Kayaking for Waterfowl

These sleek boats can get you into places inaccessible to other hunters

© Brian Belonger

-By Wade Bourne

Here's a plan for waterfowling success: Go where other hunters can't go, and find birds that other hunters can't hunt. What better craft than a kayak to help you put this plan into action? Kayaks are lightweight, portable, stable, and maneuverable, which makes them ideal for paddling into marshes, potholes, swamps, and other remote waters where ducks abound and competition for them is scarce.

"A kayak can get you into places you can't access in a regular duck boat," says Damon Bungard of Jackson Kayak in Sparta, Tennessee. "And shooting from a kayak can be a lot more comfortable than standing waist-deep in cold water. A kayak is handy for paddling to retrieve downed birds, and it's also a great boat for float-hunting on smaller waters. You can paddle and drift silently to slip up on unsuspecting ducks."

Several companies offer kayaks and similar one-man boats that can be used for waterfowl hunting. Well-known brands include Old Town Canoes and Kayaks, AquaPod, Native Watercraft, and NuCanoe. You can customize one of these craft yourself with a camouflage paint job and hunting accessories. Or you can buy a model like Jackson Kayak's Advantage Kilroy, which is custom-made for waterfowlers. This modified 12-foot fishing kayak features Advantage camouflage and has built-in storage compartments that can hold a dozen decoys, a shell bag, and other hunting accessories. It also features a "sit inside" design that provides a lower center of gravity and greater stability than "sit on top" models.

 Related: 10 Tips to Get Ready for Duck Season 

Another option for waterfowlers is the Poke Boat, which comes with a flatter bottom, wider beam, and considerably less weight than a standard kayak. Phoenix Poke Boat Inc. of McKee, Kentucky, offers a waterfowling model that includes Advantage Wetlands camo, a removable seat, footrests, and other amenities.

"The Poke Boat is more stable afloat than regular kayaks and canoes," says Phoenix Poke Boat president Tom Wilson. "And it's unbelievably tough. You can load one with decoys and gear, then drag it behind a four-wheeler across a dry field to get to water without damaging it. These boats will last forever."

The Poke Boat is made of aircraft-quality fiberglass cloth and resins that combine to make it highly durable and lightweight. The standard model is 12 feet long and 32 inches wide and weighs only 28 pounds. Phoenix also offers Poke Boats made of Kevlar and carbon fiber that weigh just 22 and 18 pounds, respectively. And on the smallest end of the scale is its Micro Poke Boat, which measures seven feet in length and weighs only 14 pounds. "You can carry it like a suitcase," Wilson adds.

On a personal note, I've owned and hunted from a Poke Boat for more than 20 years. I've float-hunted creeks in it. I've paddled into backwaters when a river near my home flooded and the ducks poured in. I've even used it as a layout boat in flooded rice fields by covering it with stubble and reclining in it as I waited for the ducks.

To be sure, my Poke Boat has been the ticket to some of my best and most exciting waterfowling adventures. It's allowed me to leave the crowds behind and hunt unexplored territory. I've never turned it over or felt unsafe in it. Indeed, hunters should never take such small craft out on large waters where strong currents or high waves can create problems. And always carry a life vest for safety's sake.

Most waterfowlers who try kayak hunting fall in love with it and are hesitant to return to the noisy boats, big blinds, and sizable decoy spreads they used in the past. "It's really amazing where a kayak can take you," Bungard says. "You can launch it virtually anywhere and access some really far-back places. You can paddle into beaver ponds, oxbow lakes, and flooded timber, where all you have to do is put out a few decoys. You can also load a kayak into a larger boat and run down a river or lake to a remote backwater, t then unload the kayak and paddle in to reach the ducks."

 Related: 10 Tips to Get Ready for Duck Season

Related