By Dick Mason
Observer Staff Writer
Ladd Marsh duck and goose hunters may soon be resetting their alarm clocks.
A flock of reasons 20 to be exact.
The Oregon Duck Hunters Association is donating $20,000 for the construction and purchase of 20 duck-hunting blinds for the Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area. Ten of the blinds will be built and installed this year; the other 10 will be installed in 2004.
The additions mean that hunters will probably begin arriving earlier during the season so they can claim a blind first, said Dave Larson, Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area manager.
Some blinds will be steel, some concrete. The first blind completed, made of steel, was recently installed.
Marty Kuns, a member of the Oregon Duck Hunters Association Board, could not contain his enthusiasm when he saw it.
"It's the Cadillac of duck blinds,'' said Kuns, who lives in Gresham.
He was impressed with the blind's space and sturdiness. The other steel blinds to be built and installed will be similar.
The blind 4 feet wide, 8 feet long and 5 feet high is fitted with an inner bench for hunters and a raised platform for a hunting dog. The blind has a two-piece roof. One half slides under the other. The unmoving half provides protection from the elements and will be covered with sod for
The blinds will have enough room for three people plus a dog and make it easier for hunters to stay warm and comfortable while waiting for ducks and geese to fly in.
The blinds will offer opportunities for small families to enjoy a day of hunting in a comfortable setting.
"Hard-core hunters may not mind crawling out to a pond, weathering the elements and lurking in the weeds waiting for birds to show. These new blinds will provide a shelter for those not so dedicated or rugged,'' said Jim Ward of La Grande, who represents Eastern Oregon for the hunters association.
Larson wants the blinds to be available to everyone and will discourage groups from trying to hold the same blind for several days. If availability problems arise, a draw system may have to be used to determine who gets the blinds, Larson said.
Hunters can't stay in the blinds overnight because they can't arrive at the wildlife area until 4 a.m. during waterfowl hunting seasons.
In addition to the permanent blinds, hunters will also be able to hunt from 10 new portable blinds to be put in this year. The portable blinds, consisting of metal tubing and camouflage materials, were purchased with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife funds.
Until this year, Ladd Marsh had just two portable blinds, which will still be available to hunters.
The permanent steel blinds are being built by Hatley Steel and Fabrication of La Grande. Dean Hatley, the owner, has donated a portion of his time to build the blinds.
Four steel blinds and five concrete blinds will be added over the course of this waterfowl hunting season, which runs Oct. 11 to Jan. 25. Hunters should check their ODFW synopsis for details on waterfowl hunting season dates.
The hunters association has donated $10,000 for the purchase of blinds for this year and will donate the other $20,000 next year.
Kuns said that the association decided to donate funding for the construction of the blinds because its members have been impressed with the wetland restoration work being done at Ladd Marsh. More than 1,000 acres of wetlands have been added to Ladd Marsh in recent years under a cooperative program involving many government agencies and private groups.
Kuns said that few wildlife refuges in Oregon will have the number and quality of duck blinds that Ladd Marsh will soon have.
"Hunters are not going to believe it until they see it,'' Kuns said.