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Sanford Gunning Box

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Sanford Gunning Box
So I started the season here on Long Island with an old gunning box based on Steven's design. Unfortunately being the third owner and the box have being hunted a lot it had seen better days with rotted wood and ruined canvas. I reached out to Steven in the beginning of December and asked if there was any chance if he had a box or knew where I could find one. He responded almost immediately saying he had one and that if I was interested it was mine. I made arrangements with him to come up and the day before I headed to his farm NY was hit with a blizzard. After checking in with him, he said head on up the roads will be fine.
When I arrived at Steven's they had approx 24" of snow but he was right, the roads were in much better shape that the Islands, where we had between 4&8 inches. He had cleared his driveway and path to his barn where the new box was. The build quality is fantastic and in addition to the box he provided me with enough Salt Hay to grass the box as well as a mat for inside the box. I can't say enough positive things about my experience with Steven and the box is amazing for hunting the marshes of LI.

**If anyone can help me rotate the picture, that would be awesome!!**


Last edited by:

B Brown: Jan 11, 2021, 6:51 PM
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Re: Sanford Gunning Box In reply to
Very nice to see some of Steve's creations on the water! Gunning out of those coffin boxes is a long time tradition very nice enjoy! Im sure Steve remembers these..





Long Island, NY
http://www.Island-Outdoors.com

Last edited by:

Anthony Babich: Jan 11, 2021, 6:25 PM
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Re: Sanford Gunning Box In reply to
Just a trip to Steve's compound would be an awesome experience.

RVZ
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Re: Sanford Gunning Box In reply to
WHen I think about hunting blackducks in the northeast, I see these exact photos in my mind.

Bucket list trip for me!


Carl
Mobile, AL
DHBP Member since 1998

"Life is too short to drink bad beer."
Disclaimer: This post and/or report is not a substantiation of or reflection on the true accuracy of the present surveying methods. It is only a report on or comment concerning local observation and/or results. Your results and observation may vary based on your location, local water conditions, food supply, weather conditions and migratory patterns "
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Re: Sanford Gunning Box In reply to
The gunning boxes have always intrigued me. I have a couple questions:

1) Let's say you have a walk in spot you would like to hunt. How are there for traversing small creeks or even ditches? For example, I have one spot that to get to the bank, you need to traverse a 10' wide ditch that's relatively deep. Pole or row across work with these?

2) How are these for rowing a short distance to get a bird that's downed away from the bank?
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Re: Sanford Gunning Box In reply to
I built one of these in the offseason (my second) and love hunting out of it in the coastal marshes of Mass. I use it as a decoy sled behind a bigger boat and use it to hunt for those birds on the high tides that flood the marshes (where even a small barnegat stands proud). That said, i would not by choice use it as personal transportation even for a creek crossing. It'll float me, if I sit just right, and has in some flooded cattails. But if I was even slightly concerned about getting wet, I'd walk the long way around. Btw: for those considering one, I asked a canvas maker to make the blind removable with snaps around the coaming. This is so I can take the canvas in at the end of the season and so I can open it up to fit more decoys and gear into the box for transportation. And as Steve writes, it tows like a champ.
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Re: Sanford Gunning Box In reply to
Jay i hunt these constantly. I do not get in them and paddle them i use them to float my gear across water and i wade next to it. i was stuck in 6 inches of water and waist deep mud earlier in the year and my buddy pushed the box to me and i was able to push my weight into it to free myself. i imagine if you were a light person or you built the box larger you could float in it. the last one I made 2 inches wider then spec. This year i noticed a error in the way i do my canvas. It should be done the way Mr. Sanford does it with one piece going from the head down to the transom it provides more side cover. I have three now all mine will be updated in the off season.
South Jersey
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Re: Sanford Gunning Box In reply to
Jay,

I use a more ?modern? approach these days I?ve got a complete fiberglass pond box made by Banks Boats that?s much lighter then the conventional fiberglass over wood. To retrieve downed birds / decoys I use another lil sneak boat made by Beavertail completely molded out of heavy duty plastic. No maintenance on any of these crafts. Works very well in our tidal marshlands.


Long Island, NY
http://www.Island-Outdoors.com

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Re: Sanford Gunning Box In reply to
I also would not use the gunning box for paddling or getting across deep creeks. I have used it for stability in waist deep water with mud. For transporting the box and retrieving birds I use a little skiff. The box fits perfectly in the bow and handles my decoys and everything I need for a one man hunt.
**This my old box, the new one fits just the same**

Last edited by:

B Brown: Jan 12, 2021, 9:37 AM
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Re: Sanford Gunning Box In reply to
Gunning boxes work great, but not as a boat, they are NOT a boat in any way, shape, or form. I once had to make my way to my skiff during a super flood tide, the ditches I could wade earlier were now over my head and 20' wide.luckily where I had to go was downwind, so I layed prone over the box and very gently drifted across the ditches, I was lucky and didn't have a mishap so all was good, but I retired that box.

My advice, Build your boxes at least 8' long and 36" wide, in an emergency this will float you , very carefully, across bad spots, bigger is better but now it's getting unwieldy, and heavier to handle...

