2023 Ultimate Guide To Get The Right Duck Hunting Kayak

Frontier hunting

Frontier hunting

Emma Downey

Emma Downey
Gardening Expert

Updated on 12/6/2022

A duck hunting kayak can provide you an advantage over all of your other competition when you're out looking for ducks.
Consider the following: to find reasonable duck hunting grounds, the other hunters will need to shuffle through countless kilometers of muddy pathways. At the same time, you can paddle downstream until you reach the appropriate location.

If you are prudent and have a little bit of good luck, you won't even have to bother with trying to make landfall. As long as you have your shotgun close at hand, you'll be able to take lots of ducks without ever having to leave your kayak.

And you won't have to brave the icy water any longer to bring in your ducks. You have a boat with a shallow draught that can take you wherever in the marshes and swamps, making it very easy to retrieve the fallen birds.

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Yes, duck hunting kayaks are an incredible asset to have in your arsenal of hunting equipment. That is why I decided to investigate these specialized kayaks, their advantages and disadvantages, and some helpful pointers to make you a more effective waterfowl hunter who uses kayaks.

  • Jackson Kilroy HD
  • Nucanoe Unlimited
  • Ascend H12
  • Old Town Discovery 119 Solo Sportsman
  • Native Watercraft Ultimate FX 12
  • Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 12 with 360 drive 
  • Sea Eagle 385 FTA

The Complete Introduction To Duck Hunting From A Kayak

Duck hunting

Duck hunting

You might overhear a number of traditional duck hunters complaining about duck hunters who use kayaks, and they might refer to this activity as a "new fangled fad" or a “passing trend.”

Conversely, if you talk to a duck hunter who has recently begun using a kayak, I'm willing to bet that they will tell you that it is a game-changer in every sense of the word and that they would never consider duck hunting with any other type of boat.

Why is it the case?

  • Kayaks are characterized by their low weight. You can drop it into the water and sling it on your shoulder like a backpack. Be paddling anywhere in the world in a matter of minutes. When put in perspective with a more substantial powered boat, it is easy to see why the trend of duck hunting has been expected to be famous for many years.
  • Kayaks are manoeuvrable. You can paddle into any canal that is restricted in space, make abrupt bends, and even maneuver amongst or beneath dense vegetation. Compared to every other type of boat in the area, they are exceedingly simple to steer.
  • Kayaks may be moved about with relative ease. You only need a kayak roof rack to transport your kayak anywhere; other transportation options are not required. There is no requirement for a trailer, dock, or other fundamental components for moving a motorboat or rowboat. Using a kayak makes everything a lot less complicated and stressful.
  • Getting in and out of kayaks is a simple process. If you need to go on and off the shore, you can practically slip over the side of the kayak and then drag yourself back on. There are also kayaks specifically designed for duck hunting with a sit-on-top design that allows any water on board to drain away, eliminating the need to bail the boat. Go in and out without any difficulty!
  • Using kayaks to travel to and from your hunting area makes for a less taxing experience overall. Think about it: to get to their hunting site, other duck hunters have to hike over mountains, forests, or swamps. You don't have to do any of that. Launching your kayak upstream and letting the current carry you downstream is all you require; the river will do the rest of the job. You won't waste any time getting to your hunting site; when you do, you'll be ready to hunt!
  • Kayaks are excellent transportation for use in secluded and inaccessible regions. While larger motorized boats won't be able to maneuver in shallow or confined waterways, a kayak will have no trouble doing so. There is very little water that a kayak can't navigate because of its very shallow draught and exceptional mobility.

