This article shows the first version of my camouflage frame and cover, and the process I went through to modify and improve it by trial and error. Further pages show the addition
of a transom and trolling motor, the construction of a covered
boat trailer, and the (hopefully) final
redesign of the frame and cover.
Duck Boat Camouflage
for a 10-foot one-man layout duck
Proof of the saying, "A
boat is a hole in the water you pour money into."
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photos show the boat I use, the Carsten "Puddler" model. This particular
boat is U.S. made. I bought mine at Gander Mountain, an outdoor supply chain
store located around the U.S. However, the concept and techniques used to
make the camouflage cover in this article are applicable to any small boat
used for the purpose of getting close to birds and animals in the wild. It
would work for a john boat, a canoe, even a kayak, or any of the other brands
of molded one-man or two-man duck boats available commercially. And I guarantee
that it's a LOT cheaper than commercial boat blinds.
this little boat to access waterfowl areas for my bird photography. It weights
just 70 pounds, so I can handle it by myself. I can load and unload it from
the roof rack of my Blazer and carry it over my head without help. It has a
very shallow draft, requiring only about 6 inches of water to float, even when
loaded. This is a necessity for the shallow areas waterfowl like.
The one drawback to this is that it
doesn't track very well. It has no keel, and virtually sits on top of the water,
so when you paddle, it wants to twist from side to side instead of going in a straight
line. Thus, you have to constantly alternate the side you're paddling on to aim the
boat in any semblance of a straight line. Even then, it's more like a drunk weaving
along a "straight line".
After trying out the single paddle
shown in the photos, I bought a kayak paddle (two-ended paddle), which helps a lot,
though it dribbles into the boat quite a bit (not good for camera equipment). The
boat is much wider than a kayak, so you can't use the more vertical stroke you can
with a kayak, which means you don't get much power and speed when paddling.
Though the boat is not rated for a
motor, I decided that once I finished the camouflage cover, I would try a small side-mounted
trolling motor. That would eliminate the problem of a paddle flailing about in the
air, which would defeat the whole purpose of being camouflaged. Also, having a battery
in the front of the boat should help counterbalance my weight to some extent, lowering
the bow, which as you can see, wants to ride in the air when I'm seated aft of center.
three photos show the "frame" I made to drape my camouflage cover over. I used pvc
water pipe and fittings (the thinner-walled 300psi pipe works fine for this). Everything
is press-fit into the various connector fittings ("T's", 90° and 45° elbows, "cross" joints
and end caps). Tubular foam type copper pipe insulation was slipped over the pipe
in strategic spots to avoid the noise of pipe bumping fiberglass.
Once everything was cut and test fitted,
the joints which would not need to be taken apart later were locked together with
a small screw. This minimizes the chances something will slip apart in use. It also
simplifies and speeds up the assembly/disassembly process. Joints that needed to
come apart in order to assemble and disassemble it for transport and storage were
left alone. No pvc cement was used on any of it. The pieces will press-fit
together quite sturdily for this application.
All joints that were not screw-locked
were then masked with a piece of masking tape, and the frame received a light coat
of black acrylic spray paint to make it less visible under the camouflage cover.
taped joints were thus left white, which quickly identifies the joints that "come
apart", so I'm not tugging like an idiot to separate two pieces that are locked together.
By the way, by using screws instead of pvc cement, I can easily remove a screw and
disassemble any joint if I want to modify the frame later.
The whole thing is "attached" to the
boat with only four mini-bungee cords (short 8-10 inch cords). With the way I designed
the frame for this boat, this proved to be all that was needed to keep the frame
from shifting around. The frame is "bungee-ed" to the carry handles at the nose and
tail, and at the edge of the "cockpit" on each side just about the middle of the
boat. (I've left out many of the finer details of construction in this writing for
sake of some brevity, but I would be happy to go into more detail if there is interest
and inquiry by readers.)
left photo here shows a test fitting of the camo cover before adding the
additional details. The camo material used is a commercial product made
by Hunter's Specialties called H.S. Camo - 56"x12' Camo Leaf Blind (product
model # 04092) in the "Advantage Max-4 HD" pattern, that simulates a grass-type
environment. It also comes in a 56"x30' pack (#04093). This works great
for fall and winter camouflage along the shores of marshes, lakes and ponds.
It's a polyester fabric which weights virtually nothing, doesn't soak
up water, dries quickly, and is pretty tough. It's easy to sew with a
sewing machine, and the 4.5x12 foot pack (about 1.5x3 meters) was only
though I've seen it priced as much as $25.00 (the 4.5x30 foot pack is about
must note here that the "Camo Leaf Blind" product is susceptible to deterioration
from exposure to ultraviolet, salt water and weather in general. After occasional
use over a three year period I found that the material used for the boat
cover degraded into the consistency of heavy paper, and tore apart easily.
I was not aware
when I started using it. However, because of all it's other great characteristics,
not the least of which is it's unequaled camouflage qualities in the Advantage
Max 4D pattern, I do and will continue to use it for my projects. I do this
with the knowledge that I will likely have to replace items with a newly
made version after two or maybe three years of use. DO NOT expect this material
to hold up if left outside in the elements on a continual long-term basis.
small loops were sewn to the inside of the cover in strategic spots. These
loops slip over the pipe frame during assembly and keep the cover from shifting
or flapping in a breeze. As you can see, the cover is not pulled taught, though
it is secure. I was afraid a taught cover would diminish the natural look.
Then finally the finishing detail was added to the cover. The upper right image
shows the cover after some homemade "tufts" of Rafia were added for additional
camouflage material used.
package of rafia.
for the other materials, I used a single package of Rafia (about $3.00 or $4.00
if memory serves me right) from the craft section of Wal-Mart. All the pvc
tubing and fittings, and a pack of screws, came from a hardware supply and
totaled around $10.00. I already had a couple of half-used cans of flat black
Krylon spray acrylic on the shelf which sufficed for the frame painting.
The partially disassembled frame
and folded cover (shown at left) make a small package,
altogether weighing perhaps 3 pounds. The frame sections
will in fact breakdown into even smaller, shorter sections,
and can be rolled up inside the cover material if desired,
making a lightweight, easily portable package (the dining
room chair in the photo is for size comparison).
photos here show how well this simple, inexpensive camouflage
cover works. I was not wearing any camouflage gloves or
face mask for these photos, though I was using a homemade
camouflage cover on the camera. My head was covered with
the hood of a camouflage rain jacket, which I wear along
with a camo life-vest, and camo rain pants, the latter
being mostly for keeping my legs from getting wet from
the paddles dripping water.
of the frame around the "cockpit" will detach and lay
in the boat, which allows the camo cover to collapse under
my arms. This facilitates paddling, as shown in the below
left photo. This is one of those details of construction
that I have not gone into deeply. If there is interest,
I can provide more explanations and photos with details
of the design and construction of this camo cover and
initial trial of the cover I was quite satisfied with
the whole concept. As you can see, the nose of the boat
still needs to be lowered somehow. So, it was now time
for me to go into phase two of the project - trolling
motor, boat seat adjustment, headrest, etc.
Go to Page Two
for "Phase Two".