Just as there are boats for sale that are better for fishing and others that are better for cruising, there are certain boats designed for duck hunting on the water. Waterfowling, as its known, is a hobby enjoyed by casual and serious hunters alike. As such, there are as many types of and configurations of boat available for the sport, making it easy for everyone to find the perfect fit.
In this guide, we’ll explore the ins and outs of duck boats, including how to buy them, what to look for, and which manufacturers have the best duck hunting models on the market today. You can use this information to help you choose which boat to buy for duck hunting and feel confident that you’re getting the best duck boat for your needs, no matter what those might be. Major considerations include:
Duck Boat Hull Types
Of all the boat hull designs out there, most hunters find that flat bottom boats are the ideal choice for water fowling and other shallow-water gaming. They don’t need much draft, they maximize stability, and they have good load-bearing characteristics so they can support the weight of a boat blind and hunting deck. Most flat bottom boats don’t offer the best ride in choppy waters, so getting to and from sheltered hunting spots can be uncomfortable if you have to transit an open bay or river. But once you get where you’re going the flat bottom boat can’t be beat, so many hunters opt for Jon boat designs.
If you want one boat for both hunting and fishing and you’re looking for something with more versatility, the semi-V hull might be what you need. The pointed bow and slightly angled hull will help smooth rough waters a bit, but the bottom is much flatter than a standard deep-V shaped hull, so that it can still navigate relatively shallow waters. A lot of semi-V models are explicitly designed as duck boats, as they’re easily outfitted with a duck blind and necessary equipment.
Finally, there is the deep-V bottom boat, which is designed for larger bodies of water and open-water gaming. This type of craft is generally made from fiberglass and is ideal for hunting divers, or sea ducks, in open water. They’re also used as tender boats that are used in layout hunting. But the deep-V comes with a deeper draft, so they aren’t ideal for hunting in shallow areas.
Motors Options on Duck Boats
Mud motors and “beaver tail” motors extend the access range for waterfowl hunting, offering designs that can handle obstructions like mud, sand, and other shallow-water obstacles. These motors can both work in mere inches of water, and for short distances, will even go through wet mud. You’ll want a long-tail motor for boggy, stump-filled areas where you expect a lot of resistance. Surface-drive mud motors are ideal for soft-bottom, open waters that offer a more level plane. However, these motors are very loud and steering the boat with them is challenging. So, most duck hunters stick with a standard-issue outboard engine.
Must-Have Duck Boat Accessories
Aside from the basic accessories like life jackets, anchors, and other required items, there are some must-have accessories that every waterfowl hunter needs to at least consider when outfitting their duck hunting boat:
Most duck hunters will need to blind up the boat. In some cases this may be as simply as carrying some burlap and using it to break up the boat’s lines, and cover the outboard. But many people hunt right out of the boat, so they need pop-up style blinds. These have aluminum frames with cloth blind material and can be purchased for many Jon boats, and added with four mounts that can be screwed or bolted to the corners of the boat. Some other people will build wood frame blinds, but these can get quite heavy and in some cases, may reduce a duck boat’s seaworthiness.
Most hunters stow their decoys in bags or just stack them on the deck, but some prefer to build stowage boxes right into the boat. These work very well, but make it hard to use the boat for anything other than duck hunting.
Gun Boxes or Holders
Some duck boats have built-in gun boxes which are watertight and may even lock. If you have the option, it’s one you should get. If not, you may want to add a rigid gun box to the boat to protect and secure the shotguns.
These aftermarket accessories clip to the gunwale or the blind frame, and hold up to a dozen individual shotgun shells. It’s not absolutely necessary to have them, but they come in handy when the shooting is fast and furious.
Push-Poles and Spuds
Many duck hunters carry a push pole they can use to propel the boat in areas where the hull will float, but there’s not enough water to operate the outboard. Many also carry a spud, which is a pole sharpened at one end, which you can shove deep into the mud then use to tie off the boat. Some poles on the market serve both purposes, with a thick “Y” shaped end to push with and a point on the other end.
Top Duck Hunting Boats on the Market
Now that you know all about buying the perfect duck boat, it’s time to see what’s out there. Without further ado, here are some of the most popular and best-selling duck boats that you can buy, ranked in no particular order:
The Lowe Roughneck series runs from 16 to 20 feet so you have plenty of room for your buddies, dogs, and equipment. Plus, there are prefab blinds designed to easily mount on the popular series of boats and multiple different camo patterns are available. And on top of that, the price is reasonable for a fully-equipped package when compared to other duck boats on the market today.