  • Kayaking is a sneaky form of running. There were no motor sounds, and there was no heavy breathing or puffing from the exertion of rowing a cumbersome boat. You can paddle in solitude or choose not to paddle at all and let the current take you along in absolute peace. The ducks won't ever hear you coming until you approach!
  • Kayaks' cost is far lower than that of a boat. As you can see from the list we provided above, the price of a high-quality kayak designed just for duck hunting is a mere fraction of what you would pay for an enormous rowboat, much alone any motorized watercraft. But here's the kicker: some even let you install a little outboard motor if you want to. It offers the highest possible value for the least high price that may be provided.
  • Kayaks can accommodate all of your equipment for duck hunting. A kayak is a convenient storage option for your hunting equipment, including decoys, gear, and accessories. Your kayak's carrying capacity is far more than carrying everything on your back.
  • Kayaks are practical watercraft utilized at any time of the year and in any location. You can still use your kayak to go fishing, paddle around your favorite lake, or explore the open seas after duck shooting season has ended. You can take advantage of kayaking throughout the year and in a wide variety of spectacular locations because, in contrast to motorboats, kayaks are allowed on many bodies of water (lakes, rivers, streams) that prohibit their use.

It should be easy to understand why duck hunting from a kayak is unquestionably an intelligent choice, shouldn't it?

How To Pick The Right Kayak For Duck Hunting: Things To Think About

Duck hunting kayak

Duck hunting kayak

When looking for a hunting kayak, there are a few important considerations you should bear in mind, including the following:

Stability

In my opinion, this is the single most critical consideration to make when selecting a kayak for use in duck hunting. Since you will be shooting from within the vessel, it is imperative that it be sufficiently stable to not only keep you steady while you are shifting your position and setting up your shot but also to withstand any recoil that your rifle or shotgun may generate.

The beam of a hunting kayak is typically broader than the ordinary beam, resulting in a significantly more stable platform.

Take note: wider kayaks provide improved primary stability (stability on smooth, calm waters), but their low secondary stability makes them less stable in choppy or rough conditions (such as during a storm or while paddling down river rapids), which increases the likelihood that you will capsize the boat.

RELATED: Are Kayaks Stable? The Ultimate Guide to Maintaining Stability in Your Kayak

Although kayaks with a wider width will travel at a slower speed than those with a narrower width, speed is not really an issue for duck hunting. The most important aspect of a reliable hunting platform is the kayak's ability to maintain its balance and stability while paddling through the water.

Lifetime Tamarack Angler Sit-On-Top Kayak, Olive, 120"
Summary
Value for money9.4
Value for money
Stability9.2
Stability
Durability9.2
Durability
Maneuverability9.2
Maneuverability
Comfort8.8
Comfort

Durability

When looking for a kayak suitable for duck hunting, I believe that durability is the second most important thing to consider.

Scratches: Whether you're dragging the kayak to and from the water, portaging it, or navigating narrow and shallow waterways, your kayak is almost sure to get some scratches or dents as a result of running into obstacles (such as downed logs, tree branches, rocks, etc.). Dents: If your kayak hits something hard enough, it may even crack.

Kayaks used for duck hunting are often constructed from rotomolded polyethylene, a material that is both impact-resistant and long-lasting. On the other hand, some inflatable solutions are remarkably stable since they are built with solid PVC that has been strengthened and can sustain a significant amount of damage.

In light of this, it could be a good idea to invest in a kayak cart so that you can roll the kayak rather than dragging it whenever possible.

jackson

jackson

When you spend the entire day hunting on the water, your kayak will be subjected to a significant amount of ultraviolet radiation (from the sun), which can cause damage to the kayak. Exposure to the sun for an extended period might cause polyethylene to degrade. You will see that the paint begins to fade, and you will also note that the plastic becomes more brittle, which indicates that it can be cracked or damaged more readily.

To protect the plastic from the sun's rays, a suitable kayak designed for duck hunting should have a top coating resistant to ultraviolet light.

Please take note that the use of products such as 303 Aerospace Protectant is recommended for further UV protection. It is a top coat that can be sprayed on, protecting your kayak from sun damage while considerably extending its lifespan.

Camouflage 

Ducks have incredible eyesight, with a vision up to two or three times better than humans. That indicates that people will undoubtedly observe you paddling along in a kayak with a bright color, such as red, yellow, or blue.

It should come as no surprise, then, that duck hunting kayaks have paint treatments that are either bland or camouflaged. Even a dull brown, tan, or green will do, but camouflage is always preferable because it allows you to blend in with your surroundings and makes it more difficult to see.

