Boat Hunting: The Ultimate Guide

Boat Hunting: The Ultimate Guide

If you’ve ever gone duck hunting in a field, hidden in the middle and set up decoy spreads all around you, then you know exactly how difficult duck hunting can already be.

Those long hours aren’t necessarily rewarded with a great catch every single time, and it makes the entire endeavor disheartening if you aren’t paying attention.

Boat hunting offers you the ability to continue the hunt while being on the water, so you don’t have to quit when the going gets tough.

These trips allow you to move around to additional spots in the swamps, and find new prey while being entirely camouflaged.

Today, I’m going to go over every little bit of boat hunting that I can fit into this ultimate guide. We’re going to cover the basics, while also describing why it beats hunting on land more often than not.

What Exactly is Considered Boat Hunting?

What Exactly Is Considered Boat Hunting?

Boat hunting is traditionally only down with waterfowl hunters. Instead of finding a spot to hide and set up decoys for ducks on land, you position yourself and your hunting friends in a narrow boat that can fit in swamp waterways.

This boat may be motorized, but more often than not, the motor is just going to scare away potential game.

In boat hunting, you bring the boat to a halt in an area where ducks usually congregate, and you fire your guns or bows from the boat while it is completely stopped.

Boat hunting eliminates the possibility of bringing a dog with you, but many waterfowl hunters will use pool nets to bring in their prey after they’ve fallen in the water.

If you’re shooting at waterfowl while being on a boat, and that boat is how you got there, then that is considered boat hunting.

Different Types of Boat Hunting

Different Types Of Boat Hunting

Well, it’s not just as easy as sending a boat down off your trailer and getting free game. There are a few ways that people boat hunt that you should know about.

Power Boat Hunting

This is when your boat has some torque to it, the motor revs and is loud, and you don’t care about camouflage.

This is generally perceived as the worst way to boat hunt, because while waterfowl aren’t the most intelligent creatures, it’s often loud enough to send them packing.

Power boat hunting is 70% enjoying being on a boat, and 30% trying to hunt. You should never go power boat hunting with the sole purpose of bringing back game. I would recommend bringing a fishing line and a radio.

Canoe Hunting

Two guys, a canoe, and some ammunition. At least, this is how these things usually go. You can shoot from your canoe while you’re sitting down in it, but rowing is generally a bit difficult to do.

I would say this is a good method if you’re going a short distance, you’re just going to be a little low on storage room. Keep in mind that canoes are not the most stable, so leaning too far into your shot could quite literally rock the boat.

Camouflage Boat Hunting

Flat bottom duck hunting-specific boats are the very best, and easy to camouflage. Because they require very little underwater clearance, you’re able to move in them quietly with a nice wide hull that prevents capsizing and tipping over.

Because of that wide hull, there are often plenty of storage compartments and general interior room to store ducks and equipment. These boats should always be camouflaged to help conceal your movement through the waterways.

Benefits of Duck Hunting From a Boat

Benefits Of Duck Hunting From A Boat

Well, if a ton of people are doing it, there has to be a reason, right?

Boat hunting adds a layer of a challenge, and just changes up the entire game. It’s not the same way that people always duck hunt, so it gives you some originality.

However, if we’re going to get into the nitty gritty of it all, these are the best reasons to hunt duck from a boat.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

You’re not visible on the ground. Quite simply put, you’re better off concealed in a camouflage duck boat than you are treading about on land.

You’re less conspicuous, and if you hate a few newcomer friends with you, boat hunting eliminates the possibility that their rookie moves will send game flying away.

Low Profile

Apart from worrying about making sound while you’re moving around the swamps, you have to worry about being low enough to the ground while moving.

Well, you’ve got guns on your back, ammo to account for, and waders that make it difficult to crouch walk.

It’s basically one big mess if you don’t handle it properly. Boat hunting keeps you close to the water’s edge and moving without having to exert yourself.

Sharper Focus

Because you’re not worrying about being spotted, and you’re not walking miles to a duck hunting spot, you can maintain your focus.

It’s been proven that fatigue damages your ability to retain clear focus, even if it’s on something that you’re truly interested in. You just don’t have that ability to keep your sights set on the prize.

With the lack of fatigue from being in the boat and keeping your energy for the right time, you’re more likely to hit your shots when waterfowl finally do appear.

Unique Angle

While it’s frowned upon to shoot ducks on the water, it’s not technically illegal to do so. In your hunting boat, you’re given a unique angle, and that angle allows for some shots that you just don’t get on land.

Use this to your advantage when possible, and you’re all but guaranteed to increase your efficiency.

Is it Legal to Boat Hunt?

