Snow pelted us, the rush of cold air finding every gap in our layers of clothing. Whoever said getting there is half the fun never tried to reach open water across three miles of sheet ice in a Utah winter storm.
The few minutes of agony were worth it, though. Avery’s Josh Noble eased back on his airboat’s throttle, tapped me on the shoulder and pointed. Ducks by the hundreds—green-wings, shovelers and goldeneyes mostly—lifted off the open water of the Great Salt Lake.
Noble shot his seven-bird limit just minutes after we set up. I shot mine nearly as fast. Even better, there wasn’t another hunter in sight.
That’s the beauty of duck boats these days: Choose the right one, and you can reach places many other hunters can’t. There is some type of vessel perfectly suited for every hunter and every type of duck hunting. Big, sturdy sleds designed for the salt, man-powered skiffs ideal for secret sloughs, airboats for ice or skinny water and johnboats for everything else.
Of course, it takes power to get a boat to the birds. For every rig on the market, there’s the right motor for it. Today’s mud motors are more reliable and powerful than ever. They push boats across dense mats of vegetation and boot-sucking mud and skim over water a regular outboard could never cross.
Getting there isn’t always half the fun, but with the right rig, you can rest easy knowing you’ll get to the ducks.
<h2>Attbar | Aqua Pod Sport</h2>Mobile and stealthy, the <a href="http://aquapodboats.com/index.php" target="_blank">Sport</a> is ideal for backwaters. Weighing 62 pounds, the 10-foot kayak allows you to go places motors can’t. The Sport is 38 inches wide, with a 71’’x21’’ cockpit. <p></p> Made from rotomolded polyethylene and filled with floatation foam, you’ll never have to worry about sinking. Available in three Mossy Oak camo options. <p></p> <strong>$</strong>689
- <h2>Attbar | Aqua Pod Sport</h2>Mobile and stealthy, the <a href="http://aquapodboats.com/index.php" target="_blank">Sport</a> is ideal for backwaters. Weighing 62 pounds, the 10-foot kayak allows you to go places motors can’t. The Sport is 38 inches wide, with a 71’’x21’’ cockpit. <p></p> Made from rotomolded polyethylene and filled with floatation foam, you’ll never have to worry about sinking. Available in three Mossy Oak camo options. <p></p> <strong>$</strong>689
- <h2>Backwater | SWOMP Lite 23</h2>At just 175 pounds, <a href="http://www.backwaterinc.com/swomp-lite-23.html" target="_blank">Backwater’s SWOMP Lite 23</a> is one of the lightest long-tail mud motors on the market. It’s packed with features, including a patented Revo-clean bearing system to keep weeds, fishing line and other debris from clogging the prop. It also comes with a three-point swivel lock, Versa-Mount transom mount (adjustable to 32 degrees), patented Surface Tracer cavitation plate and a foam-filled tubular DOPM frame. The Lite 23 also has a stainless prop, 59-inch shaft and a Vanguard V-Twin engine. <p></p> <strong>$</strong>3,350
- <h2>Bankes | Marine Titan</h2>At 25 feet, the <a href="http://bankesboats.com/titan.htm" target="_blank">Titan</a> can handle conditions that would turn any other open-water rig back to the marina. Built with Bankes’ own reverse tunnel chine, your ride to and from the hunting grounds will be smoother and drier. And thanks to a foam-filled double hand-laid fiberglass hull, you’ll feel safe in any conditions. Standard features include a side-mounted steering console with dry storage, mounted 39-gallon fuel tank, Kevlar reinforced bow and a non-skid floor and front deck. <p></p> <strong>$</strong>25,995
- <h2>Carstens | Bluebill</h2>Small enough to slide through inches-deep water, large enough to be pushed by motors up to 13-hp, the <a href="http://www.carstensindustries.com/bluebill.html" target="_blalnk">Bluebill</a> is an ideal all-purpose watercraft. The fiberglass boat weighs just 150 pounds, yet it has a capacity of 500 pounds, big enough to carry you, your buddy, retriever and all the gear to that secret greenhead spot. It’s 12 feet long and 45 inches wide, with a depth of 15 inches. The large open cockpit has one molded seat, but a second seat is an option. So is a gun rack, shell holder, oars and oar locks. <p></p> <strong>$</strong>1,490