Kayak

Kayak

Naturally, if you want to take it to the next level truly, you might want to convert your kayak into a mobile layout blind. This is something you can do if you search online for instructions. You can create what is effectively a ghillie suit (with natural materials or synthetic textiles) to encase your boat and make it look like it is just another patch of marsh or swamp land. You can do this by utilizing natural materials or synthetic fabrics. Once you have found a suitable area to conceal yourself and your kayak, as long as you are clothed in camouflage, you will disappear completely into the surroundings.

Watch this fantastic video from Central PA Outdoorsmen to learn how to turn your kayak into a waterfowl blind so you can get a better shot at the birds.

Weight

If you want to go duck hunting from a kayak, you need to consider how much of a bother it will be to get the kayak into and out of the water, particularly if you have to portage it from one body of water to another.

You already have to carry all of your hunting equipment (rifle, vest, decoys, lures, etc.), so the fact that you have to lug an extremely hefty kayak ON TOP OF ALL THAT is not pleasant.

If your hunts require a lot of portaging, it is in your best interest to look around for a kayak that is significantly lighter in weight. Because you don't want to choose something too little (you need the additional breadth and length for better stability), you need to be prepared for some more weight. Because you don't want to choose something too small, however, keep in mind that you will be the one to carry the kayak at some point. Thus the weight of the kayak is an important consideration to take into account.

Both In Terms Of Weight And Capacity To Store

This is yet another essential aspect that needs to be taken into account. You need to check that your kayak has sufficient room to carry you and everything else you intend to bring with you on your trip. This includes all of the decoys that you plan to use, the blind (or the supplies to build the blind), your gun(s), hunting gear (dry bag, ammo), and, of course, your four-legged friend (the addition of a dog to duck hunting completely changes the dynamic of the experience).

That being the case, the first thing you need to do is think about the weight capacity. Is the kayak capable of supporting the weight of all the equipment you intend to carry, as well as you (and a dog) and the ducks you plan to harvest? Due to their increased width and length, duck hunting kayaks often have a weight capacity ranging from 350 to 500 pounds, which is significantly more than leisure kayaks. However, make sure that you examine the specifications to be aware of the maximum amount of weight you may transport.

Ducks

Ducks

It is also essential to have sufficient storage capacity and designated storage areas. You may likely transport anywhere from one dozen to thirty decoys of varying sizes throughout your journey. You will need a place to keep them stacked up and ready for deployment; the standard location is atop the storage box in the rear of the kayak.

However, you will also need dry storage (typically located in the front of the boat) and sufficient space within the open cockpit to store all the other equipment you will bring along. Consider how much gear you intend to bring along with you and search for a kayak with the appropriate number of storage compartments and the necessary amount of storage space.

Maneuverability

As I alluded to before, duck hunting kayaks often make compromises in terms of agility and speed to increase their level of stability. The kayak will have better balance if its beam is broader, but it will go more slowly and be more challenging to maneuver.

When hunting waterfowl from a kayak, speed is not typically a significant concern; nonetheless, maneuverability is essential. After all, to put up your blind, you must paddle over and around underwater obstacles, through small rivers, and even back into deep grass. If it behaves like a barge, it will not be worth the trouble it causes.

The Appropriate Place

When you go duck hunting, you'll spend most of the day in one of two postures: sitting upright or reclining on your back inside the blind. Both of these positions have their advantages and disadvantages.

You will typically only sit upright if you have effective camouflage (such as a ghillie suit) and can conceal yourself in places where ducks won't be able to see you, such as long grass, beneath a tree or anyplace else. You must sit erect in the kayak when paddling to and from your hunting area.

Suppose your primary purpose for utilizing the kayak is transporting you and your belongings to a destination located on dry ground. In that case, you will want a seat that provides adequate support for your lower back and padding so you can comfortably paddle.

