Just as there are boats out there that are better for fishing, or models that offer better power for speedboating, there are certain boats designed for, and just plain better for duck hunting on the water. Water fowling, as it is also known, is a hobby enjoyed by casual and serious hunters alike. As such, there are as many types of duck boats for sale and configurations available, 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.
Choosing Your Duck Boat: Hulls, Motors, and Accessories
Although there is a seemingly endless list of components, parts, and boating accessories that you can outfit your duck boat with, some are far more important than others. There are two significant components of any good duck boat: the hull and the motor. Also, having the right water fowling accessories can make your hunts all the more enjoyable, and with any luck, more successful.
Duck Boat Hull Types
Flat-bottomed boats are the ideal choice for water fowling and other shallow-water gaming. They don’t need much underwater clearance, and they are wider than most hulls, which offers more stability for a boat blind and hunting deck. Most flat boats have a squared bow, so they don’t offer the best ride in choppy waters. However, for shallow water trolling and duck hunting, they can be an optimal choice.
If you’re looking for something sturdy that can still traverse the waves for more versatility, the Semi-V hull might be what you need. This boat hull type has a pointed bow that will cut through rough waters, but the bottom is much flatter than a standard V-shaped hull so that it can still navigate 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 common V-bottom boat, which is designed for larger bodies of water and open-water gaming. This type of craft is generally made from fiberglass or sturdy aluminum and is the ideal choice for the diving duck hunter. They’re preferred as tender boats that are used in layout hunting. These boats are heavier and feature high transoms and gunwales to keep water spillage to a minimum, with sharp keels to part rough waters with ease.
Motors Options on Duck Boats
Mud motors have extended the access range for waterfowl hunting, offering a design that can handle obstructions like mud, sand, and other shallow-water obstacles. These motors have a low profile and are available in surface-drive and long-tail models, which can both work in mere inches of water. 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.
Two-stroke and 4-stroke outboard motors are your other options for duck boats. While many hunters are switching to the 4-stroke outboard for fuel efficiency and a cleaner, quieter operation, they are still going to be bulkier and more substantial than the 2-stroke models, which may not make them ideal for shallow-water duck hunting, depending on exactly where you intend to spend your time.
Two-stroke motors have been popular for decades, thanks to their light, portable, yet durable design. These motors are typically more responsive and have better acceleration, but they do produce a lot more emissions, and they are much louder and less fuel-efficient. These motors also run on an oil-gas mixture, which can be a pain to deal with regularly.
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:
Some motors aren’t factory-built with a prop, so you’ll need to purchase one separately. Make sure that you choose one for the motor that still fits your intended use.
Gas tank and fuel line fittings
If these aren’t included with your motor or your boat package, you’ll have to add them on. Choose the model designed for your motor that is recommended by the manufacturer or dealer for the best results.
A lot of hunters and anglers choose to add mounted floodlights or spotlights to their duck boat. If your boat didn’t come pre-outfitted with lights for night hunting, consider the styles available and which would best suit your needs.
Duck 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 traverse 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 often 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 is probably 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 and 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, durable 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.
There are a lot of things that you have to think about when you’re buying a boat. With this list of tips, it should be easier for you to narrow down your options and figure out precisely what you need. Above all else, remember to choose the duck boat that works for you, no matter what that means.
The 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:
Gator-Tail Savage Series
The Gator-Tail Savage Boat 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.
Lowe Roughneck Waterfowl Series
Lowe Boats has two models in the waterfowl series: the standard 1860 and the 1860 waterfowl tiller model. Eighteen feet of space means you have plenty of room for your buddies, dogs, and any equipment that you need. Plus, the hard-shelled removable duck blind from Lowe, known as the “Bust ‘Em Boat Blind” comes standard, as does an aerated Livewell and four-stroke motor. Plus, the price is reasonable for a fully-equipped package when compared to other duck boats on the market today.
The Roughneck 2070 offers all of the same features, in a slightly larger size that is rated for 40HP to 90HP motors with a v-shaped hull for open waters and a flat bottom that still makes traversing shallow areas a breeze.
Edge Diamond Back Duck Boats
Slightly smaller than average, the Edge series of Diamond Back boats are designed for the budget-minded duck hunter. These boats are great for older boaters and those with mobility issues, offering an accessible back step. There’s also a gun tray, gun box, bilge pump, and plenty of other features packed into 15 feet of budget-friendly space with MSRPs that are just a fraction of what most duck boats cost.
Pro Drive X-Series and TDX
The Pro Drive TDX has a handsome base price and reasonable starting prices with fully-equipped models. There are dozens of accessories and options upgrades on this model, and the sleek, flat design makes it easy to get in, out, and around any obstacles that might cross your path.
The X-Series offers a custom build designed explicitly for the shallowest of waters, with the lightest model weighing in at less than 500 pounds. Plus, they come standard with gun boxes, deck storage, a control panel with USB connectivity, and a six-gallon gas tank.
Ranger MPV Series
The MPV Series from Ranger is the perfect combo hunting and fishing vessel. This boat is decked out for all kinds of activities, with optional gun boxes, dog ladders, and other unique features that set it apart from the rest. Ranger is known for its multi-purpose aluminum boats designed for swamping and big water fishing, and the MPV series delivers everything that you want and more.
Alumacraft Jon Boats
Another budget-friendly option for duck hunters, Jon boats from Alumacraft offer durable hulls available from 10 to 16 feet in size, and most models are outfitted with basic features. Some high-end and fully-equipped models are available, including those that offer a center storage area and plenty of deck space. You’ll have to add your blind and pick your favorite shade of camo, though, as these basic boats don’t include a sleek hunter-friendly paint job like many models available today.
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 water fowling is in having the right watercraft, and any of the boats in this review will deliver everything that you need. 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. Of course, you should always work with a qualified builder 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.
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