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Shaddy's pontoon: modeled after WWII military huts, this floating blind hides dog and man.

BILL BRODSKY OF Binghamton. New York, hunts the marshes of the St. Lawrence River with his nine-year-old chocolate Lab Shaddy. To keep Shaddy hidden and out of the water, Brodsky built a floating pontoon dog blind called the Quonset hut (after the military buildings made famous in World War II), taking third place in the 2014 Boats & Blinds contest.

Mallards, black ducks, teal, Canada geese and an occasional brant find their way into Brodsky's spread of G&H, Big Foot, Flambeau and homemade wooden goose decoys.

"I work as an engineer, so that helped with the design," he said. "I have also done construction on the side and have a large woodworking shop."

Brodsky has built kayaks, sneak boats, pirogues and coffin blinds, which gave him the skills he needed to build his dog hide. The blind is made of plywood covered in a fiberglass fabric and resin, making it light enough to tow behind a john boat.

When Brodsky arrives near the hunting locale, he anchors the boat and then uses the Quonset as a decoy and gear caddy, sets his spread and then puts the dog(s) inside, sitting right next to the blind on a plastic bucket.

"All we need are a few bushes sticking up and we can hide beside the blind," he said

MARSH-READY

The blind's pontoons are 9" wide by 8" high with flat bottoms. They are made of strips cut from a sheet of 1/4" B-C grade exterior plywood and are just less than 96 inches long, which allows them to fit in the bed of a pickup. The bow ends of the pontoons' sides were pulled together over a wedge made of pine lumber, then glued together with waterproof polyurethane construction adhesive. Bronze ring-shank boat nails were used to secure parts of the blind, including the pontoons.

At the sterns, 4" cedar planks were inserted to accept drain plugs. Along the edges of top, bottom and sides, 3/4" cedar stringers were added for nailing and gluing all the components together. Reinforcing blocks were also nailed to the tops of the bows for secure installation of D-handles to carry the blind and for towlines. Carriage bolts (1 1/2-inch) were installed in the tops of the pontoons with their threads projecting upward for securing the blind platform.

After the pontoons were assembled, the bottom and lower halves of their sides were covered with fiberglass fabric and resin to protect against ice. The tops of the pontoons were only covered with resin, not fabric, to cut down on weight.

The blind has a 36" square deck that is 2 3/4" thick. The top is 1/2" CDX plywood and the bottom is 1/4" plywood. Three 3/4" stringers run gunwale to gunwale and the space between them is filled with expandable foam for flotation and keeping the dogs warm. Stringers attach to two 2"x4" side rails running fore and aft, which are attached to the carriage bolts in the tops of the pontoons with double nuts to keep them from loosening and to cover the tips of the bolts to prevent injuries to the dogs' feet.

After the deck was finished, three 32" high arches of 1/2" EMT conduit were installed in holes drilled into the 2"x4" side rails. The arches were covered with 1/4" slats held in place with pop rivets. The ends of the blind are made of 3/4" pine lumber. Removable doors in the front and back allow dogs to enter from each end.

Weighing about 70 pounds, the blind can be stripped down into three pieces for transport and storage.

PRE-FAB WORK

The pontoons and blind were painted prior to final assembly. Then the blind was covered with a light green canvas tarp. Die-cut camouflage fabric was tied over the canvas. Natural vegetation is added for camouflage during the hunt.

Brodsky built the blind in 40 to 50 hours at his woodworking shop. The finished product has smooth surfaces and no cleats or snags that could injure a dog.

A harness tied to the two front handles makes towing the blind easy. Brodsky had built and tested a coffin-style dog blind, but he discovered that the bow plowed water and was difficult to tow. However, his pontoon blind tracks true and rides high.

During shallow-water hunts, the stern of the blind rests on shore. In deeper water, the blind is held in place by four 2"x2" wooden stakes in each corner.

The Quonset is tall enough to help hide hunters. By positioning the blind in or next to reeds, trees or bushes and adding a bit of natural vegetation for cover, it conceals shooters. Typically, hunters sit on plastic buckets, however, the blind gives them the option of hunting deeper water because the dogs have a place to keep dry.

"To familiarize the dogs with the blind, I used several steps," he said. "I allowed them to play in it while it was on land and did some practice retrieves. Then I placed it in the water next to a shoreline similar to our hunts and did some practice entries and retrieves."

Once the blind and the dogs were ready, Brodsky looked forward to opening weekend. A party of four hunters, including Lee Welch, Bob Thorne and Craig Throne placed the blind near the center of a decoy spread, giving Shaddy a good view of the action.

"He retrieved 20 ducks--mallards, black ducks and teal--that morning," Brodsky said. "Everyone was just thrilled with the blind and the hunt."
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Title Annotation:BOATS & BLINDS
Author:Marsh, Mike
Publication:Wildfowl
Date:Jun 1, 2015
Words:928
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