- <h2>Copperhead | 23HP Vanguard</h2>At 138 pounds, the 23-hp is the lightest model in its size, but <a href="http://copperheadmfg.com/" target="_blank">Copperhead</a> didn’t skimp. It comes with an electric starter, remote fuel hook-up, sealed lower unit and grease fittings on all bearings and pivot points. All components are CNC-machined and water-jetted, including the aircraft-grade aluminum frame. <p></p> This model also has a squeeze-grip and stainless steel throttle cable, adjustable manual trim, stainless propeller and adjustable handlebar. The Vanguard motor comes with a three-year warranty and the lower unit carries a two-year warranty. <p></p> <strong>$</strong>4,475
- <h2>Dragonfly | Ecofly</h2>Sometimes the ride is half the fun, and if you ever take a Dragonfly hunting on the Great Salt Lake, you might find the boat ride more exhilarating than the shooting. <a href="http://www.dragonflyairboats.com/" target="_blank">Dragonfly’s 15-foot Ecofly</a> sails over the skinniest water, skips across mud flats and skims over snow. It goes where nothing else can. <p></p> Powered by a quiet, fuel-efficient 200-, 300- or 350-hp 4-cylinder Chevy Ecotec engine, the Ecofly comes with a stainless-steel cage and rigging, a Sensenich 3-blade NGQ prop and leather seats, among other features. It’s also available in a 16-foot model. <p></p> <strong>Price: $</strong>29,995
- <h2>Duck Water | Ocean 21</h2>Big-water ducks don’t stand a chance when you hunt from the <a href="http://www.duckwaterboats.com/ocean21.html" target="_blank">Ocean 21</a>. Built to get you beyond the breakers, the hull and sides are made with ¼-inch aluminum, the top deck and floor are built with 3/16-inch aluminum and the 21-foot long boat is 96 inches wide—enough room for six hunters and all their gear. <p></p> The Ocean 21 can handle some serious water, giving you comfort knowing you’ll get to the birds. It comes with an installed blind camouflaged to match the boat, four interior lights, a bilge pump, two 12-volt receptacles and a 6-gang circuit panel. <p></p> <strong>Price: $</strong>22,995
- <h2>Excel Boats | 1854 SWVCC</h2>Built by duck hunters for duck hunters, <a href="http://excelboats.net/" target="_blank">Excel’s 1854</a> gives you the freedom to run far and deep in search of your next limit. This flat-bottom holds up against stumps, waves and the daily abuse duck hunters are known for. The 18-foot long, 54-inch wide boat is constructed with 2”x4” stitch-welded longitudinal ribs. <p></p> The center console includes formed windshield, cup holder, grab bar and a 12v plug. The triple-taper chine also keeps you dry on those long runs, and the step transom allows easy access. Excel has various options to customize your boat. <p></p> <strong>$</strong>7,300 (Base model)
- <h2>Gator Trax | Marsh Series</h2>If you chase birds in shallow lakes or secluded backwaters this is the duck boat to do it in. Weighing only 425 pounds, the 14-footer has a 50-inch bottom and can carry up to three hunters and all their gear in the 10-foot long, 46-inch wide cockpit. It’s rated for a 23-hp outboard or a 35-hp mud motor. The <a href="http://www.gatortraxboats.com/c-82-marsh-series.aspx" target="_blank">Marsh Series</a> is built from .125 aluminum and has longitudinal ribs that help fend off stumps and other shallow-water obstacles. The base model includes a gas tank, battery, trailer and 23-hp Mud Buddy HD Sport. <p></p> <strong>$</strong>10,800
- <h2>Gator-Tail | 1854 Extreme</h2>Big enough to stash all your gear yet nimble enough to get you to the ducks, no matter where they might be, <a href="http://gator-tail.com/boats/extreme-series/" target="_blank">Gator-Tail’s 1854</a> stands up to whatever you dish out. It features a .125” single-piece aluminum hull and 2”x2”x1/8” ribs, and comes with a drop-deck transom, 21” sides and a heavy-duty gunnel rail. The gutterless sub-floor has stainless steel rivets for added durability. It also comes with LED navigation lights and high-output swamp lights. The hull is wrapped in Natural Gear camouflage. Rigged with a GTR 37 LS mud motor and trailer. <p></p> <strong>$</strong>25,000
- <h2>Gator-Tail | 37hp EFI</h2><a href="http://gator-tail.com/motors/gtr37hp/" target="_blank">Gator-Tail’s 37-hp EFI</a> is the biggest, fastest and strongest motor in the company’s lineup. It’s powered with a 993cc Briggs & Stratton and comes with a host of standard features that will take abuse. It has a vibration-dampening tiller bushing, a fully-adjustable billet machined transom clamp, a 12-inch stainless steel prop and stainless muffler. <p></p> The EFI also comes with a lift assist handle, tachometer and hour meter, waterproof 70 amp trim switch and metal throttle switch. Options include a reverse plate and either Gator Grass or NatGear camo patterns. <p></p> <strong>$</strong>8,145
