Duck hunting can be an expensive hobby. Guns, ammo, boat, blind, camouflage gear, decoys, and calls are just a basic list of what a hunter needs in the field. One way I have found to cut back on some of these costs is by using a kayak in place of the traditional duck boat, or john boat.
Even a good fishing kayak can fill the bill, and provide a good way to get on the water without breaking the bank. Duck hunting does require some specific features out of any kayak, if it is to serve its purpose. First, however, I would like to go over some of the reasons why a kayak for duck hunting is the better choice for some hunters.
Why Use A Kayak?
There are many reasons why a hunter, like myself, would prefer a kayak over a john boat, or other watercraft. First of all, the places you can reach in a kayak are second to none. Lightweight and made for shallow water, they can go just about anywhere there is several inches of water. The weight also makes it an accessible way for anyone to duck hunt, not just people who happen to own a truck and trailer. I throw my kayak right on top of my Pontiac, and hit the dusty trail, which means I get to sleep in a little later than the other guys, too.
Second, its lightweight design is also perfect to be able to launch from virtually anywhere, as long as you can get it to the water. It stays above the muck, and can’t really get stuck, unlike a john boat. Simply put, because of its weight and design, a duck hunting kayak can go to all those places that you have wanted to go, but could never get there.
A big third reason is stealth. Anyone who has duck hunted knows you only have one or two good shots before they are up and away. Besides the paddle hitting the water, a kayak is already silent by design. Also, one of the laws of hunting migrating birds is that the motor must be off, and forward motion must cease before taking a shot. Secure your paddle and you are ready to shoot. Really can’t get much easier than that.
Hunting from a kayak takes a little extra time to outfit properly. A place to secure your gun is necessary. A good bungee can do this if you’re not wanting to spend the money. Camouflage is another extra that is a necessity for duck hunting. Ducks have extremely good eyesight, so it is worth the money and time. Some manufacturers make blind covers for kayaks, but I have seen hunters use a combination of camouflage paint, netting, and fabric achieving great results.
Waterproof bags are a strong recommendation from my own experience, as well as most other duck hunters. Some things shouldn’t get wet, I found this out the hard way, and I can say that I wish I had taken my brother’s advice. Some other key items are: a personal flotation device, GPS, and water-proof waders. While some of these are not needed, they are strongly advised.
A GPS is not as important when you are completely familiar with the area, however when hunting alone it could mean the difference between hunting tomorrow if an accident happens, and you are not able to get back. Having your coordinates will guarantee a rescue. It is also handy if you find a spot you could not get to before. You can mark it, and make sure that it will be found again.
Essentials Of A Duck Hunting Kayak
I will go into detail of what is necessary for a kayak to become the ultimate duck hunting machine. There are a few manufacturers that make duck hunting kayaks, but some of these can cost the same as a cheap john boat. A kayak also makes duck hunting accessible without a truck or trailer to haul, and if you are going it alone, it is easy on the back. So, if you are in the market for a duck hunting kayak, here are a few things to look for to make the buy a success.
Stability is one of the, if not the most important feature to look for. Fishing requires some movement, but duck hunting requires much more, especially lateral movement. Think of standing to shoot, or throwing out decoys. These require a sturdy platform to do it from. Kayaks that run wide are usually the best bet.
Many hunters hunt with at least one other person or a dog. This increases instability immensely. Keep this in mind when choosing your kayak, or you might be going for an unwanted dip in the lake. If a fishing kayak is the route you are thinking of taking, keep it on the bigger side. Hunting alone, I would find at least a kayak fit for two people to have added stability.
If you have the option, try a few kayaks out in the water. Stand in it with the gear you would normally have, or something that’s weight will simulate your gear, and rock it back and forth to find the tipping point. Stability also has to do with keeping dry. A duck hunting kayak that is unstable could easily land you in cold water. Getting your gun or ammo wet would also put a damper on your success, not to mention yourself. Stability is extremely important in this sport, so don’t skimp on this aspect of your future kayak.