If, on the other hand, you are going to transform your kayak into a mobile layout blind, you will most likely spend the majority of the day lying down to provide yourself with the best possible cover. It is in your best interest to have a seat that can be removed since this will provide you with additional room to stretch out and be comfortable.

Because of this, you will have to paddle from a kneeling position, which may make paddling more difficult. However, the trade-off is worth it because it will lessen your visibility and make those long hours spent lying down more pleasant.

Mounting Choices For The Motor And Accessories

Because kayaks are silent when in motion, it is much simpler to slip into and out of a hunting location without noticing yourself. However, you may have to paddle back upstream or travel across a lake. You should use an outboard motor rather than relying solely on your muscular strength.

Some kayaks designed for duck hunting (and kayaks designed for fishing) come equipped with the necessary gear for installing a small trolling motor. In contrast, others, like this lightweight, 36-pound model from Newport Vessels, may accommodate such hardware. It will make traveling to your hunting site and back to your vehicle a lot less laborious for you to do both.

Even if you don't want to use a motor, several different pieces of equipment can be added to your kayak, making duck hunting much more straightforward. For instance, paddle clips allow you to keep your paddle near at hand while keeping it out of the way while you're not using it. Carabiner rings provide a location for you to clip on a compact anchor, net, or dry bag to carry your gear.

Tips For Duck Hunting While Utilizing A Kayak

Tipa For Duck Hunting While Utilizing A Kayak

Tipa For Duck Hunting While Utilizing A Kayak

Planning on taking your kayak out to do some duck hunting? The following are some pointers that will unquestionably make any journey safer and more fruitful:

Put On A Personal Flotation Device (PFD)

Accidents have been known to occur when kayak duck hunting, despite the activity being relatively uncommon. The kayak can capsize if the water is agitated by the wind or if you inadvertently tilt too far in the wrong direction. Since most duck hunting takes place during the cooler months (fall and early winter), the water can be enough to cause hypothermia and cause your muscles to freeze. If you cannot swim well and your kayak capsizes in deep water, you could be in a risky situation.

When kayaking, an excellent personal flotation device (PFD) should always be worn, especially in waters that are pretty shallow and narrow. If your boat capsizes, wearing a life vest can prevent you from drowning.

If you plan on duck hunting while kayaking in cooler weather, you should consider investing in a dry suit for further protection. Keep a safety knife on you always, just in case something goes wrong. In addition, make sure that you have sufficient warm clothes (gloves, a hat, various layers, etc.) to ward against the cold.

Plan Your Gear Ahead Of Time

Take only the supplies and equipment you will need, as carrying too much weight in the kayak could cause it to capsize or make it difficult to paddle and manage.

Pack everything up the night before, ensuring you have adequate ammo, food, beverages, and other necessities. Decoys are also an essential item to have. And make sure you get plenty of practice loading your kayak on dry land before you take it out on the water. This will give you a better idea of how to distribute your weight and where it should go.

Take Care In Selecting Your Destination

Because you are paddling while loaded with a lot of stuff, your kayak will be more challenging to steer and less maneuverable. Steer clear of areas with strong currents of water that are rough. With each additional pound of weight you carry, the possibility that you will become capsized increases. Maintain as much of your time as possible in calm water.

Determine Where You Will Hide

Before you set up your decoys, you should always make sure you have a plan for where you will hide so that you don't give away your position. That way, you won't have to leave your hiding spot to position them in a place that provides the best visibility of any approaching ducks, and you won't have to disturb them either.

Concealment Is Crucial

concealment

concealment

Since ducks have good vision, you need to conceal yourself so they cannot see you. Reeds, grass growing in ponds or swamps, or even trees often serve as excellent hiding places in these environments. However, if you are hunting from a kayak, you should use a blind so that you may remain as undetected as possible.

Some fantastic articles on making your kayak duck hunting blind can be found in Wildfowl Magazine and Old Town Canoe. There is also the option of purchasing one already tailored to your kayak's dimensions, such as the Yakima Ambush Camo Kayak Cover and Hunting Blind.

Prepare Your Kayak For The Shooting.