- <h2>Go-Devil | 16x56</h2>Fancy names don’t make a boat run better or stand up to tough conditions. But strong, well-designed aluminum hulls (.125”) and a reputation for quality will. That’s why <a href="http://www.godevil.com/index.html" target="_blank">Go-Devil</a> boats are so popular among duck hunters. They are tough and simple, built with the hunter in mind, which is exactly why they are great duck boats. The <a href="http://www.godevil.com/16x56.html" target="_blank">16x56</a> is 16 feet long and 56 inches wide, a good all-purpose size. It has a slick, keel-less bottom, double-angled transom, round chines and a solid grab bar. Few boats can reach the places a Go-Devil can. <p></p> <strong>$</strong>4,795
- <h2>Go-Devil | 35hp Vanguard</h2>Behind living legend Warren Coco, <a href="http://www.godevil.com" target="_blank">Go-Devil</a> has become one of the leading names in waterfowling. The <a href="http://godevil.com/35hp_VANGUARD.html" target="_blank">35-hp Vanguard</a> is the company’s largest and most powerful mud motor and can push a boat at up to 22 mph. <p></p> It comes standard with a stainless steel muffler and prop, high-volume vacuum pump and an electronic spark advance. It has a 72-inch shaft and weighs 225 pounds. Options include a rock guard kit, water-resistant Shadow Grass cover, grab bar kit and tach/hour meter. <p></p> <strong>$</strong>5,095
- <h2>Lowe | Roughneck 1546</h2>A working man’s jon boat, this nifty flat-bottom is a fine option for the ‘fowler who tows his rig to a different duck hole everyday. The sleek 15-footer is built for ultimate reliability, and can hold two or three adults, junior and the dog. The max weight capacity is 825 pounds, so there’s room for gear too. <p></p> All-welded aluminum, the <a href="https://www.loweboats.com/2014/hunting-boats/Roughneck-1546/" target="_blank">1546</a> has a 46” bottom width, .080” hull and is 20” deep at the sides. There’s a variety of camo paint schemes available, and fishing packages for summer fun. <p></p> <strong>Price: $</strong>6,551
- <h2>Lowe | Roughneck 1860 DLX</h2>Made by one of the most recognized outfits in boating, <a href="https://www.loweboats.com/2014/hunting-boats/Roughneck-1860/" target="_blank">Lowe’s Roughneck 1860 DLX</a> is a trustworthy duck sled. It’s 18 feet long by 60 inches wide and available in standard colors and two camo patterns. It has a .100-inch welded aluminum hull and a limited warranty the company stands behind. <p></p> Like most Lowe boats, the 1860 has a ton of options, allowing you to customize it for hunting, fishing and recreation. It has a six-person, 850-pound capacity. Base models come with a 25-hp four-stroke Mercury. <p></p> <strong>$</strong>11,000 (starting)
- <h2>Mayhem | 23-HP Long-Tail</h2>A big motor may get you to the honey hole quicker, but more horsepower means more money. <a href="http://mayhem-mud-motors.com/shop/#!/23HP/p/28241699/category=6702111" target="_blank">Mayhem’s 23-hp</a> will take you to the ducks safely and reliably without breaking the bank. The 23 is built on a Briggs & Stratton motor, which comes with a 3-year warranty and includes an easy-to-change self-contained sealed bearing system. Each Mayhem motor also comes with a 360-degree spin capability, allowing you to transport the motor simply by swinging the shaft into the boat, along with an interchangeable cavitation plate. <p></p> <strong>Price: $</strong>3,150
- <h2>Meskousing | Backwater</h2>Ducks love the shallows. <a href="http://meskousingboats.com/index.html" target="_blank">Meskousing’s Backwater</a> fiberglass skiff allows serious small-water hunters the freedom to roam places bigger boats could never reach. You can launch from anywhere, sneak down shallow rivers and portage over logs and beaver dams. These hand-made boats are built tough with plenty of room for a dog and enough gear to hunt those secret spots. It’s 12 feet long, 36 inches wide and weighs 52 pounds. <p></p> <strong>Price: $</strong>1,650
