout blind, decoys, a decoy bag, a goose call and shotshells from Boats & Blinds contest sponsors FA Brand, Foiles Migrators and Federal Premium Ammunition.

Ryan Jordan of Antioch, III., was awarded second place for his entry of the "world's fastest duck boat." Mike Babcock of Walton, N.Y., took third place for converting a manure spreader into a field blind to hunt geese.

Individual stories about all three winning entries will run in 2010 WILDFOWL issues, as will articles about a number of other interesting entries received for the contest. For more information and pictures of the 2009 winning entries, go to wildfowlmag.com.

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MATERIALS LIST

1,497 board feet of lumber cut by portable sawmill     $560
24 2-inch-by-6-inch-by 12-foot lumber joists.          $138
Used camper for stove, lights, heater, propane tank    $150
Nails, paint, hardware, copper gas lines               $190
Deep cycle battery for lights                           $80

Total cost                                           $1,118
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Title Annotation:BOATS & BLINDS; Brock, Berry and Tatem blind
Author:Marsh, Mike
Publication:Wildfowl
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2010
Words:1252
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