Images by John Hoffman and Zach Eschelman
Duck boats are the workhorses of the waterfowling world. They will not only take you to where the ducks are, but you can customize them to make your hunts more successful and comfortable. Many duck boats can also be used during the off-season for fishing and other recreational pursuits. The only downside is that there is a bewildering number of high-quality boats and motors to choose from. With so many options available, how does a hunter narrow the field?
That’s what the editors of Ducks Unlimited magazine set out to do. During our quest to assemble the Ultimate Duck Boat, we took a number of factors into consideration, including size and weight capacity, hull and motor configurations, blind and concealment options, safety and comfort, and much more. In the end we put together a rig that we consider the perfect choice for the typical American waterfowler, and then we tricked it out with the coolest and most useful accessories we could find. The final product is a duck boat unlike any other. Read on to find out more about the boat and how you can get one of your own.
The Platform: War Eagle 648LDV Sportsman
For the foundation, we wanted a safe and durable boat with a 16- to 18-foot hull that could be equipped with a variety of accessories. It didn’t take us long to find the ideal candidate: War Eagle’s 648LDV Sportsman. One of the company’s most popular models, the 648LDV Sportsman is 16 feet 3 inches long and 48 inches wide with a 67-inch beam. It has an 8-degree V hull and sharper bow to part through brush, deflect water, and keep you dry.
Our boat is decked out in Mossy Oak Bottomland camouflage and comes standard with one base plate in the low front deck, heavy duty center keel, one cross seat with seat extrusion, wings transom, and T-Lock cap rail. wareagleboats.com
The Motor: Yamaha F25 Long-Shaft Outboard
When selecting a motor, we opted for a four-stroke outboard with versatility in mind, and we couldn’t think of a better choice than Yamaha’s F25. Weighing in at 143 pounds, this long-shaft outboard offers the best weight-to-power ratio in its class. The F25 is also one of the quietest motors on the market, produces minimal emissions, and comes with an external oil drainage system for easy maintenance. yamahaoutboards.com.
Our War Eagle came standard with Line-X spray flooring, which offers excellent protection and traction, but we decided to add MarshDek EVA foam flooring for an extra level of customization. Caleb Smith, owner of Circle S Machine, in Coldwater, Mississippi, is a MarshDek dealer and handles installation of this product for several boat manufacturers.
Smith added the Ducks Unlimited magazine logo on the front deck and the DU duck head on the main deck. The War Eagle logo is featured on the gun box, and the logos of other manufacturers that contributed to this project are highlighted on the rear hatch.
The boat’s custom EVA foam flooring is branded with the Ducks Unlimited magazine logo and the ever-popular DU duck head. Other key accessories include a Drake Ghillie blind, custom interior and exterior lights, and a state-of-the-art navigation system.
When it came time to trick out the lights, we handed the boat over to the professionals at Southern Lite LED in Auburn, Alabama, and asked them to work their magic. They delivered an astonishing LED lighting package that provides everything a waterfowler could want and a lot more. southernliteled.com
Two lights on the stern illuminate the motor and the area around the back of the boat.
Ultra-bright tube lights mounted along the port and starboard gunwales provide added illumination for launching the boat, setting decoys, and performing other tasks in the dark.
Mounted on the bow, the Gen 1.2 LED Boat Lite with built-in navigation lights will turn night into day. This 200-watt dual-beam powerhouse produces an amazing 20,000 lumens and boasts 50,000-hour bulb life. It’s mounted in a theft-resistant steel housing that can be easily adjusted to fit any boat’s ride height.
Ultimate Anchor Stern Light LED 2.0
If you’ve never lost an anchor light, you’re not getting into the right places. The folks at Southern Lite LED set out to fix that problem with the brightest removable stern light available. The light can be easily taken on and off with a quick attachment, and the 40-inch fiberglass pole is flexible enough to shrug off tree limbs as you navigate through tight spots.
Ultimate Switch Panel
All the interior, exterior, and bow-mounted lights on the boat can be operated with Southern Lite’s Ultimate Switch System. The compact, easy-to-read panel connects directly to the relay and fuse box. Wires for each accessory can be connected to the panel by screwing them into the open connectors in the box. No splicing or cutting wires required.
Raymarine Axiom+ Chartplotter
Owned by global technology leader Teledyne, Raymarine makes some of the most durable, reliable, and technologically advanced marine electronics available. On larger, more complex vessels, Raymarine’s family of Axiom chartplotters (also called multifunction displays or MFDs) are capable of interfacing with an array of onboard systems and add-on sensors.
Our boat is equipped with the Axiom+ 9-inch screen, which can be used as a chartplotter for detailed GPS and mapping duty to get you safely and efficiently to and from your hunting spots. With WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, the system also lets you connect to smartphone apps, including Netflix. raymarine.com
Teledyne FLIR M232 Thermal Camera
The most high-tech accessory on the boat, the Teledyne-FLIR M232 is a pan-and-tilt thermal camera, which unlike low-light or night-vision cameras, doesn’t rely on light at all. Capable of providing clear images in complete darkness, the M232 detects minute temperature differences and then processes the data into picture-like images, which are displayed on the Axiom+ screen.
