by Will Brantley
A duck boat can open up a whole new world of hunting opportunities for waterfowlers. But buying a fully equipped boat can be a significant financial investment, so it’s important to make a good decision on every aspect of your purchase. Evaluate your hunting style and where you hunt. , how far you’ll be running, how many people you will hunt with, the amount of gear you’ll carry, and any other uses you may have for the boat (like fishing) before writing the big check.
V-bottom boats are designed for crossing big water like the Great Lakes and major estuaries. Typically constructed of aluminum or fiberglass, these sturdy craft are preferred by many diving duck gunners, especially for use as tender boats in layout hunting. V-bottoms are heavy and stable with sharp keels to part waves and high gunwales and transoms to keep water from spilling over the sides.
Semi-V or modified-V bottom boats are popular among waterfowl hunters for their versatility. They have a pointed bow and mild keel that will part waves, but they also have a flat bottom for shallow-water utility. Many of these boats are marketed specifically for waterfowl hunting and can easily be outfitted with a boat-blind.
Flat-bottom johnboats excel in shallow waters, especially when paired with a mud motor. They are also wide and stable, making them ideal platforms for a boat-blind. On the downside, they have a square bow that slaps the tops of waves, providing a rough ride in choppy water.
Outboard & Mud Motors
Hunters who opt for an outboard motor on their duck boat can choose from 2-stroke or 4-stroke models. Two-stroke outboards have proven themselves over decades of use in a variety of situations. They’re lighter, more portable, and less expensive than 4-strokes. They also usually offer better acceleration and responsiveness than 4-stroke outboards, a useful asset when facing an impending wave in a rig loaded with gear and hunters. Downsides are that small 2-stroke motors produce more emissions, run on an oil-and-gas mixture, and are louder and less fuel efficient than 4-strokes.
Many waterfowl hunters have made the switch to 4-stroke outboards because they are generally cleaner, more fuel efficient, quieter, and don’t require measuring and mixing oil and gas. In addition, once on plane, some provide more top-end speed than 2-strokes of the same horsepower. On the other hand, 4-stroke engines require periodic oil changes and are heavier, bulkier, and more expensive than their 2-stroke counterparts.
Mud motors have changed the way many people hunt ducks. Designed to ride over obstructions, they offer much greater shallow-water capability than traditional outboards with a rigid lower unit. Mud motors are available in two general configurations: long-tail and surface-drive. Both can be operated in just inches of water, but surface-drive motors are more useful in wide-open, soft-bottom areas where you can stay on plane. Long-tail mud motors are at home in stump-ridden areas where you’re more likely to get hung up.
If you don't purchase a boat as a package from a dealer, it's easy to overlook essential accessories. For example, many outboard motors aren't factory equipped with a propeller—it's up to you to choose one that best suits your motor and your needs. You'll also need a gas tank and the correct fitting for your fuel line. Check with your dealer about the wiring of your electronic equipment such as running lights, bilge pump, depth finder, and trolling motor.
Many duck hunters opt for plug-in spotlight outlets or bow-mounted floodlights. Of course, you'll also need life jackets and a throw cushion, a fire extinguisher, an anchor and rope, a spare plug, and anything else that may be required by law for boating in your area. Hunters with outboard motors will also likely need a transom saver to support their engine while towing. And an extra wheel and tire for your trailer are always good investments.