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...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:
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.