A blind bag can tell you a lot about a duck hunter. A giant bag stuffed with food, clothes, extra calls, a foot-long Maglite, a weather radio, and other assorted devices likely resides in a permanent blind, a boat, or one of those basement-size pit blinds. By contrast, a blind bag that seems hardly big enough to hold a handful of shotshells and a couple of cheese crackers probably belongs to a hunter who slogs deep into the flooded timber or hides within the cocoon-like confines of a laydown blind. No matter how much fun it is to accumulate the stuff you need to handle all the “what ifs” of waterfowling, circumstances usually dictate how much of it you can actually take with you on a duck hunt.
When I first moved to Memphis and started hunting out of rice field pits, I carried a full-size, bursting-at-the-seams blind bag that housed the following:
- neoprene gloves—for making my hands feel colder while picking up decoys
- a facemask—dutifully worn and despised; I’ve always been a hat guy
- a box of duck loads—which translated to 12 shells, since half of every box ended up in the wriggling primordial ooze in the bottom of the pit
- a box of never-opened goose loads—you never know when you might be overtaken by the white tornado
- a game strap—for me, the ultimate symbol of hope
- half a box of raspberry breakfast bars—the filet mignon of duck blind foods
- a 3-cell aluminum flashlight—to ward off pit mates who attempted to steal my breakfast bars
- a dozen or so backup duck calls—each tuned for hunting slightly different weather conditions
- sunglasses—never used due to the goofiness of wearing shades with a camo facemask
- a small first-aid kit—to mend gushing wounds resulting from full-on wars with the pit’s flip-top
- a knife—to extricate my clothing whenever I was defeated by the flip-top
- a camera—a useful magnet for dust and other debris that found its way inside the blind bag
- a weather radio—for listening to the ravages of winter weather in faraway places and inducing delusions of snowstorms and full limits
- two or three choke tubes—in case the birds and I differed in our interpretation of “over the decoys”
- a few chemical handwarmers and a pair of Arctic-weight insulated gloves—you never know when a polar front might unexpectedly descend on you
After a season or two of hauling all this stuff around, I downsized to an Avery Guide bag, a midsize man purse capable of holding, surprisingly, most of the items on the list above. I had to toss out the camera and the weather radio, but all the rest could be wheedled and cajoled into the Guide bag—even though the fit was so tight that retrieving any one item meant emptying all the contents onto the pit’s foot-wide bench seat.
Eventually, my things fell off the bench and into the ooze for the last time, and I vowed to lay off hunting ducks from a pit blind for a while. Now I hunt rice fields from the supine comfort of a mummy blind—a Drake Stake-Out blind to be exact. If you’ve never tried this type of hunting, it may be difficult to imagine how exciting it can be, or how confining. Very little room remains after you have slithered into the blind. Clearly, the Guide bag was a luxury I could no longer afford. To remove an item from the bag, I had to release the blind’s tops, sit up, put the bag on top of the coffin blind, get what I needed, and then find a way to squeeze the bag back inside with me. Simply getting my hands on a breakfast bar burned more calories than the beloved snack offered.
Obviously, I needed a smaller bag, so now I’ve switched to an Avery Power Hunter bag, a miniscule satchel designed for ground blind hunters. Here’s what’s inside:
- a box of duck loads (I keep six goose loads in the bag’s shell loops)
- neoprene decoy gloves
- midweight insulated gloves (only when it’s cold)
- a cap light
- a laminated sunrise/sunset chart
- my hunting wallet with my licenses
It’s amazing what you can do without when circumstances demand it. I abandoned the hateful facemask and now paint up instead. I switched to a cap light for setting up, so I leave my big flashlight/food protector in the pickup. Ever the optimist, I still carry my game strap, but now I clip it to a D-ring on my tiny blind bag. I stick with the four duck and two speck calls on my lanyard and make do without the bagful of backups. And the modified choke tube in my Benelli gets the job done just fine, so I rarely carry an extra tube. Everything else that once resided in my blind bag now stays in the truck or at the house. I don’t know if a simplified approach is truly better, but simpler sure is easier to haul around.
How about you? What kind of blind bag do you carry into the field and what things will you put inside it this duck season?