When constructing and preparing land-based duck blinds in the marsh, we go to great lengths to ensure the hide is both comfortable and functional. But adding a retrieving dog to the mix brings additional considerations and challenges. The dog must be integrated into the hunt, but in a safe way that also hides him from circling birds.
The commercial hunting equipment market has long offered specialized “dog stands” to fill this need, with the primary function being to get your trusty retriever out of the water when it’s not working. On a slow hunt, it also functions as a place for them to lay down while you and your hunting partners stare at the empty skies. The primary downside to these offerings, however, is the price tag — typically $100 or more. And needing a stand at multiple locations can get cost prohibitive in a hurry.
But a little time spent with a saw and basic lumber supplies can get you in business for a fraction of the cost, with the added flexibility to customize the stand for your particular dog (size) hunting location.
What you’ll need
For our coastal marsh blinds, I’ve had great success with a stand approximately 24 by 36 inches. This includes a ¾-inch plywood deck, and 2 X 4s for legs and 1 X 6s for support to minimize weight. Though heavier and more expensive, using treated lumber will help the stand last longer out in the elements. That said, I usually store mine indoors during the offseason to maximize service life.
The parts are assembled with 3-inch screws, and the deck is topped with a basic welcome mat to help the dog gain traction once the surface is wet and muddy. The mat is affixed to the deck with either short screws or staples. The stand’s leg height and angle is up to your own preference and habitat type — mine are about 16 inches long, set at about a 70-degree angle from the deck.
Out in the field, the stands are placed immediately to the side of the blind (never in front), to protect the dog’s hearing and prevent shots from being taken over its head. When brushing the blind, the stand is also brushed to cover the sides and rear , leaving the front largely open so the dog can observe decoying birds.
At minimal cost, these stands can keep your four-legged buddy comfortable and safe during the hunt — with the ability to customize each to fit your favorite hunt location.