It goes without saying, but having a tough duck hunting kayak is essential to hunting out of it. Think of the places it needs to go through to get to that special spot. I know some of you are thinking that getting an inflatable duck hunting kayak would be a bad idea, but the way they make them now I think it would hold up.
If you want to be sure, then always look for polyethylene construction or better. These will hold up against rocks, logs, and just about any other thing that it might come in contact with. It will need to withstand some abuse, even if the spot is close. It will also hold more weight, which is needed for hunting gear, and companions.
The other thing to remember is if you are out hunting alone you really don’t want to get stranded by a kayak that sinks. For this reason I prefer the sit-on top kayaks. They are virtually unsinkable. The mud and marsh your kayak would sink in could be even worse for you. Being stuck with no cell service in two feet of muck could be more than a bad hunting day.
The amount of gear a duck hunter needs is significantly more than a fisherman needs. I try to picture the kayak I am interested in full of my gear, and how it would fit in it. Having a spot for your shotgun is paramount for ease of switching between paddling and shooting without much effort or time.
Some sort of dry storage for wallet, keys, cell phone, and other essentials is important, but not necessary. Most fishing kayaks have some sort of dry hatch, but if you find one that doesn’t, many outdoor companies make dry bags to fit nearly anything, including guns. So as long as you have the room, there are other alternatives to keeping things dry.
Hunting alone can be dangerous. Having enough storage space for survival gear, and an extra set of dry clothes is not only something I strongly recommend, but something I practice. If you think that you are too experienced, or too smart for that to happen, then I say you deserve the outcome. It can take only a small hiccup for a good hunting day to turn sour, so having this on board can be a lifesaver…literally.
As with any kayak, maneuverability is an important feature to consider. Duck hunting, however, it is not as important as stability. If you are floating a river, especially a rougher one, it is more important. Being able to navigate the water is essential to success. Many hunters hunt ponds, potholes, or small lakes. In these areas with standing water, almost any kayak will function well.
Not only is maneuverability important on the water, but it is equally important on land. With a lightweight duck hunting kayak you can reach places untouched, and full of ducks. Many times this requires hauling the kayak from one body of water to another. With all the gear you need, having a lightweight kayak can bring the hunt to a whole new level.
Many places where I duck hunt are in low-level water, 6-12 inches. Below that is usually a layer of muck that can go down by the foot in some spots. Kayaks will easily stay above this and not get stuck. Even if somehow, you manage to get stuck, the lightweight nature of the craft will make it easy to free and continue the hunt.
The 4 Best Kayaks For Duck Hunting
These are the basics of what a kayak, outfitted for duck hunting, will need to have for a successful hunt. Now that I have touched base on the features I will show you some of the kayaks that I think would really work out nice for just about any kind of duck hunting.
Old Town Vapor 12 Angler Fishing Kayak
This angler kayak is a great kayak for duck hunting, too. It has ample room for your gear inside the cockpit. Unless it is pouring out your gear should stay plenty dry, and close to you. That is important for duck hunting when you might only have seconds to react.
It comes with a paddle park for quick switching of paddle to gun when jumping ducks. Cockpit also has a tray, and cup holder. There is a day well storage in the rear to give you even more storage for decoys, personal flotation device, waders, or whatever else you might need.
The anchor-trolley system is a very nice addition. Since this particular kayak is built for stability, which it knocks out of the park, it means that the tracking suffers quite a bit. With the anchor-trolley system, however, you can sit in one spot and use your kayak as a blind. This gives you a 360 degree view for maximum success.
- Excellent stability
- Adjustable padded seat, thigh pads, adjustable foot braces
- Excellent control
- Cockpit gives roomy storage for keeping gear dry
- Cockpit has tray, and cup holder
- Anchor-trolley system included
- Skid plate
- 325 lbs max weight
- Tracking is not the best
- Sit inside gives less mobility
- No waterproof hatches
Beavertail Phantom Duck Hunting Kayak
Roto-molded polyethylene with foam layer in between makes this one of the most stable and toughest duck hunting kayaks on the market. Twin hull design gives you the utmost stability for those lateral movements associated with duck hunting, like throwing decoys or shooting your gun.
