The fishermen standing next to the boat ramp below Walbridge Park on a recent Saturday morning had these curious, puzzled looks draped across their faces. They were not quite sure just what they were staring at, but they were certain it was something interesting, and something very unique.
They also wanted to see if this contraption would float.
It did, and the area’s most original, one-of-a-kind duck blind is now back at work on the Maumee River.
The creation of long-time duck hunter Rick Ramlow and a couple of his friends, the unit is best described as the Taj Mahal meets Gilligan’s Island.
It is super-sized, as duck blinds go, it is deceptively plush on the inside, and extensively camouflaged on the outside. It is also very “green” beyond its leafy and brushy exterior — built entirely of recycled and reused materials
The blind is essentially a floating barge supported by a dozen large plastic barrels that used to hold the detergent at a car wash owned by a friend of Ramlow’s. A two-by-12 lumber frame and a deck made of heavy plywood support the structure.
Inside it has a propane heater, a port-a-potty, comfy swivel chairs with arm rests, all of the necessary safety equipment, and an overhang that serves as a garage to conceal the boat that transports the hunting party out to the blind, which is moored in the river.
This grand design all started five years ago as a project in Ramlow’s driveway in Maumee, but it quickly outgrew that space before the zoning code enforcement unit showed up. The Noah’s ark of duck blinds was moved to Tom Freimark’s house in the country where there was a lot more room. Ramlow, Freimark and Denny Linn — friends since elementary school — are the official deed holders to this blind.
Most of the lumber used to build the blind was salvaged from an old deck and fence that were torn out at Ramlow’s mother’s house. The blind is about eight feet wide with a four-foot overhang, and about 14-feet long. The double-axle trailer that transports it creaks and groans under the weight of this heavily foliaged condo craft.
“When I was up on Lake Michigan, I saw this huge duck blind these guys had built that looked like a two-car garage,” Ramlow said. “It had stairs to the second floor, and a big space under that to pull the boat in. I thought we could probably do something like that, but not quite as big. So we built this one, and we’ve been adding to it ever since.”
The vegetation used to dress up and disguise the blind comes from fall cleanup projects around Ramlow’s neighborhood, and elsewhere. His wife Linda like to grow “exotic” plants on their property, so some giant wild grasses have been added to the landscaping plan, and then harvested just in time to dress the duck blind’s thatched exterior.
Two to four hunters can use the blind at any given time, and Ramlow said it is occupied every weekend and several days each week during the waterfowl season, which opened Saturday in Ohio’s north waterfowl zone.
Ramlow, who grew up on Ford Street near Sidecut Park and the Maumee River, said he has received a lot of compliments on the custom duck blind from other hunters, but its biggest benefit might be in the role it has played in helping him introduce sons Ricky and Ryan and their friends to the comradery of waterfowl hunting.
“That’s what I’ve tried to do, is teach them the right way, the safe way to hunt, and show them how enjoyable a time it can be out there with family and friends,” he said. "It’s pretty much what they live for now. They’ve got all of the equipment and they’re calling in ducks and going out hunting by themselves now, and that means a lot to me. They’re all-in on duck hunting, and that’s neat to see.”
So if you are driving along the Maumee River anytime this fall, and you look really hard for this deluxe duck-hunter’s palace/man cave — you still won’t see it. The branches and fronds and clumps of dried grass that cover this bodacious blind make it virtually invisible — to people, and to ducks.
“And that’s the whole idea,” Ramlow said.
NEW PERCH LIMIT: At its recent meeting, the Ohio Wildlife Council lowered the statewide daily limit for yellow perch in all waters except Lake Erie from 40 to 30, to make the limit consistent with that on Lake Erie, thus avoiding confusion among anglers. The group also authorized additional inspections of bait dealer operations with the intention of detecting invasive species in containers, ponds and tanks.
TRAPPING PERMIT DRAW: A drawing will be held at the Pickerel Creek Wildlife Area at 6:30 p.m. Thursday for permits to conduct controlled trapping on the property. Registration will be at Pickerel Creek Wildlife Area Headquarters, 3451 C.R. 256, Vickery. The drawing is limited to those 18 and older, except for six zones which are reserved for a special Youth/Disabled priority drawing. All participants are required to present their current or previous year’s Ohio fur taker permit to be eligible for the drawings. Information is available at wildohio.com.
Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6068.