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The Benefit of a Duck Boat

Hunting With a Water Vessel Can Provide More Places to Hunt and More Birds to Bag

The Benefit of a Duck Boat
(Photo courtesy of WILDFOWL Magazine.)

Last duck season was the best I’ve experienced in the places I hunted throughout the Pacific Flyway. Looking back on what most impacted my success is a good way to understand the things that truly made a difference.

For instance, I invested in new duck decoys. There’s no doubt the full-body standing and floating decoys made a difference, as did the silhouettes when hunting fields. I got a new shotgun last season too, a Browning Maxus II, which I shot with confidence. And the new calls I ran turned ducks very well. But the one thing that accounted most for my higher success was being able to access prime places to hunt, and to do that, I used a boat.

I know what you’re thinking: “Why spend $20,000 on a fancy duck boat I might only use a few times a season?” My advice: Start small. Early last season, I accessed some prime public hunting locations on rivers and sloughs by simply using a pram, canoe, and kayak. I also relied on a drift boat to float rivers and access less-pressured birds in areas that couldn’t be reached by land.

You don't need to throw tens of thousands of dollars at a new boat to get to the ducks. Just ask the guys who use the small little sneak boats or the Marsh Rat-style boats. All of which are similar to a glorified kayak specifically designed for waterfowl hunting, but cost drastically less. With the help of a paddle or small motor, you can still find those hidden pockets full of ducks, and enjoy some fantastic gunning.

A hunter collecting decoys out of his kayak.
(Photo courtesy of WILDFOWL Magazine.)

Not only are boats great for accessing good hunting areas, but they can also be invaluable when managing a decoy spread. At the end of last season, the Kropf brothers, Richard and Brent, dragged a small kayak a couple of hundred yards through the brush to get to a small creek we had planned to hunt. We tossed 20 decoys into the wooded creek that was 15 yards across at the widest point. We had the perfect set and, in short order, killed limits of mallards with a few bonus wood ducks, and every one fell in the decoys. When it came time to pick up, Richard waded out to get the decoys close to shore, tossing them to me to place back in the bags, while Brent hopped in the kayak to gather the rest on the far side of the creek. Though it was only a couple yards across the deepest part, there was no way we could have set such an effective spread had we not found a way to collect the decoys. In fact, I was on several hunts last season where small crafts were used to collect decoys, not set them out.

If you’re in a place in life where you can afford it and know you’ll use it, a mud boat or even an airboat can make a big difference in terms of accessing prime hunting locales. I’ve hunted with hard-core waterfowlers in multiple states who wouldn’t hunt if they didn’t have their airboat. The same holds true for folks hunting lakes and big rivers, where running long distances in heavy water and bad weather is only achieved in a bigger, safer boat, like a jet sled.

Hunter carrying his pontoon boat.
(Photo courtesy of WILDFOWL Magazine.)

But just because you have a boat doesn't mean it’s your ticket to go where you want, when you want. Be courteous and mindful of fellow hunters when launching at the public boat ramp; help them out if you can. And if someone beats you to “your spot,” wish them luck and move on. Waterfowl hunters are a small fraternity, and we’re all on the same team trying to achieve the same outcome.

Over the years, I’ve hauled decoys into sloughs in small rafts, even on pontoon boats. Watercrafts also work great to cross large bodies of shallow water that are tough to wade, but again, be cognizant of fellow hunters who took off on foot three hours ahead of you to reach the same spot.

I hear stories every year of new friendships being made, where one hunter showed up to a spot that was already taken, and the first one there invited the late arrival to hunt with them. That’s what duck hunting is all about. Yes, vessels allow you to access more water and shoot more ducks, but they can also lead to fun, tranquil experiences and even new friendships if you allow it. 




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