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At some point in our lives we’ve all probably muttered the phrase “one thing led to another” while recounting past events such as an epic outdoor adventure or night out on the town that went a little too far.
This is the exact phrase I would use to describe how my waterfowl-hunting career got its start. Like many sportsmen, I grew up hunting squirrels and rabbits along with the prolific Pennsylvania Whistle Pig, known more commonly as the ground hog. As I matured, pheasants and whitetail were added to my list of targeted species. Waterfowl hunting, however, never appealed to me in my younger years. It was not due to a lack of ducks and geese in our area, being close to the eastern flyway kept a constant supply of mallards and Canadian geese passing through.
Fast forward to January 2014, my four-year-old son was accompanying me on his first squirrel hunt on the wildlife reservation on Barksdale Air Force Base. This wildlife reserve is 18,000 acres situated next to subdivisions, shopping centers and an interstate highway; a literal wildlife oasis amid urban sprawl. Our hunt had ended and the mid morning sun revealed what had to have been a few hundred gadwall that had flown into a nearby bayou.
Anyone who has spent any amount of time hunting game knows a few things, chief among these: Adapt to changing conditions and take advantage when an opportunity presents itself. A few hundred carefree ducks feeding and splashing in a secluded back water bayou looked like a hanging curveball to me, and I knew I’d have to take a swing.
I quickly realized that getting started was not going to be that hard because I already had a shotgun, some camouflage and most importantly a Wilderness Systems Commander 140. When I ordered my Commander 140 I chose the camo color scheme not only because the kayak looks great but also I had hopes of one day using this kayak for some sort of hunting. This camo scheme is a reboot of the original camo colors offered by Wilderness Systems and feature darker greens, earth tones and subdued logos. This kayak really does a great job of disappearing while hugging the banks of a tree-lined creek or sneaking through a cypress swamp. Another virtue by design the Commander series has is they are the equivalent of a pickup truck. With a high weight capacity and an open design just about any piece of gear simply gets loaded up and tied down as easily as loading your truck bed.
Bungee cord in the stern tankwell is suitable for securing crates or dry storage boxes. The SlideTrax system that runs nearly bow to stern is exceptionally convenient for ensuring a custom fit while securing precious cargo like a shotgun. The beauty of the SlideTrax system is the movable mounts that can be made to accept bungee cord or cam-buckle straps for even more confidence when transporting valuable outdoor gear.
With all of these features plus surprising speed and no snag prone scupper holes, there are very few places for the ducks to feel safe. During most of my hunts I paddle to the area I want to hunt, drag the kayak up the bank into some brush, and then wade flooded timber or I will utilize brush blinds. There have been occasions when water levels have risen to the point where wading is no longer an option and when I find myself in these situations I have simply stayed in the Commander, the ducks don’t seem to mind. With minimal cover I have been able to stay inside my kayak and shoot birds over decoys, the Commander is also so stable I am able to swing on passing birds with ease.
I have been hunting most of my life and fishing out of a kayak for a number of years now, the combination of woods and water just makes sense. As it often happens, “one thing led to another” and two of my most passionate activities in life fused into one, and a duck hunter was born. The Wilderness Systems Commander 140 has served me well in my young duck hunting career and it will continue to be my platform of choice for seasons to come.
by Matt Lehman