by Matt Young
Given a choice, most waterfowlers would hunt in natural wetlands with plenty of cover in which to conceal themselves, such as flooded timber, salt marshes, or cattail sloughs. But the fact is, better duck and goose hunting is often available in open-water habitats largely bereft of vegetation like flooded croplands, moist-soil impoundments, and reservoirs.
What these habitats may lack in aesthetics, they more than make up for in waterfowl numbers. Ducks and geese naturally flock to wide-open places to feed and rest, and this behavior is further reinforced by hunting pressure, as the birds learn quickly to avoid any patch of cover large enough to conceal hunters.
Although waterfowlers have developed a variety of tactics and equipment to hunt in open-water settings, layout hunting—in which shooters conceal themselves by reclining inside low-profile boats or coffin blinds—has long been among the most effective. Today's layout rigs, constructed of lightweight, durable materials, allow waterfowlers to safely and comfortably hunt in a wide range of wetland types. Following is an overview of the most popular types of layout boats and coffin blinds, as well as proven strategies for using them.
A Grand Tradition
With origins dating back to the market-hunting era, traditional open-water layout hunting is still actively pursued by waterfowlers in many regions of this continent. Much like the sink box gunners of old, these hunters conceal themselves in layout boats anchored in deep, open water adjacent to large spreads of decoys. Although some modern layout boats can be powered by outboard motors, traditional layout boats are typically carried or towed to the hunting area by a larger, more seaworthy "tender boat." Gunners take turns shooting from one or more layout boats and manning the tender boat, kept nearby to retrieve downed birds.
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