- <h2>Momarsh | Fatboy DP</h2>Shoot puddlers at dawn and divers in the afternoon in Momarsh’s Fatboy DP, a layout that provides maximum stability and the freedom to mount a gas-powered motor with the optional detachable transom. It’s 13 feet long and has a 7-foot by 29-inch cockpit, a screw-in drain plug and built-in flotation chambers in the front and rear. The load capacity is 520 pounds, plenty enough for you, all your gear and the dog. The 44-inch wide bottom allows for stand-up paddling. It weighs just 95 pounds and is Coast Guard-approved. <p></p> <strong>$</strong>1,349
- <h2>Mud Buddy | Sport V 4400</h2>The name itself is enough to grab your attention, and as expected, the features on <a href="http://www.mudbuddy.com/Sport%20V.html" target="_blank">Mud Buddy’s Sport V 4400</a> are second to none. Built with an Iron Mountain head, Mikuni 42mm carb, stainless steel mount and skeg and backed by a three-year warranty, the 4400 will push your boat through skinny water and across the thickest mud. <p></p> Features include: direct throttle control, digital tach/hour meter, idle air control, high-capacity electronic fuel pump and 20/50 amp alternator for light switches, winches and other electronic accessories. <p></p> <strong>$</strong>9,347
- <h2>Pro-Drive | TDX Series</h2>Built with the same high-quality materials and standards <a href="http://prodriveoutboards.com/index.html" target="_blank">Pro-Drive</a> is known for, the <a href="http://prodriveoutboards.com/boats_tdx.html" target="_blank">TDX</a> has a new lower deck on the transom for easy entry for hunters and dogs. <p></p> It’s the perfect timber boat, hand-made with 5086 marine-grade aluminum, 1”x2” extrusion ribs that run the full length of the boat and 2”x2” aluminum tubing side wall and floor supports. It also comes with P-D’s heavy-duty T-rail gunnel system. Available in 18- or 20-foot models in bottom widths of 48, 54 and 60 inches. <p></p> <strong>$</strong>6,495 (starting)
- <h2>Pro-Drive | X37 EFI</h2>The <a href="http://prodriveoutboards.com/motors.html" target="_blank">X37</a> gets you to the ducks in a hurry and the job done in harsh conditions. Built with a 37-hp V-Twin Big Block Vanguard EFI, the 993cc motor can push boats along at up to 30 mph. Features include instant forward and neutral, a momentary forward button, hydraulic power trim and a heavy-duty clutch system. <p></p> The X37 also has a tachometer and hour meter, stainless steel prop, twist-grip, and newly-designed skeg and cavitation plate. There’s also direct throttle control, idle air control, high-capacity and electronic fuel pump. <p></p> <strong>$</strong>6,670
- <h2>SeaArk | Mud Runner 180</h2>At 18 feet, <a href="http://seaarkboats.com/boat_models/view/49" target="_blank">SeaArk’s Mud Runner 180</a> gives you the confidence to tear across the river under pitch-black skies. Built with .125-gauge aluminum, a flat-bottom, all-welded smooth hull and a 3/16-inch low-profile extruded hull, you won’t have to worry about making it back to the ramp after a long day in the marsh. <p></p> Packed with user-friendly features, the 180 has a treadplate floor, hunt step transom, split rear seats with storage, high bow deck with storage, grab bar and transom handles. Available in a variety of camo options, it’s rated up to 50-hp. <p></p> <strong>$</strong>19,500
- <h2>War Eagle | 544 Warhawk</h2>Owners John and Mike Ward’s high standards and rigid specifications are evident in their latest boat, the <a href="http://wareagleboats.com/boats/24/544-warhawk" target="_blank">544 Warhawk</a>. The 6-degree V-hull runs through brush and deflects off stumps that always seem to jump out of nowhere as you run to your duck hole before daylight. The Warhawk comes with an all-welded .080 aluminum hull and is 15’ 8” long and has a 63” beam. It has War Eagle’s unique wings transom design, a T-lock cap rail system, rear-seat storage and your choice of camo patterns. <p></p> <strong>Price: $</strong>9,900 (w/25-hp motor)
- <h2>Xpress | XTS Tactical Series</h2>It’s made in Arkansas, so it’s made for duck hunting. The <a href="https://xpressboats.com/tactical/" target="_blank">Xpress Tactical Series</a> has a 68.5-inch beam, hydro-dynamic .100-gauge aluminum hull and a welded aluminum center keel. It comes with an LED bow light, an Xpress duck boat accessory rail, step pod transom and enclosed rear deck. <p></p> Available in 16- and 18-foot models, the XTS is the ideal timber boat, or to get to your favorite blind on the lake. Options include a center or side camo gun box, gun brackets, T bolts, trolling motor bracket, tiller kit and more. Trailer included. <p></p> <strong>Price: $</strong>13,995