New Shadow Grass Blades, The Latest Evolution in Waterfowl Patterns

The folks at Mossy Oak introduced their first waterfowl camo pattern back in 1986.  The pattern was Bottomland and it was designed to hide hunters in the flooded timber shadows by incorporating the dark and light patterns and colors of bark and soil.

Bottomland worked great in its intended environment, but it didn’t help hunters hide as well in the grass and cattails of pond edges and fields.  Mossy Oak’s design team recognized the need for a pattern that would work in these conditions and, in 1995, added blades of grass as an overlay to the Bottomland pattern to make a new pattern called Shadow Grass.  Now, there was a pattern that would work in almost any waterfowl hunting environment in North America.

Over the years, the Mossy Oak team has continued to enhance and improve their waterfowl patterns.  As digital imaging techniques improve, designers were able to add more detail and shadow to their patterns, giving them an almost 3D effect that broke up the human outline when viewed from any direction.

The evolution continued with improvements to Shadow Grass in both color and detail until the year 2007 when a new pattern named Duckblind was launched.  Duckblind was built on a base background of true dirt colors with different tones to represent wet and dry ground. Then, elements of millet, wild oats, corn stalks, phragmites, Johnson grass, soybeans and native grasses were added. The unique shadows enhance depth, while the muted shades of brown, tan, gray and soft black work well for blending into virtually any waterfowl environment across the country.

All of this leads to today and the introduction of the new Shadow Grass Blades pattern.  I asked Larry Moore, the Director of Research and Development for Mossy Oak Camo about the new pattern and what went into its design.  He replied, “The development of Blades took two years of research and element collection across the entire waterfowl flyway systems.  We carefully selected grass that was true to color and detail to represent any water edge or open field.  Because of the success and long run of original Shadow Grass we arranged the grass blades in a similar fashion and used a natural straw like background to utilize a naturally dirty look of mashed down or repeatedly flooded grass.  This created the look found in original Shadow Grass and allows the flooded timber hunter to use it as well as the field hunter.”

When I asked how they went about designing a pattern that works everywhere, Moore explained that the new Blades pattern has grass types found from Minnesota to Louisiana or California to New England.  These grasses were then carefully blended into a natural reproduction of some of the photos taken on location to match a wide array of settings. The precise arrangement of individual blades of grass, whether windblown, broken or bent, onto a background of thatch consisting of lesser or dead grass creates the perfect pure grass pattern. In addition, carefully placed shadows were added to create depth and further break up the human pattern. “Blades will work anywhere you have grass and dirt and I think that is everywhere”, Moore said.

After viewing the new pattern, I think it will blend perfectly into the pond edges and fields just about anywhere ducks and geese are hunted.  My biggest problem with darker waterfowl patterns is their tendency to blob out from a distance.  When viewed by a high flying duck or goose, that dark blob fairly screams “hunter”.  The overall light tone of the grasses blended with just enough shadow in the new Blades pattern should avoid that problem and help waterfowlers blend into just about any cover.

Off Season Decoy Maintenance

Everyone has a pile of decoys that need a little TLC.

Everyone has a pile of decoys that need a little TLC.

Another season has drawn to a close. By the bitter end, your equipment was looking as ragged as you felt. Now that turkey season is over, hunters have a little time to do some maintenance before the cycle starts all over in the fall. One item that always seems to need a little TLC in the off season is your decoy spread.

CLEANING: Be it caked on mud or dried pond vegetation, decoys can look pretty ragged at the end of a long season. Clean water and a good scrub brush should take off most of the grime. Be careful using soap, some have brighteners that can leave an unnatural sheen on the decoy. Diluted dish washing liquid is OK, but nothing stronger. If you have a large number or particularly dirty dekes, a power washer with a fan tip can come in handy. Be careful to only use the widest tip available and don’t get too close or you will strip the paint from your decoy.

Take advantage of free labor.  Pot-roast scrubbing a season's worth of grime from a decoy.

Take advantage of free labor. Pot-roast scrubbing a season’s worth of grime from a decoy.

CRACK AND HOLE REPAIR: Now that you have the decoys clean and shiny, go through and check each for cracks or pellet holes. Pay attention to the areas along the keel and at the seams to make sure there are no hidden cracks. A great way to check your decoy is to give it a good shake and listen for any water inside to slosh around. Grab the decoy and press down on the back with both of your thumbs to see if you can force air out. If there is water inside, locate the hole or crack and drill it out with a 1/8 inch drill bit. Next drill another hole at the base of the tail of the decoy and hang it, tail down, until it is completely drained. Use epoxy to seal any cracks. For filling the drilled holes, I prefer a hot glue gun. Don’t skimp and use the cheap sticks, they won’t last and you will be back where you started. High quality sticks can be found at most craft stores.

RIGGING: Now that the decoys are cleaned and repaired, go through and check the rigging. If you rig Texas style, check and tighten any loose crimps. J Hook weights and rubber bungee cord rigs should be checked for dry rot and cracking in the rubber cord. For traditional nylon line set ups, check your knot areas for frayed spots. Summer is a great time to get a mold and melt some lead into extra decoy weights.

PAINTING: If the paint on your decoys is faded or peeling, a paint job is just the ticket for making tired decoys look new again. Before you start, use a wire brush and light sandpaper to remove any loose paint chips. Next, use a plastic cleaner (3M makes a good one designed for automotive use) to clean and degrease the decoy. Krylon has recently introduced a new spray paint line called Fusion designed for plastics. It makes a great base coat. Details can be filled in with any outdoor flat acrylic paint in your desired color.

FLOCKING: A step up from painting is flocking. Flocking a decoy coats either the entire body or sometimes just the head with a colored powder that softens the look and reduces glare. It makes the decoy appear much more natural. Many companies produce flocking kits these days. The process is simple. Clean the decoy, apply the adhesive with a brush then apply the powder onto the wet adhesive. An empty restaurant condiment squeeze bottle works well for squirting the dry flocking powder onto the decoy.

BAG REPAIR: While you are working on your decoys, don’t forget to take a look at the bags you carry them in. Repair or replace any broken straps or buckles. Sew or patch any torn spots to prevent them from getting larger. Check for broken draw strings and replace any that need it.