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Banding Together for Waterfowl

Practical Duck Boats

A closer look at some of the most versatile craft available to waterfowlers
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The Low-Profile Layout Boat

Layout boats allow hunters to set up in shallow, open areas that larger boats can't reach or be concealed in. The layout boat's portability, shallow draft, and low profile allow it to be launched virtually anywhere and floated in as little as six inches of water to get to where ducks and geese are working.

Kevin Berggren of Broken Bow, Nebraska, uses a layout boat to hunt potholes, marshes, flooded fields, and lakes all over the Midwest. His boat of choice, the MOMarsh Fat Boy DP, is made of fiberglass and weighs 95 pounds. Measuring 13 feet long, 48 inches wide, and 15 inches tall, the boat has a roomy cockpit that will accommodate a hunter, a retriever, and up to six dozen duck decoys. 

Among the Fat Boy DP's options is a detachable transom for mounting a small motor. Berggren uses a six-horsepower mud motor for accessing shallow, weedy marshes. He camouflages his boat with raffia grass attached to netting and adds natural cover when he sets up to hunt. On-site, the rig functions as a layout blind on the water. Berggren reclines inside the boat, folds two door panels over his body, and lies motionless while birds are working. His retriever sits behind him with only the dog's head exposed.

"Most of our hunting is done on public land," Berggren says. "With my layout boat, I can get into hard-to-reach backwater spots that hunters in traditional boats can't get into. I can launch off an unimproved shoreline, motor in, and set up with minimal trouble and time spent. All I need is some cover that's as tall as the boat, like smartweed or some other natural vegetation, to hide in." 

Berggren and his hunting partners transport four layout boats on a custom-made double-decker trailer. Two of the boats are outfitted with mud motors, which are used to tow the other two boats and their passengers to the hunting site.

By using layout boats, Berggren and his hunting buddies can set up and be completely hidden exactly where the birds are working. The hunters consistently take shots at very close range, and decoying birds usually have no idea they're there. On a hunt last season, for example, three swans landed and swam within six feet of Berggren's boat. "Two of them had neck collars on, and I could read the numbers," Berggren says.

The Seaworthy Semi-V Hull

For hunting on big rivers and lakes, many waterfowlers choose a boat with a semi-V or modified-V hull. The shape of the bow and keel helps part the waves for a smoother ride and makes the boat more stable and maneuverable on big water.

World champion duck caller Barnie Calef guides on the Missouri River in southeast South Dakota out of a boat-blind rig built on a semi-V hull. The custom-built 20-foot boat has a 100-inch beam, 30-inch sides, and a splash well at the stern. Powered by a 150-horsepower Evinrude E-TEC outboard, the boat is designed to safely navigate big water and provide the benefits of a fixed blind. 

Called an "Odessa rig" in the Midwest, Calef's boat is fitted with a permanently attached blind that features aluminum sides and a roof with four shooting holes spaced equally down the center of the rig. The blind is covered with palmated grass, and Calef usually attaches several tumbleweeds to the outside walls when he sets up to hunt. This rig also features several nice amenities, including a three-burner stove and five infrared heaters. The boat is spacious enough to hold five hunters and their gear as well as 80 Canada goose floaters and 100 duck decoys.

"This rig provides me with the best of both worlds for hunting on big water," Calef says. "It has the power and speed for running long distances, but it's also maneuverable in shallow water. I can idle in only a foot of water."

The boat is also extremely seaworthy and dry, blocking out spray, rain, and wind. "We hunt in some pretty brutal conditions, and we stay totally comfortable in the process," Calef explains. "In addition, this boat's size and power make it great for breaking ice when the shallows start freezing up."

Calef targets ducks and geese as the birds return to the river during midmorning after feeding in adjacent grainfields. "I do a lot of scouting to find where the birds are resting," he says. "My boat-blind rig allows me to launch from an improved boat ramp and run as far as I need to get to the birds. Then we're able to hunt as long as we want to, regardless of the weather. When we leave the ramp in the morning, there's no reason to return until we fill our limits or run out of shooting time. And it's usually the former, not the latter."

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