Adjust the angle of your kayak so that you are shooting parallel to your boat's hull, anywhere between ten and two o'clock. This will lessen the likelihood that the recoil may throw you back and cause you to lose your balance.

If you are right-handed, you should tilt the kayak slightly to the right, and if you are left-handed, you should tip the kayak somewhat to the left. This will provide you with a better angle to shoot at, which is also more comfortable.

Gather Your Empty Casings Together

Exhausted shell casings are considered rubbish and will pollute lake water in the same way that empty beer cans and plastic wrappers will. Always collect your spent shell casings before setting out on your paddle to retrieve your game.

Wear Waders

Wearing waders will prevent you from getting wet and keep you toasty while you spend the entire day in or near the water. Even if you don't get wet, the waders keep you dry while you drag the soaking wet ducks and decoys into the boat. This is true even if you don't get into the water.

Pack so that your equipment stays dry.

Always make sure you have a waterproof bag that is large enough to fit all your necessities (phone, keys, GPS, compass, etc.). You should ensure that your shotguns are stored in a waterproof gun case and that your ammunition is stored in a waterproof ammo box. The last thing you want is to be forced to take another shot because the shells you used were ruined by moisture.

Be aware that even if your firearm is stored in a case, there is still a chance that it will get wet. It's inevitable when you spend the whole day close to so much water. At the end of your day of hunting, you should give it a thorough cleaning and make sure to dry it.

Get Bigger Lights

It is possible to kayak after dark with nothing more than a headlamp, but it is much safer to utilize more giant LED floodlights whenever possible. Not only will you have an increased range of illumination and visibility, but you'll also have an easier time navigating hazardous seas. Check out our comprehensive guide on kayak lights for night paddling and fishing for more information.

Clean Your Kayak

After you have returned to land, make it a priority to clear the kayak of any vegetation that may have become lodged in it and wash it thoroughly, both inside and exterior, to eliminate any algae or germs that may have formed. The last thing you want to do is move invasive species from one body of water to another.

Here Is A Full List Of The Best Kayaks For Duck Hunting

Jackson Kilroy HD

Jackson Kilroy

Jackson Kilroy

Length: 12′ 10″ (391 cm)
Width: 36″ (91.4 cm)
Weight: 98 lbs. (44.45 kg)
Capacity: 450 lbs. (204.12 kg)

The Kilroy HD is the newest model from Jackson Kayak. It was made with hunters and anglers in mind. Even though it's a sit-inside kayak, it has features from sit-on-top kayaks. Such as a comfortable EZ Hi-Low Sliding seating system, lots of protected storage space, a removable stern deck, and Yak Track accessory mount gear tracks all along its length.

It's also one of the most challenging and longest-lasting fishing/hunting kayaks on the market. It can handle even the worst bumps and knocks in tight, shallow waterways. You can sit or stand in complete silence with a double-layered, sound-dampening standing pad. This is great for hunting ducks, catching big trout, or even paddling it like a paddleboard.

Pros:

  • Strong and steady
  • Easy to stand up without falling over.
  • Adjustable seat with one hand
  • Great places to put things
  • Easy to carry because it's light.

Cons:

  • The seat is hard to take out.
  • No paddle keeper was installed.

Native Watercraft Ultimate FX 12

Native Watercraft Ultimate FX 12 Kayak

Native Watercraft Ultimate FX 12 Kayak

Length: 12′ 2″ (371 cm) 

Width: 30.5″ (77 cm) 

Weight: 65 lbs. (27.2 kg) 

Capacity: 350 lbs. (159 kg)

You will fall in love with the Ultimate FX12 by Native Watercraft if you are searching for a watercraft that is ideal for kayak fishing and duck hunting. The one-of-a-kind construction includes a beam far more comprehensive than usual and sufficient hull depth to ensure the kayak's stability. Additionally, a framed seat is pleasant and can be changed both forward and backward so that the boat can be trimmed appropriately for the load.