Or, pick your days better...nothing is perfect, YMMV.
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Re: Sanford Gunning Box In reply to
B. Brown - Now THAT is a push pole. Nice rig!

Last edited by:

Zach Houvener: Jan 12, 2021, 10:10 AM
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Re: Sanford Gunning Box In reply to
Zach Houvener wrote:
B. Brown - Now THAT is a push pole. Nice rig!

It certainly is. The skiff and push pole do double duty here on the Island. Its a great duck hunting main boat in the winter but I also pole the flats for Stripers, Blues and Fluke on the fly rod during the rest of the year.

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Re: Sanford Gunning Box In reply to
Thanks for the input everyone. I was definitely curious. The Beavertail lacks that nostalgia feel but seems to be what might suit me best. The issue I have, some ditches, you simply cannot walk around. The run the whole length of the bank. At low tide, many are not too bad. However, I almost learned a tough lesson a few years back doing a bank hunt and ended up almost over my waders. Maybe I'll some day try to build something of my own with all-terrain wheels on the back.
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Re: Sanford Gunning Box In reply to
Good morning, Brian, Jay et al~


Brian~


That box looks great all thatched up! Sure looks like you had a good hide - and fooled at least one Black Duck. And, I love your skiff. I cannot quite make out the name on her stern quarter. - who made her? I'm guessing she's a real flats boat - ideal, in my opinion, for navigating the shoals and tides anywhere along Long Island's south shore bays.



I still recall the first time I used my original coffin - circa 1981 in a little pothole on the east side of Captree Island. A pair of Black Ducks sailed in to my 4 or 5 decoys with no hesitation - and my old Stevens side-by-side dropped both of them.


Here is your coffin - just before you picked it up. I built it for the 2019 Tuckerton Show, but never used it.






For any members unfamiliar with this bit of gunning gear, here is the backstory:


https://stevenjaysanford.com/sanford-gunning-box-2/





And here is the step-by-step build:


https://stevenjaysanford.com/sanford-gunning-box/





Jay~


I am glad you asked the question - and glad that others have joined in with the "it's not a boat" message. I can recall a couple of times when I pulled - or was pulled by a wading partner - across a brief stretch of water. One time was after my waders had opened up an enormous (career-ending) leak - and so I was ferried back to my Sneakbox - somewhat drier than if I had waded.



I have never tried to propel myself in a coffin - and, I have never tried to hunt from it when it was afloat. It was never designed for either use. The beam is only 32 inches and the sides are only 8 inches tall. (Note that 8 + 32 + 8 = 48 - the width of a sheet of plywood. This box was designed to be built with a single sheet.) And, it will not trim well - it would need to be both wider and longer to do so. It is designed to be shot from only when supported by terra firma - or at least bog or mud or sand.



Gunning coffins have been around for a long time - since late 1800s I believe - and are intended to simply provide a way to lay down on saltmarsh and stay both dry and hidden whilst awaiting the approach of wily Black Ducks and their brethren. I have always distinguished coffins from Pond Boxes. Following the lead of Zack Taylor in his Successful Waterfowling, the latter - Pond Boxes - are intended to be very small vessels, that can float a gunner and some gear on very protected waters. They have more in common with prams and dinghies.


All the best,


SJS



Steven Jay Sanford
Pencil Brook Farm
South Cambridge, NY
http://www.stevenjaysanford.com


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Re: Sanford Gunning Box In reply to
Steve,

I believe you made the distinction I was unclear and looking for:

Coffin Box - Will not float, dangerous to do so.

Pond Box - Designed to float for short/limited distance.

I believe the latter is what I am looking for in light, drag-able format. The Beavertail rigs are very neat. They just don't have that nostalgic feel to them. Ideally, that's what I am looking for though. Something that can be strapped in the bed of a truck, dragged to the bank of the sedge from the road, and used for short water retrieves of ducks/geese.
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Re: Sanford Gunning Box In reply to
Hey Steven,
Thanks again for the box and it has fooled many a Black duck since I got it last month. The skiff is actually made by a company based in Tennessee named Towee. The builder uses them for Muskie fishing as well as for flats fishing down in the Keys. I love the boat, it allows me access to so many areas that a Garvey wouldn't. The one mistake I made was having the poling platform installed, it makes the boat much less low profile, if I did it again I would just use a cooler on the back deck for poling instead.
Cheers,
Brian
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Re: Sanford Gunning Box In reply to
Jay K wrote:
Steve,

I believe you made the distinction I was unclear and looking for:

Coffin Box - Will not float, dangerous to do so.

Pond Box - Designed to float for short/limited distance.

I believe the latter is what I am looking for in light, drag-able format. The Beavertail rigs are very neat. They just don't have that nostalgic feel to them. Ideally, that's what I am looking for though. Something that can be strapped in the bed of a truck, dragged to the bank of the sedge from the road, and used for short water retrieves of ducks/geese.


