Monday, April 2, 2012

Types of Duck Boats

Believe it or not, not all duck hunters have duck boats. Those hunters are generally the ones riding in your passenger seat on the way to the boat ramp. Essentially, for every duck hunter with a duck hunting boat, there is another duck hunter without a duck hunting boat. Don't expect them to take the plunge with purchasing a boat, either. It's fat cheaper for them to buy you the occasional biscuit and tank of gas than to purchase a boat. Still, I insist that my hunting partners develop their skills as a solo hunter and make a purchase towards a boat. Generally, the smallest of boats make anywhere within two miles of the boat ramp accessible. However, big water hunters need big water boats. When buying boats not powered by gasoline of diesel, the boats must be paddle-able or sail-able, though I recommend paddle-able!

Non boat owners should consider:

10 foot jonboat - There is no better "starter boat"!. Jonboats can be trailered or placed in the bed of a pick-up truck. I've also seen them on the tops of cars, too. Still, small, aluminum jonboats are light weight and are easily paddled. For the weak of arm and shoulder, a cheap trolling motor and car battery can replace paddles, but ALWAYS take enough paddles for everyone in the boat. Jonboats should never accommodate more than 2 people unless the water is shallow (2 feet or less) and the wind is non-existent. After the trolling motor is boring, a small (very small) gas outboard or mud motor could be attached. These boats will never reach more than 10 mph and be safe. Always expect to piddle around and make sure when navigating at night, that the craft is well lit! And never go out in waters that are susceptible to high winds. A 2 foot chop can sink these boats in no time, since the only floatation in them is generally a PFD!

Canoe - A canoe, to me, is the most dynamic of all duck boats. The v-bow will cut through ripples well and the long length versus the narrow width makes a canoe a fast and relatively stable craft. Some can be outfitted with a trolling motor or a gas powered motor, but that overcomes the canoes top bonuses. It's quiet and stealthy. Long employed by paddling jump-shooters, the canoe can be well camouflaged and paddled. Generally, I like to take a canoe in my big boat, then access the final few hundred yards with the canoe. It's easy to hide, too.

Marsh skiff - These little boats are part kayak, part jonboat, part layout boat and are very efficient as duck blinds and modes of transportation. Some even have built in wheels. The wheels, however are deceptively ineffective. If rolling one down a dyke to your favorite impoundment, the wheels offer little ground clearance, and therefore the wheels become a weight liability. They offer little storage for decoys and guns, too. I view these boats as a highly effective sled, though. They're great for taking stuff to the hunting location, as long as you are not in the boat. Walking and pulling (or pushing) the skiff is the best use of the boat. Usually, they're a dark green or muddy brown color and make excellent layout boats for shallower water. Most puddle duck hunters use these in skinny water and cypress swamps.

Layout boat - The layout boat is a great investment for your hunting partner if you have a large enough boat to carry it. A layout rig is not fully rigged out (in my opinion) unless 100 decoys are involved, too. Generally, these boats are reserved for open water stretches. They can be used in shoally and shallow waters without the use of a tender boat, but a full complement of decoys will not be available. The gray color and low profile of these boats makes them very effective and targeting divers on open water. However, they do come with a heavy price tag and a light payload. Storage is minimal, since the boats are filled with foam for floatation. Still, for the hunter who has a big enough boat and giant stand of decoys, a layout boat is a good investment for his non-boat-owning partner.

Pirogues - These little boats are generally a waste of time in North Carolina, but operate a lot like a marsh skiff.

Rubber Raft - See the dictionary and reference "death trap".

Whatever you do, require that your hunting buds become an active part of the process. If they're not going to buy boats they should shoulder the burden at the gas pump, decoy shop, or breakfast buffet.

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