The design of the Tunnel Hull maximizes secondary stability, which will assist you in maintaining your balance on open, turbulent water. However, it also boosts primary strength, which will allow you to hunt or fish while standing up. There is no dry storage, but the bow and stern storage compartments are equipped with hold-downs to prevent your belongings from becoming dislodged or disappearing altogether.

Pros:

  • Ideal for outdoor activities such as hunting, fishing, and camping
  • Excellent speed, steadiness, and maneuverability
  • Design and construction that is both robust
  • Adjustable seat
  • enables one to stand up

Cons:

  • There is no dry storage

Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 12 with 360 Drive

Product to be added

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Hobie

Hobie

Length: 12′ (365.76 cm)

Width: 36″ (91 cm)

Weight: 132.5 lbs. (60.1 kg)

Capacity: 500 lbs. (227 kg)

The Mirage Pro Angler 12 is the perfect choice if you are looking for a hunting kayak that can travel further and faster than its competitors. It comes with the MirageDrive360, a pedal system that is both compact and strong, allowing you to cut through the water much more quickly than you could with a paddle alone.

The pedal propulsion on a Hobie employs fins rather than a propeller is a significant benefit while operating in shallow water. The fins rise up when they go over an underwater impediment. That's why you can travel safely over submerged logs, which would have caused a prop to be damaged if you had tried to do so.

Because of the one-of-a-kind 360 Drive, you have limitless control over the direction you pedal, allowing you to turn on a dime and maneuver into (and out of) the tightest of spaces.

Even while Hobie products, in general, come at a premium price due to their high level of craftsmanship, the money spent on this kayak is well spent.

Pros:

  • Powered by foot pedals and canoe paddles
  • Extremely long-lasting
  • Mobility that is versatile and elegant, even in the most confined spaces.
  • Kick-Up Fins are ideal for use in shallow water, which can cause regular pedal drives to become bogged down or broken. 
  • They are also suitable for fast traversing a considerable distance.

Cons:

  • It is possible for the blue colouring to be very noticeable in ponds or marshes. 
  • Heavy.

Sea Eagle 385 FTA

Sea Eagle 3 Person Inflatable Portable Sport Kayak Canoe w/Paddles
Summary
Easy to inflate9
Easy to inflate
Stability9
Stability
Leg room8.6
Leg room
Maneuverability8.2
Maneuverability

Sea Eagle 385 FTA

Sea Eagle 385 FTA

Length: 12′ 6″ (381 cm)

Width: 36″ (91 cm)

Weight: 44 lbs. (20 kg)

Capacity: 635 lbs. (288 kg)

This is the best option available if you want to make the most efficient use of space while minimizing the amount of weight you carry. This inflatable kayak from Sea Eagle weighs significantly less than most of the other options on this list. It still provides you with a generous amount of storage space. Its impressive weight capacity makes it an excellent option for transporting your hunting equipment for the entire day.

Although it can (comfortably) accommodate two persons, it is simple to maneuver when paddled single-handedly. You will absolutely adore how sturdy it feels; whether you are sitting, standing, or even lying down, the kayak will never turn over on you.

Also, don't imagine for one second that "inflatable" equals "easily demolished." The hull is constructed out of a PVC fabric with a denier of 2000, making it virtually unbreakable even when put up against pointy branches and jagged rocks. The deck is outfitted with a slip-resistant crocodile hide EVA foam pad. It allows you to stand comfortably even if the boat becomes wet and provides additional protection against punctures. The kayak has a prominent keel and a skeg that comes with it. The skeg can be removed entirely, contributing to the kayak's excellent tracking and maneuverability in any environment.

Pros:

Super-tough inflatable kayak.

Lightweight and simple to inflate and deflate in a short amount of time.

Suitable for use with the motor (extra cost).

There are several seating configurations available for up to three paddlers.

Outstanding maneuverability and sensitivity, making it ideal for lounging down all day long (the seat is removable, and the deck is padded).

Cons:

Every time it is used, it must first be inflated, and then it must be deflated.

When it's windy, it has the potential to move around a little bit.

Frequently Asked Questions