Non-skid bottom makes standing to shoot a breeze. Ultra-low profile keeps you floating in just four inches of water. Rear waterproof compartment is big enough for just about anything you need to keep dry. Molded in handles and foot rests .
This company makes some of the best kayaks for duck hunting in my opinion. This baby is perfect to cover in a blind and sit and wait for your limit. They also make many accessories specific to duck hunting like gun racks, ammo storage, pit covers and many other awesome upgrades.
- Strongest material on the market
- Optional removable pit cover
- Rear water-proof compartment
- Enough storage for all your gear
- Ultra-low profile design floats in four inches of water.
- Twin hull design for premium stability
- Holds 365 lbs
- Made to support the movements needed to duck hunt
- Tracking is very tough
- Comes very basic
- Some accessories are needed to really make it comfortable for long periods of time
Beavertail Final Attack Bird Hunting Kayak
Although it is the same brand as the previous duck hunting kayak, this one is a very innovative design. It comes with transom for mounting a motor up to 2hp. It should be purchased with the cover (sold separately) to give you maximum camouflage. Ultra-low profile for floating in four to five inches of water. Lots of room for storage.
A unique attribute of this kayak is that it can be used on land as a blind too. It is made for ambushing, and fits the profile very well. It can be used in a field, on the edge of the water, or in the water. That gives it much more versatility than any other kayak I have seen.
It is made with roto-polyethylene for standing up to the harshest abuse. It comes with wheels and tow-rope holes which makes it one of the easiest kayaks to move. Very stable and light-weight to give it even more punch for the buck.
- Super tough roto-polyethylene design
- Ultra-low profile for sitting in just inches of water
- Comes with wheels and tow holes to making it a cinch to move
- Huge amount of storage
- Can be used anywhere; field, edge of water, or in the water
- Transom built in for mounting a motor
- Stability is second to none
- 420 lbs capacity can carry all the gear and then some
- Motor is essential
- Not good with paddles
- Cover sold separately
Lifetime 10 Foot Sport Fisher Tandem Kayak
This kayak is blow-molded from polyethylene to give it superior strength. The hull was designed for superior stability. Comes with three back rests, two double-sided paddles, clips, three rod holders, and a six inch dry storage hatch.
This kayak, although made for up to three people, would be perfect for one person out duck hunting. It has ample room, although not much for dry storage. Although it is an angler kayak it is stable enough to stand in easily, which is one of the main reasons I chose this one. It also comes with multiple trays to hold your gear that is needed often.
The front has a bungee storage area for your gun and ammo. It has multiple foot rest positions for every size rider. This kayak also has the biggest weight capacity at 500 lbs! That is incredible for a ten foot kayak. With a few modifications I think this kayak could become one of the best duck hunting kayaks ever.
- Blow molded polyethylene makes it very durable
- 500 lbs capacity
- Comes with two oars, clips for storage, paddle locks, three back rests, three fishing pole holders, and a six inch dry storage hatch
- Storage is enough for two people to go hunting and still have room
- Stability is phenomenal due to hull design
- Wide enough to turn sideways without tipping
- Fits all size riders
- Tandem seating keeps you high enough to stay mostly dry
- Heavy to haul alone
- Slow and wide
- Tracking can be difficult
- Water can come over the side
Last Call For Duck Hunting Kayaks
While choosing a kayak for duck hunting can be a long tedious task, just remember to really focus on what you need most out of it. Will you be floating down a river? Will you be sitting in some tiny potholes, or will you be ambushing on the lake? Out of these four, the one I would pick is based on stability and versatility.
The Final Attack by Beavertail might not look like a conventional kayak, but we are talking about duck hunting here. For the simple reason that I could use it anywhere I want to hunt makes it an incredible value in itself. That one fact outweighs the need for extra things like a motor, and the pit cover. In the end, it will serve its purpose well and even with all the add ons, will save me money. I would not have to buy a blind for on land, or buy a john-boat for distance spots. This little duck hunting kayak would cover it all.