Jay K, that is exactly why I built my little "pond box" boat. http://www.duckboats.net/...do=post_view#p337933
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Re: Sanford Gunning Box In reply to
Paul,

That is super versatile to say the least. What would you say the weight ended up on that? Something like that seems like it would be great for my application.
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Re: Sanford Gunning Box In reply to
Good morning, Jay~


I really like Paul's Pond Box. It has a proven hull form - like the thousands of dinghies used with moored sailboats - and a nice open cockpit.



Zack Taylor's Pond Box (pp. 151 - 154 in Successful Waterfowling) is quite narrow at 36" beam - and has a very small cockpit. I would be tempted to make something very much like Paul's - but maybe using the stitch-n-glue method. As I do with most of my gunning vessels - and Coffins - I would put a cowling up at the head end and thatched canvas to cover the cockpit whilst hiding.


All the best,


SJS

Steven Jay Sanford
Pencil Brook Farm
South Cambridge, NY
http://www.stevenjaysanford.com


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Re: Sanford Gunning Box In reply to
Steve Sanford wrote:
Good morning, Jay~


As I do with most of my gunning vessels - and Coffins - I would put a cowling up at the head end and thatched canvas to cover the cockpit whilst hiding.


All the best,


SJS


Steve, This is on my list of things to do. The canvas is on order.
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Re: Sanford Gunning Box In reply to
Jay K wrote:
Paul,

That is super versatile to say the least. What would you say the weight ended up on that? Something like that seems like it would be great for my application.


The weight comes in around 75 lbs. It would weigh less if I got rid of the frames as Steve is suggesting. I also increased the bottom thickness over the plan as I knew I was taking out the middle seat. Looking at it now I realize that wasn't necessary.
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Re: Sanford Gunning Box In reply to
Paul~


I look forward to your progress reports!


All the best,


SJS

Steven Jay Sanford
Pencil Brook Farm
South Cambridge, NY
http://www.stevenjaysanford.com


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Re: Sanford Gunning Box In reply to
Anthony~


I cannot see the top photo - but the lower 2 are 2 different friends. The coffin on the left - in the water - is one of mine. The coffin on the bog is not - and provided us with an interesting story.


The "other" coffin was built like most coffins have been - like a shoebox, without the upswept, boat-like bottom of a Sanford Gunning Coffin. The traditional coffin was a gift from my partner's neighbor.



The day was an Opening Day - and we three had slept out the night before the photos were taken. We left the launch at around 8:00 PM and slowly towed both boxes with my old 2-man Sneakbox (which safely carried 3 gunners). It was flat calm and pitch dark - and we had to run down the State Boat Channel for the better part of a mile before crossing a big flat to our gunning and sleeping - destination. We were in no hurry but did discover that we needed to proceed v-e-r-y slowly. We towed the boxes one behind the other, with my box first. At just above walking speed (3 or 4 knots), we could not help but notice that Coffin # 2 would misbehave if towed a bit too quickly. I found Neutral as soon as I felt the drag - of a diving coffin. Each coffin had a bag or two of decoys in it - both to save room in the towboat and for ballast to improve their manners when under way. I will never forget the sight - illuminated by my handheld spotlight - of several heads from my (Dad's) Herter's Model Superior Canada Goose Field Decoys spiraling v-e-r-y slowly downward into the abyssal gloom. I believe the bay charts say that the Channel is about 6 fathoms deep in that location.






We retrieved the bodies and the bag and some of the heads. We were soon back under way - and my partner was immediately promoted to "The U-boat Commander" (as per Risky Business). We never retrieved the sinking heads - but have relived the moment many times since.



And, we had a fine shoot the next day!


All the best,


SJS

Steven Jay Sanford
Pencil Brook Farm
South Cambridge, NY
http://www.stevenjaysanford.com


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Re: Sanford Gunning Box In reply to
 Anthony, I'm loving the beavertail as well. It is my go too when the dog is out with me as he can sit in my lap and I can gun over the side to stay clear of his ears.

The Sanford box in the pictures below was built by one of my old college roommates last year in anticipation of this season every year we get together and they make the trip down to the island for brant, broadies, and black ducks.
Despite the warm weather and poor hunting conditions we took our share of black ducks all of them inside 15yrds. These rigs hide great.

The third coffin sitting on the gunnels of the skiff is an all fiberglass one I use when I leave the dog at home. The only complaint is you are looking directly up when laying back in it and it is very tight.

Steve, as technology teachers, my buddy and I discussed the topic of building a 2 man Sanford box and increasing the beam to the width of a standard sheet of ply (4ft) then "stitch&glue" it together to cut back on weight. Do you know of any one building your plans double wide? would potentially tow well I imagine

Last edited by:

Luke Krucher: Jan 19, 2021, 7:05 AM
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Re: Sanford Gunning Box In reply to
Luke, "here" there was quite a few 2 man boxes years ago, for some reason guys like to be tight together?, lol.
Most had a small head shelter like a box blind,
They were heavy, didn't tow worth a crap, and tight. Way better to have 2 light boxes for two guys.

Even the small boxes were a nuisance to tow, best way I found to transport them was across the gunnels on the access boat.
You can transport 2 boxes on a 16 foot boat.