From every government-hosted website I can find, there’s nothing that says it’s illegal to shoot waterfowl from a boat, but there are some stipulations I want to go over with you before you take that bit of information and run with it.

You should know the following:

  • You cannot shoot deer or other land game from a boat, no matter what
  • You may not shoot from a motorized boat if the engine is on, and the boat is moving at all
  • If you are using a boat with sails, all sails must be furled before you fire a shot
  • All boats must be stationary to avoid hunting injury risk to you and other hunters
  • Your boat must be still as can be before you shoot

It’s just some basic safety procedure stuff, but it’s important to keep it in mind, regardless of what boat type you’re using. Motor or not, treat it like a rolling weapon, and get it to a full stop before you do anything.

Some Additional Tips for Boat Hunting

Some Additional Tips For Boat Hunting

It’s not as simple as just getting on a boat and shooting when the time is right. If you want your boat hunting trip to be successful, there are a few things you should know, and a few pieces of gear you might find yourself needing.

Boat Blinds

These enormous tarps cover one side of your boat so that you can remain completely inconspicuous.

You’re able to blend in with the brush of the swamp with ease, so when you finally find a spot to position your boat and wait for the hunt, you can use this to keep the element of surprise and ensure you won’t spook the incoming waterfowl.

Boat blinds are particularly useful during migration, because you can position your boat so that the blinds face north, and catch the perfect migration trails coming in.

Once they see the water, they’ll come down to land. Just act quickly before they see the exposed backside of your boat.

Have a Way to Retrieve Your Game

It might look silly, but a pericope handle pool net really does the trick here.

You can store this easily, and retrieve fallen waterfowl if they hit the water and are just floating there. Since it’s unlikely that you’re bringing along a dog on your boat, this is your best option.

Always Have a Flotation Device Nearby

Your friend goes to manually collect his kill, because you didn’t bring that pool net we talked about earlier. Either that or he’s stubborn, it really doesn’t matter which.

He gets the feet of his waders stuck in the mud, and is having a hard time sliding out. Time to throw that flotation device to him and pull him towards you, hopefully while singing “I told you so.”

First-Aid and Essentials are a Must:

You don’t know what’s going to happen out there.

Hopefully, you will catch some waterfowl, bring them home for dinner and cook them up right away, but anything can happen. It’s important to have emergency equipment on board to be ready for anything that might happen.

This should include a survival kit, spare clothes, and possibly even a flare gun depending on how far you’re going into the woods.

Distribute Weight Evenly

Depending on the boat type that you’re using, you may have issues counterbalancing the weight.

Store your gear in strategic spots on your boat to prevent tipping when you lean out to take a shot. You don’t want all the weight on one side.

Can You Buy a Duck Hunting Boat?

If you want to purchase a duck hunting boat outright, you can do that. There are plenty of premade boats that include excellent dead rises and transom heights, along with other key attributes that will help you during a duck hunt.

The best thing about these is that the motors are generally quiet enough to not rouse any nearby waterfowl, though they’re less powerful and will move your boat along a bit slower (but it beats rowing).

How Much Does a Duck Hunting Boat Cost?

How Much Does A Duck Hunting Boat Cost?

It’s not a cheap purchase to consider!

Most duck hunting boats with decent features are going to run you about $5,000 up to $9,500 if they’re brand spanking new.

I don’t recommend doing that, since getting used duck hunting boats from soon-to-be retired duck hunters is just going to save you a ton of money in the process.

With used boats, you can find some around $2,800 to $4,000 in good condition, with a lot of space and benefits. If you’re shopping for a duck hunting boat, here are some things to keep in mind that impact the price:

Weight Capacity

The bigger the boat, the more it can take. If you and two friends are heading out, you need to know everyone’s weight and the weight of their gears. Account for coolers, ice, and the weight of your game as well.


Pre-designed duck hunting boats come with a little bump of horsepower, usually around 40-50 in total. Compared to most powerboats, it’s not a lot, so you’re not going to stir up wildlife.

Hull Width

You need space, especially when you consider that you’ll be standing near the edge of the boat when you take your shots. Hull width and total boat length will play into the weight distribution.

Hull Weight

Higher hull weights generally mean thicker hull gauges. You’re going to see around 500 lbs for the hull weight on most pre-designed 16’ duck hunting boats, and around 450 lbs for 13’.

This definitely plays into the price, because the more materials they use to manufacture it, the more they have to charge to make up the difference.

Get Hunting

There’s no time like the present. Plan your trip for the first available day of the season, strap in, and get everything together for the hunt of your life.

Duck hunting from your boat is one of the best ways to spend time in the heart of nature and live off the land at the same time. The hunt it ous there waiting for.

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