9/10/2010 at 12:00am
Macey the Lab pokes her head out from below waiting for the next flight of ducks to fold up and drop as a trio of happy hunters display the morning’s kill from the Dillards’ mobile duck blind.
The mobile blind looks far from a stripped-down Ford F250 in the middle of a rice field surrounded by decoys.
FARMINGTON — Not many duck hunters have the engineering degree — or the desire to build things — like Marc Dillard has. But many hunters have no doubt experienced the kind of day that fired Dillard’s creative juices for a way to improve his hunt.
“I was sitting on a milk carton, in a rice field, in the rain, in 30-something-degree weather, with the wind blowing 20 miles an hour,” said a chuckling Dillard, sitting in his garage-workshop lined with dozens of deer head and antlers, goose and duck mounts.
“I figured there was a better way than this.”
His brother Mike, who also has an engineering degree and the desire to build things, concurred.
Marc Dillard, who is 51 and runs Little Rock-based Kinco Constructors’ office in Northwest Arkansas, has built everything from floating boat duck blinds to a catamaran-like contraption — two canoes linked together by plywood and steel with plush leather seats — for fishing area rivers. He envisioned a motorized duck blind with all the comforts four to six hunters would ever need in a rice field on any day of the season.
Call it a natural evolvement from the Dillards’ hobby of building hunting and fishing equipment.
They stripped down a Ford F250, one that did not have a computer system, to the motor and chassis. Having already experienced the trial and error associated with coming up with a floating boat blind, they planned out to a T the way this newfangled duck blind would look. They found scrap cypress available in Sheridan. They ingeniously wired the contraption with rope light all around for those before-sunrise moments when all around the blind is dark, and they planned for the motorized decoys as well.
The well-organized blind has a stove and oven, and a kitchen countertop and utensil bins, and is gas-wired for heating with propane. Hunters sit on a comfortable bench while the ducks circle. There is room in the half of the blind behind the wall and bench to house up to 20 DOZEN decoys.
Plus: Dog door for Dillard’s 4-year-old Labrador retriever, Macey, on one end, and a door for the hunters at the other. Hinges and plywood to drop down and cover the bottom of the blind (i.e., the truck tires). Mudflaps, and 35-inch Super Swamper tires. A commercial-grade roof — it helps that Mike Dillard, who is two years younger than Marc, runs the Springdale division of Harness Roofing and knows something about covering.
Can’t forget the weather-proof tarp that pulls down over the opening of the blind. Plus towing bars so Marc’s Toyota Tundra can deliver the blind to the field. (While it has a driver’s seat and mirrors, he’s not driving it on the highway.)
They typically hunt fields near Des Arc, between the White and Cache rivers.
“It reminds me of an RV the way it functions,” Marc Dillard said. “All the moving parts are there.”
About the only thing missing is a satellite for digital TV, and don’t put it past the brothers to add that for the upcoming season if a big football game coincides with a hunt.
The photographs that accompany this story don’t do the mobile blind justice. One has to sit in the blind, imagine a cold mid-January morning, in the company of several other hunters, bacon frying on the stove, coffee warm in the cup a few feet away.
It took the Dillard brothers a month, Mike says, just to strip down the used F250, leaving the engine and hood and the chassis. Then, they say, the project consumed most of every weekend — when they weren’t fishing — for the next six months, from April 2009 until the start of last duck season. Marc laughs when he says his wife, Renea, “tolerated” the brothers trashing her driveway and yard for half a year.
All that work, and in the first hunt, Marc Dillard thought he’d failed. Reaching the field, the four-wheel lockout hub proved faulty. But luckily they were able to repair it with parts from Des Arc, get it out of the field after that first hunt, and had a great rest of the 2009-2010 with their mobile blind.
Marc Dillard says that out of the 20 or so days he hunted last year, he used the blind half that time. He says they surprisingly found it not needing any alterations, other than adding gun mounts to the wall behind the bench and on the tabletop.
“That boat,” he said, pointing out of his work area toward another garage at his house, where the two-canoe fishing boat sat, “I’ve probably rebuilt it eight times. But this came together so well, it’s scary.”
The Dillards grew up in Hope, where they first hunted ducks in Southwest Arkansas, then they migrated to Little Rock before landing in Northwest Arkansas, but they don’t feel the least bit removed from good duck hunting. They say they’ve found good hunts in eastern Oklahoma, and these days southern Missouri “lights it up,” Mike says.
Marc Dillard is a past state chairman of Delta Waterfowl. He’s passionate about ducks and the sport of hunting, as is his brother.
That should be evident by their mobile blind, where they blended their love for the sport with their talents.
“I’ve hunted with people who have been hunting for 30 years, but they weren’t engineers and builders,” Mike Dillard said.
Marc Dillard says he didn’t built the blind as a product to rent of sell, or to market a line of mobile blinds — “It was hard enough building this one, I don’t think I could do several,” he says — though he does admit if the right purchase offer came along, he’d entertain it.
Mike adds, “I wish somebody would want to buy it. Then we’d go and build something else.”