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Kayak Duck Hunting

Posted: 11.18.2016

kayak hunting and fishing

...That was the start of my kayak hunting career.

Kayak Duck Hunting

By: Evan Shearer

It was a cool crisp morning and the sun was just about to creep up over the horizon.  We had just finished setting the decoy spread and had settled into the blind.  I was hunting in a friend’s blind on Back Bay in Virginia Beach, a body of water rich with duck hunting history.  It was shaping up to be a perfect morning, with clouds moving in and a steady breeze at our back. 

As the morning went on, we had a few ducks fly into our decoy spread and we each ended up with enough for dinner that night. It was a successful hunt but what stuck with me from that hunt was watching ducks fly behind us and land in what seemed to be marsh grass.  As soon as I got home and had all of my gear cleaned up I sat down on the couch, laptop in hand, and started exploring Google Earth looking to see where those ducks were going.  It turned out that there was a system of small ponds in the marsh connected by small creeks, creeks big enough to get a kayak into.  That was the start of my kayak hunting career.

I started duck hunting from my Tarpon 140 about 5 years ago and it has been an adventure figuring out what works best for me.  I made a cover for the kayak with some canvas and quite a few hours with a sewing machine and then covered it in small bundles of raffia grass to blend it with the native vegetation.  I started out with 24 mallard, pintail, and black duck decoys that I was given from my dad and whatever camouflage clothes I could dig out of my deer hunting box.  The decoys are probably 20 years old and they don’t have near the detail of those sold today and the clothes I was wearing were definitely not meant for duck hunting.  Needless to say, I started out with a very patchwork setup, but I was hooked and over the years I have slowly improved my equipment.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to have success hunting.  I am a perfect example of a budget duck hunter.  I’m still hunting with those same 20 year old decoys with a few goose decoys that I’ve added to my collection.  You can find a lot of used duck decoys on websites like Craigslist and EBay where you can get them for a huge discount.  If you want to clean them up all you need is some tester size paints and a few small paint brushes and you can make old look new again.  I don’t have any high end motion decoys, just a simple jerk rig that only cost me about $15 to make.  I am an advocate for budget duck hunting because when I was starting out the price tag on the sport seemed so far out of reach but I have managed to make it work.  Even hunting with just the basic gear I still manage to kill ducks every season. Just about any kayak will work for hunting although those with a higher weight capacity and more deck and storage space usually work best.  I started hunting in my Tarpon 140 and I have since moved to the ATAK 140.  I duck hunt with others that use the Commander 120 or the Ride 135.  The ATAK 140 is a perfect boat for duck hunting for many reasons.  It sits low in the water so it doesn’t stick out when trying to blend in with the marsh, the AirPro Max seat will keep you comfortable when sitting still for hours at a time, and the storage and deck space give you plenty of room to load up with decoys and blind rigging.

The one thing that every prospective duck hunter should put the money down on is the right outerwear for the sport.  Duck hunting is a cold, nasty weather sport; the nastier the better, so the correct attire is essential.  A good pair of neoprene chest waders and a camouflage jacket that wicks water are a must when you’re hunting in below freezing conditions.  In addition to those items decoy gloves can make a world of difference when paddling to and from your hunting spot and setting and retrieving decoys.  I also invested in a hand warmer that hangs around my waist to keep my hands warm during the hunt.

When it comes to camouflaging yourself and your kayak a quick google search will leave you with more ideas than you could ever sift through.  Find something that works for you to help blend yourself into your surroundings without breaking the bank.  Some guys hunt with simple camouflage fabric laid over their kayak while others build elaborate frames and brush them to match the exact foliage around them. Both methods will result in dinner on the table!

Duck hunting out of a kayak is one of my favorite things to do and I am always looking to help people into the sport, but I’ll warn you, once you’ve done it you won’t ever want to stop!  Here are a few tips and tricks that I have picked up along the way:

  1. Never stop learning.  That is hands down the number one thing when it comes to kayak hunting because there will always be something that you can tweak to improve your hunting success and also make the hunt a more enjoyable experience.  Looking back to when I first started kayak duck hunting its almost comical some of the things I would do.  I keep a detailed log of all of my duck hunts in a notebook and at the end of every season I go back and look at how I did and what changes I could make to make the next year more successful.
  2. Less is more.  When you get into duck hunting you’ll go walk the aisles of your local outdoor store and you’ll want to buy everything!  When I started, I fell into that trap and I ended up with way more gear on my kayak than I actually needed.  I’ve learned to keep the amount of “stuff” that I take with me down to a minimum and it has made a world of difference.  You don’t want to over complicate your hunt.
  3. Learn the laws for your area.  Waterfowl laws vary even across different parts of a state.  Make sure you research the laws for the area you hunt before you go.  You don’t want a lack of law understanding to ruin your hunt.
  4. Do your research.  Google Earth will be your best friend when it comes to finding places to duck hunt.  I have found some of my favorite hunting spots that I never knew were there through Google Earth.  A kayak is a great tool for getting into those skinny water hot spots.
  5. Have fun!  This is the biggest thing.  I have some great memories from my past hunts, memories that I won’t ever forget.  Just like kayak fishing, you can create great friendships through time spent kayak hunting. 

Kayak hunting is something I look forward to all year and every year it seems like that excitement grows.  I wouldn’t trade anything for the time that I have spent in my kayak, duck hunting.  When you can blend yourself into nature like you do when you’re waterfowl hunting, that’s when you really get to see all that nature has to offer.  I’ve seen a family of otters playing around the marshes, bald eagles catching fish right in front of me, and some of the most amazing sunrises all from the comfort of my kayak.