See Lowe Boats for sale on Boat Trader.
Gator-Tail boats builds a number of dedicated duck hunting boats. The Savage Series offers 17 feet of length, but models are only about 50 inches wide, which means they will navigate through tricky areas better than some duck boats. Despite missing some deck space, this series still manages to pack in plenty of storage under the deck and dual gun trays for optimal hunting prowess. There is also a trolling motor mount, stabilizer kit, and plenty of handrails. The series comes standard with a GTR40XD L Vanguard that packs 40HP. These boats are built for serious duck hunting in timber-filled areas that would tear up other boats on the first pass.
See Gator-Tail boats for sale on Boat Trader.
Tracker’s Grizzly line runs from 16 to 20 feet and includes tiller, side console, and center console models. Thanks to the series popularity prefab blinds are available for them, as are many accessories. These are all-welded boats with 0.190″ thick aluminum decks, and Sure Tread textured coating. The standard-issue finish is forest green powder-coat but Grassland and Woodland camo patterns are both available.
See Tracker Boats for sale on Boat Trader.
Crestliner Retriever and Retriever Jon models come in 15′ to 20′ versions, and they also offer CR and Outreach Jon boats all the way down to 10′. Most of these models are designed to fish as well as to hunt and offer features like integrated livewells and bow-mount trolling motor options, to go along with the camo paint and gunbox. Plus, we particularly like that Crestliner has a limited lifetime warranty.
See Crestliner boats for sale on Boat Trader.
War Eagle’s Sportsman and Blackhawk models, ranging from 14′ to 21’6″, are all about waterfowling. Even the smallest models are all-welded, and are available in your choice of camo patterns. Their 2170 Blackhawk model will be particularly interesting to big-water hunters, since it sports 22-degrees of transom deadrise and is designed specifically for choppy conditions.
See War Eagle boats for sale on Boat Trader.
Duck Hunting Boat Buying Tips
Tip #1: Know Your Target
No two ducks are the same, and they all have different places to call home. You’ll need to think about the types of waterfowl you want to hunt so that you can get a boat to traverse the water accordingly. If you’re hunting Midwest flyways, for example, you’ll want a flat-bottomed boat that can get through the thick reeds, mud, and other obstacles of shallow marshes and sloughs.
Tip #2: Choose What’s Right for You
The fancy rigs with all the bells and whistles look great online and even better in the showroom. Unfortunately, the biggest, most outfitted model might be a little much for what you need. In most cases, duck hunters need a simple boat that’s rugged, heavy-duty, and shallow water-friendly. Unless you’re heading out on the open waters, that sweet modified V-hull with lights, gun lockers, a blind, and deck space big enough for a family reunion may be more than what you need.
Tip #3: Leave Room for the Decoys (and Passengers)
Think about what you intend to do with your boat. How many passengers do you need to fit onboard? How many decoys will you be hauling? There’s other equipment that you need room for, too. Make sure that you choose a boat that suits your hunting needs, from the boat style itself to other features like passenger room, storage space, built-in equipment, and more.
Tip #4: Double Up with a Hunting/Fishing Combo Rig
If you’re into bowfishing, bass fishing, or other angling hobbies done in shallow water boats from flat-bottomed boats, you can find combination models that include all the best features and equipment for duck hunting and fishing. If you’re looking to upgrade your current rig, why not expand and make sure your new boat can live up to all of your hobbies? Side console and center console boats are great for dual-use, as well.
Tip #5: Durability is Essential
Boats are expensive enough as it is. However, cheaping out on a duck boat is going to cost you more in the long run. You need to look for a durable aluminum welded hull or other thick, rugged material that will be able to handle going over stumps, logs, and other obstacles in shallow water. Nothing is worse than tearing out the bottom of your boat or getting stuck because you decided to buy a less durable model.
The Bottom Line On Duck Hunting Boats
You wouldn’t head out to your deer stand with your turkey hunting equipment, so why are you going to take your fishing boat or weekend cruiser out on a duck hunt? Part of the success in waterfowling is in having the right watercraft. Make sure that you take the time to explore your options and find the perfect rig for your duck hunting desires.
Along with all of these top-rated prebuilds, you can find several components and resources to build your custom duck boat out of a regular Jon boat. Of course, you should always work with a qualified and reputable boat dealer in the process, but there are some situations where a custom build might offer a better fit. If that’s the case, be sure to look for components and features like those offered in the models discussed here. That way, you’ll know you are getting the best parts and accessories for the perfect duck hunting outfit every time.