Skip to main content

Creative Propulsion

Creative Propulsion

I thought we might see a shoveler or two, but this wasn't the species I had in mind.

"Would you look at that?" my duck-hunting partner said, indicating an approaching lone canoeist.


"Well, cut my legs off and call me shorty," I replied. "He's paddling with a dadgum shovel!"


Sure enough, the unknown waterfowler propelled his canoe with a familiar implement normally reserved for gardening and cleaning kennels. We watched raptly as he moved smoothly along, completely content with his innovation.

Seeing such, I was reminded of various paddle substitutes I've employed myself. Never, I recalled, had I ever used a shovel to move a boat. Not that I wouldn't, mind you. There's just never been one aboard when I needed it.


And oh, the times I've needed one. You see, paddling is an integral part of my waterfowling existence. Most of the time, I'm without the services of an outboard motor, either on waters where one is impractical or aboard vessels on which the "mechanics" rarely function properly. It's standard -- I either have no use for a motor or the one I have doesn't work.


Knowing their importance, you might think I'd pay more attention to my paddles. But no, I forget them, break them and regularly lose them. Hence, like that aforementioned "shoveler," I must often be creative.

For instance, I've often used the tops of coolers as emergency paddles. They work fine, except for two factors. If they're made of Styrofoam rather than metal or plastic, they usually shatter into a million pieces after a few strokes. Second, you must lean far out over the bow to use them, putting yourself within kissing distance of snakes and alligators. I once had a head-on collision with a cypress stump while paddling and watching for critters instead of where I was going.

Brooms have also served me as paddles. They actually do a fair job, provided the boat is lightweight and time is not of the essence. A broom normally gets me back to the ramp in just a few hours. "Brooming" a big old wooden skiff full of duck-hunting gear is another matter. Like the time I arrived at the landing sporting a long white beard and out-of-style clothing. My son met me in his new pickup truck. He was 4 years old when I left home.

Shotgun stocks, I've found, make usable paddles as well. Barrels, too, might be creatively employed as in-a-pinch boat poles. Be advised, though, it's best to remove the mud before the next flock pitches in.

I once watched helplessly as my grandfather broke our only paddle on a stump while dispatching a water moccasin. Sadly, there was no cooler or broom aboard, and the water was a few inches too deep for barrel-poling. Our old, worn-out 5-horse Firestone, of course, had died long before. We just sat there, becalmed, as the mallards and teal dropped in, just out of range.

"Bobby," said Daddy Buck, "You ever hear me cuss before?"

I shook my 9-year-old head.

"Well, get ready, boy," he cautioned. "Now's the time."

Oh, the vocabulary lesson I learned that day.

What a shame we didn't know about shovels back then. The old man had three in the tool shed at home.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Picking a Puppy

Picking a Puppy

Wildfowl contributor Mark Romanack shares advice about choosing your next retriever.

Women

Women's Waterfowl Lineup

SITKA Gear waterfowl product manager Jim Saubier shows off the company's full line-up of women's waterfowl hunting gear for 2019. From warm and moisture-wicking base layers to water and windproof outer layers, this is a complete system for women who love to chase fall and wintertime ducks and geese across the four flyways!

Browning A5 Shotgun -

Browning A5 Shotgun - 'Gun Stories'

Gun Stories host Joe Mantegna talks about the origin and history of the Browning A5 shotgun.

Cowboy Fernandez Commemorative Yentzen Classic Duck Call

Cowboy Fernandez Commemorative Yentzen Classic Duck Call

As Groves, Texas duck call maker Sure-Shot Game Calls celebrates their 60th anniversary during 2019, company CEO Charlie Holder shows off the limited edition Yentzen Classic aimed at commemorating the life and times of company founder Jim 'Cowboy' Fernandez. With a special autographed box and a laser engraved call body, the Cowboy Classic is a perfect way to honor the legacy of the 1959 world duck calling champ and inventor of the double-reed duck call.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Mallards are masters of avoiding hunting pressure.Are Mallard Ducks Becoming Nocturnal? Conservation

Are Mallard Ducks Becoming Nocturnal?

David Hart

Mallards are masters of avoiding hunting pressure.

For a good aquatic intro for your pup, simply take it easy.Basic Water Training for Your Retriever Retriever

Basic Water Training for Your Retriever

Bill Gibson

For a good aquatic intro for your pup, simply take it easy.

Develop the duck dog of your dreams by paying attention to neurological needs.Early Neurological Stimulation for Better Duck Dogs Retriever

Early Neurological Stimulation for Better Duck Dogs

Tony J. Peterson

Develop the duck dog of your dreams by paying attention to neurological needs.

Perfect for party gatherings, these spicy bacon-wrapped poppers come from a Sooner State hunting fan who likes the taste of fresh duck breasts hot off the grill.Bacon-Wrapped Duck Breast Poppers Recipe Recipes

Bacon-Wrapped Duck Breast Poppers Recipe

Lynn Burkhead

Perfect for party gatherings, these spicy bacon-wrapped poppers come from a Sooner State...

See More Trending Articles

More How-To

It seems almost impossible - 653 clays broken in 3,600 seconds. An hour devoted to nothing but3 Surefire Tips to Becoming a Better Shotgunner How-To

3 Surefire Tips to Becoming a Better Shotgunner

Brad Fitzpatrick - February 19, 2016

It seems almost impossible - 653 clays broken in 3,600 seconds. An hour devoted to nothing but

I spent several days spotting for ducks and geese, with the hopes of having a couple fields tied up4 Tips to Remember When You Travel to Canada How-To

4 Tips to Remember When You Travel to Canada

Brad Fenson - June 23, 2016

I spent several days spotting for ducks and geese, with the hopes of having a couple fields...

Using high-tech tools such as aerial photography and smartphones for duck scouting hasn't quite caught on like it has in deer hunting. Here's why it should!High-Tech Duck Scouting How-To

High-Tech Duck Scouting

Tony Peterson - July 18, 2018

Using high-tech tools such as aerial photography and smartphones for duck scouting hasn't...

Follow these rules to live by for killing more ducks than your neighbors.The Best Crops for Attracting Waterfowl How-To

The Best Crops for Attracting Waterfowl

Brad Fitzpatrick

Follow these rules to live by for killing more ducks than your neighbors.

See More How-To

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Wildfowl App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Wildfowl subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now