Skip the middleman and grass your boat or blind on the cheap.
Buy in Bulk
The Joseph M. Stern Co. (jstern.com) imports most of the raffia available here in the U.S. It's the supplier to Avery and Cabela's but will happily sell to Joe B. Duckhunter with a minimum order of 25 pounds. At $3.50 a pound that comes to $87.50, plus freight. Twenty-five pounds will easily cover an 18-foot duck boat. (I covered my 131⁄2-foot Four Rivers layout boat with 15 pounds last year.) Still, if you think that's too much, Frank's Cane and Rush Supply (franksupply.com) offers the best deal on 5- to 20-pound cartons ranging from $8 to $5.25 a pound, depending on how much you buy.
Illustrations by Steve Sanford
Natural raffia is the light golden color of dried palm fronds—which looks great in cornfield sets. But for a few dollars you can easily match it to green marsh grass, seaweed, or any color under the sun with Rit fabric dye. Ritdye.com has a 500-color formula guide, and most ducky colors require just two or three $3 bottles. Simply lay out your raffia in a kiddie pool or similarly shallow basin (don't do it in your bathtub) with your color recipe. Soak for 10 or 15 minutes, until the color is where you want it. If natural raffia stays damp, it can mildew, so hang it to air dry after your dye job (or a wet hunt). Spray paint also takes well to raffia.
For a boat blind, kayak cover, shore blind, or pit lid, you'll need to build a frame first. I wrapped my boat in cut panels of polypropylene fencing ($20 for 100 feet at Home Depot). If you're making a box blind or pit cover, simply build a frame from 2x2s, then mold the fencing around it, securing with staples. The tight 1-inch poly squares let you attach the grass anywhere, and a stiff wind won't turn your blind into a sail, as can happen with burlap. To cover a layout blind, tie the grass to the built-in straps as described at right. For a gillie suit, cut slits in your old hunting clothes for the knots or zip-ties.
Bulk raffia comes in 1⁄2- to 1-pound hanks that unfold to 3- or 4-foot lengths of grass. To permanently attach it to the fencing, simply zip-tie it at the middle of each hank. Or you can tie the hank to itself at the midpoint with a half hitch. For a less permanent option, zip-tie a quarter hank of grass through the spring of a wooden clothespin. This is a great option if you have multiple colors for different field conditions. (Use aerosol Snow Spray foam for winter hunts.) With a little work and not a lot of money, you and your gear will disappear.