One brisk morning at dawn, I drove toward the spot where I like to float my floating blind in the creek. I slipped on my waders and set my “ship” afloat.
My “ship” is made of two pieces of 3”-thick foam board with a metal frame on top and a camouflaged fabric draped overtop. This hides me but still allows me to see through the holes.
I mounted my camera. I could already feel the cold seeping through the waders and sending a chill through my body.
Coming around the bend, I saw a beautiful pair of mergansers in the distance. I inched along in the little inlet. A skittish beaver slipped underwater before I had a chance for photos. This was going to be great. I parked my secret presence along the creek bank, where my rig wouldn’t be so obvious, and waited.
By now the sun had risen above the horizon. Beautiful golden light, perfect for photography, danced across the water!
I checked my camera settings. I was ready.
And then it happened—my heart pounding vigorously, I fired off shot after beautiful shot of a gorgeously colorful pair of Wood Ducks before they disappeared behind a log. I was thrilled. I had never been this close to Wood Ducks before.
Hearing a splash of water behind me, I carefully turned around to see a lovely pair of Common Mergansers heading straight toward me. Setting my sights on them, I fired away until they were so close my camera couldn’t focus anymore. What an opportunity to be within 5 feet (2 m) of these ducks!
Time stood still as I floated along. I saw a few turtles on a log sunning in the warm morning sunshine. Next, I ended up in a mad squabble of mergansers and Wood Ducks flying and landing on the water all around me. A female merganser sat in a tall sycamore tree watching it all happen. The best part about the whole thing was that I was right there in the middle of it, and they never knew that a “threatening” human was there too.
With the sun now high in the sky and my hungry stomach calling for breakfast, I headed home. It would be fun to show and tell the family about my morning.
You can build one of these floating blinds too, so you, too, can enjoy waterfowl photography at its best.
Building A Floating Blind
Things you will need:
- A creative brain
- Bolts, nuts, a drill, wrenches, socket set, an aluminum welder, and paint.
- 6 pieces -40” x 20” x 1” thick foam insulation from the local lumber yard.
- The first thing you’ll need to do is find the floats. I went to the lumber store and bought one-inch foam insulation boards used for houses. I cut six pieces the same size and layered three of those on top of each other. The aluminum frame would get attached to these two home-made boogi boards. That’s not the only way to do it. If you have access to two life-size boogie boards, those are ideal, stable floats! Anything that floats and is stable works.
- Next is the aluminum frame that fastens to the foam board to hang our camera from.
Start by gathering metal (preferably aluminum) and welding pieces together to make a frame. I began with the base of my frame. I laid the two L brackets out on the floats. You can see how the floats are farther apart at the back. I did that so I have enough space to walk along between the floats as I push the blind toward my subjects. The front does not have to be as wide because that’s where your aluminum frame will go.
- After determining your spacing, drill the holes to fasten the frame. I used four bolts per side. Sandwich the foam with wooden pieces for added strength.
- Then comes the upper frame part. Here there is welding, drilling, cutting, and just making everything fit. You’re gonna have to just rig stuff up to where it fits you and your camera—how high and how wide.
I started with welding the two sidewall pieces, and made them so the bottom part fit in between the two aluminum L brackets at the bottom that are going across to both floats. Both sides of the frame are similar. At all points where bolts are used, the frame can fold, creating the ability to fold the whole frame.
For the top, I used two more short L brackets and made them fit across the top, securing both sides. Now you have a nice frame that can fold up, perfect to hang something from, which comes next.
- Now that you have the frame, you need to find a way to hang your camera. I got an old camera tripod, tore it apart, and salvaged the part where the tripod column travels up/down.
Then I rigged three limbs that hold the column holder in place. See photo. It took a lot of messing around and lining up to get it right.
- Next I took the tripod column and stuck it up through from below, then screwed a ball head upside down on the tripod column.
- After putting everything together, it looks great. But there is one more thing that could make it look even better—painting it.
So I gathered all the paint we had lying around that wasn’t really very usable anymore and mixed them together, making an earth tone color. I painted the floats with that color. I then got some brown, green, and black paint and painted the frame camouflage to help it blend in more.
- The last and second most important thing is to get camouflage netting. That will really affect how close you will be able to get to wildlife. I’ve had skittish ducks so close I couldn’t focus on them!
I just draped the netting over the blind, and it has never fallen off yet.
To keep the netting from resting on my head all the time, I drilled two holes in the top of the frame and stuck two PVC pipes in which extended out the back. They keep the netting from coming down on my head.
Another thing you probably need is waders. You will be standing in the water in the blind. Unless it is summer, you probably won’t wish to be all wet.