Full control of the camera—pan, tilt, and zoom—is accomplished with simple touches on the screen. Together, the Axiom+ and M232 allow you to clearly see shorelines, islands, flooded timber, floating debris, other boats, and even ducks on the water in total darkness and other low-visibility situations. raymarine.com
Drake Waterfowl Ghillie Boat Blind
For concealment, we selected Drake Waterfowl’s Ghillie Boat Blind with a No-Shadow Dual Action Top. Constructed with a heavy-duty aluminum frame, the blind is designed to fully conceal the boat and everything inside. Highlights include two profile settings, spring-loaded locking legs, and more than 200 pre-drilled holes for easy installation. The fabric is heavy-duty hydro-durance (HD2), which will stand up to the harshest environments. drakewaterfowl.com
Millennium Marine Boat Seat
Millennium Marine Boat Seats are compact, durable, waterproof, and contoured to keep you comfortable during long boat rides. The rugged, all-aluminum frames mount to any boat seat pedestal and boast a 400-pound weight capacity. Available in Mossy Oak Bottomland camo. millennium-outdoors.com
Avery Easy-In Boat Ladder
To make it easier to climb in and out of the boat, we added Avery’s Easy-In Boat Ladder. The heavy-duty steel frame comes with four steps and a handle-support, and its height can be adjusted from 14.5 inches to 19.5 inches to fit any boat. banded.com
Avery Dog Ramp
We couldn’t forget our canine companions, so we added a Banded Dog Ramp. This 26-inch-long ramp hooks easily onto the boat’s sidewalls and has fabric steps for extra traction. It is fully adjustable and folds down to a convenient 14 inches for compact storage. banded.com
CampChef VersaTop with Griddle
The CampChef VersaTop Grill System offers 247 square inches of cooking surface in a surprisingly compact package. Equipped with Camp Chef’s True Seasoned, nonstick surface—it’s ready to cook whenever you are. It’s also compatible with most CampChef 14-inch cooking system accessories, making it one of the most versatile flat top griddles available. campchef.com
YETI Rambler One-Gallon Jug
You’ll never run out of hot coffee on cold mornings with YETI’s One-Gallon Rambler Jug. Like all YETI Rambler drinkware, it’s easy to clean, dishwasher safe, and practically indestructible. It’s available in stainless and DuraCoat colors. yeti.com
YETI 10-ounce Rambler Tumbler
Our boat is stocked with YETI’s 10-ounce Rambler Tumblers, which are ready to be filled with your choice of duck-blind beverages. They’re small enough to store in a blind bag and come with MagSlider lids to avoid spills. yeti.com
YETI Hopper M20 Backpack Cooler
YETI’s redesigned backpack cooler, which can also serve as a dry bag, is an invaluable duck boat accessory. Built with cold-cell insulation, a leakproof liner, and dry hide exterior, this cooler will easily hold up to 18 soft drink cans and ice. yeti.com
YETI Loadout Go Box 30 Gear Case
Every duck boat needs a dry box for essentials, and YETI’s Loadout Go Box 30 Gear Case is perfect for this role. It’s waterproof, dustproof, stackable, and will keep your gear safe in the most extreme conditions. A compartment divider, removable gear caddy, and zippered Pack Attic on the lid will help you stay organized. It’s available in desert tan or charcoal and comes with a tie-down kit and five-year warranty. Ours is customized with the Ducks Unlimited magazine logo on the lid.
Higdon Magnum Flocked-Head Mallard Decoys
These magnum decoys are oversized, bright, high-contrast, and visible from long distances. The drakes have flocked heads for even more realism. Each six-pack offers five different postures and head positions to add lifelike diversity to any spread. Two six-slot decoy bags are included. higdondecoys.com
Federal Black Cloud Ammo
To sweeten the deal, we added two cases of Federal’s highly popular Black Cloud ammo, including one case of steel 4s and one case of Black Cloud TSS loads carrying a payload of steel 3s layered with #9 Tungsten Super Shot. Both are 3-inch 20-gauge loads and feature Federal’s proprietary Flitecontrol Flex wad, which produces tight patterns in ported and unported chokes alike. federalpremium.comfederalpremium.com
Onyx Throwable Foam Cushion
This US Coast Guard-approved flotation device is built with convenient webbing grab straps that make it easy to throw in case of an emergency. onyxoutdoor.com
Onyx Classic Mesh Life Jacket
Don’t forget to wear a life jacket any time you’re on the water. This classic PFD features adjustable belts, mesh fabric on the shoulders and back, a durable nylon outer shell, a poly-twill liner, a roomy pocket for extra gear, and a D-ring attachment for a kill switch or other small items. onyxoutdoor.com
Onyx M24 Manual Inflatable Life Jacket
Made of 300-denier polyester with a one-inch buckle and body belt, this manually inflatable life jacket has a pull cord that engages a CO2 cartridge to inflate the vest when it’s needed. onyxoutdoor.com