When layout blinds first came on the scene in the late 1990s and early 2000s, they were a revolutionary product for field-hunting waterfowl. The first, highly commercialized iterations of the modern layout blinds were Kelley Powers’ “Power Hunter” and Fred Zink’s “Finisher.” Both blinds offered distinct advantages and drawbacks. Now the market has expanded to include numerous other makes and models—many derivative of those first two—which complicates a buyer’s decision.
In my experience, selecting the layout blind requires an examination of the following factors:
- Profile: How does this blind look on the ground? How high does it stand? How much shadow will the birds see from the sky when the sun is low on the horizon?
- Comfort: How much space do you have? Can a man over six feet tall get his face below the plane? Can a guide blowing a goose call hide the movement of his hands? Can you easily fit an average-size man inside with a box of shells on one side and a gun on the other, with a blind bag under the head rest?
- Size: Can it be broken down and folded up? Can you fit a bunch of them in a small space like a trailer or the tiny space your wife allows in your garage? Can it be carried easily?
- Ease of use: How easy is it to build, break down, set up, etc.?
In my 11 years as a waterfowl guide for MaXXed Out Guides, I’ve bought, used, ruined, and sent to the trash heap numerous blinds. Those four aspects are the most important things to consider when you’re thinking about purchasing a layout blind.
Disclaimer: I’m not getting paid to write this article. Nobody is giving me money to promote their stuff. I only mention that to hopefully give you some sort of confidence that I’m not just peddling a product. I’m not the dude at the sports show telling you that his amazing, innovative new product will revolutionize the industry. I’m just a guy who uses gear, uses it hard, and breaks everything eventually. With that said, if there is one layout blind I would tell you to buy—one and only one—it would be the Tanglefree Dead Zone.
This blind checks all the boxes: #1: It has a low profile, reducing the effect of shadows. #2: It’s comfortable. There’s plenty of room to move, store your boxes of ammo and your shotgun, with enough space behind the head rest to place your blind bag. #3: The Dead Zone can break down with the removal of the four pins on the head rest to nearly flat, then straps on the foot bag enable you to fold it in half, reducing its footprint to something much smaller than products sold by most competitors. #4: Once those four pins are pulled, it drops to the ground and can be folded easily. When it’s time to use it again, you unsnap the foot bag straps, put in four pins, and BOOM! It’s built and ready to use.
Featured image courtesy of Babe Winkelman Productions.