Picking The Best Duck Boat For Sale
Ok. So, you like to hunt ducks. You’ve grown fond of the sport of wing shooting and it’s becoming somewhat of an obsession. Unfortunately, your friend that got you hooked on standing in frozen mud and making sounds like a duck while balancing a shotgun in your hands has, for some reason, abandoned you. As a result, you no longer have a way to travel upriver and back into that nearby swamp to witness the early morning daybreak as it outlines those fast-moving targets circling overhead. It’s time to invest in your own duck boat, so you can hunt those hard-to-reach places whenever you want and scratch that itch that can only be satisfied by whistling feathers, dark-gray silhouettes, and the smell of burnt gunpowder.
How Much Boat Do You Need?
What features are you looking for in a duck boat, and which design will be the best for your hunting style? Do you hunt from your boat in open water or use it to get you and your decoys to your hole and then stash it? Do you hunt with several buddies and a retriever? Will you also be fishing from your rig?
When answered, these questions can help you zero in on the exact size and style of boat with the features you need to safely transport your fellow hunters and a retriever to wherever those ducks are hiding.
I recently spoke with Jon Page who is sales manager at L&M Marine in Stapleton, Alabama, which is just down the road from Mobile Bay. We discussed several boats, motors, and accessories available at their facility for the modern duck hunter.
Page described the three basic hull types, some of the innovative chine (the change in angle in the cross-section of a vessel’s hull) modifications that several flat-bottom boats incorporate, and explained how slight hull modifications can help a boat glide better through mud and shallow water.
Duck Boat Chines
Where the sides of a boat intersect with its bottom is called the chine, and a true flat-bottom is L-shaped and considered a “hard chine.” In addition, some hulls incorporate a slight bend or two to form a “step chine.” The true hard-chined flat bottom boat offers maximum side-to-side stability with the shallowest draft. However, some of the newer innovative stepped chines allow tighter turns while remaining stable with a relatively shallow draft.
One manufacturer, War Eagle, has also incorporated “winged” transoms to help hard-chined boats overcome their tendency to slide as they navigate shallow stretches.
Again, it comes down to the type of water you run, how far you’ll travel, how much weight you’ll be hauling, and how quickly you need to reach your ultimate destination.
Flat Bottom Duck Boats
Jon boats have been around for many years, and before the 1940s, most models were wood or fiberglass. They are still popular and commercially available in various lengths and widths.
Early models ranged between 8 and 24 feet long and varied from 32 to 60 inches wide. Their simple design usually incorporated an open hull with exposed bracing and a couple of bench seats.
Most duck boats for sale today are made of aluminum, and many also incorporate stronger alloys. Modern welded aluminum versions are known for their strength and shallow draft, and their lighter weight makes them ideal for getting into those hard-to-reach shallow marshy areas. The more stumps and logs that line your waterways, along with how much ice you plan on riding through, will help you choose the correct thickness for your hull.
Some smaller models can be picked up and slid over beaver dams and work well in log-infested streams. In the early days of duck hunting, many outdoorsmen used the same boat for fishing and hunting, and most of those early builders used rivets to secure the bracing and bolted wood to the transoms.
Semi-V Duck Boats
These hull designs help cut into the waves better instead of riding over the tops like the typical Jon boats. This bow design makes for a smoother ride in larger rivers and reservoirs where wind and waves can create a choppy ride. However, these boats still float well in relatively shallow waters, which makes them a good choice for longer rides and where larger rivers or reservoirs are your hunting destination.
Your ultimate choice in a hull will depend upon the average water depth, and what sort of speed you anticipate traversing on the way to your hunting destination.
Running over and through obstacles is an inherent aspect of wintertime boating, but how fast you plan on running makes a big difference in your boat’s ability to stand up to abuse. Hitting a stump at 5-10 mph is dramatically different from a 30 mph impact, so driving speeds and skill also help determine the hull thickness of your ultimate duck boat.
Deep-V Duck Boats
Ray Hunt Design began developing the “Deep V” boat hull concept in the late 50s and produced several successful prototypes by the early 60s. This innovative design uses more deadrise to form that pronounced V shape. The benefits of this design are apparent on big bodies of freshwater or in the ocean and bays where the sharp hull slices the waves for a softer ride.
To compensate for the loss of draft and stability, some owners go for a larger dimensioned boat which helps when transitioning into shallower waters.
Length and Width
Longer, wider, heavier boats provide a smoother ride on average, and finding the perfect length and width for your particular use can be somewhat of a challenge.
When discussing duck boat dimensions with Page at L&M, he said their most popular size was a seventeen-footer with a 54″ bottom. He explained that it seemed the ideal length and width for the many sloughs and bayous in the vicinity. Navigating a tree-infested swamp requires a smaller profile than one running the larger rivers and bays in the area, and with a suitable motor, they can scoot across mud and grass as quickly as water.
Page explained that outboards are still popular with many duck hunters and serve the boat owner well for fishing and hunting with his rig.
Long-tail motors and newer surface-drive models offer a more efficient form of shallow-water propulsion.
The long-tail might be the best bet if you primarily run shallow water and mud. Its slower speeds and extended reach makes navigating shallow water and grass a routine experience.
However, longer runs with more water than mud is where a surface drive motor shines. It has a higher cruising speed and easily plows through weeds and shallower mud.
War Eagle Boats
This family-owned company based in Monticello, Arkansas, has been making welded aluminum boats for 30 years. As a testament to their hunt-ability, War Eagle is the “Official Aluminum Boat” of Ducks Unlimited.
Founder Mike Ward and his family launched their newly designed welded aluminum boat in 1992, incorporating a “Winged” transom that the company still uses today. Ward knew that many aluminum boats slid in tight turns because typical flat bottoms have square hulls and sharp corners. So he developed a transom that curved upward and angled in, like wings, to help correct this issue.
The winged transom design that characterizes War Eagle Boats gives them improved lift and maneuverability, which is especially critical when hunting or fishing among flooded cypress timber.
Today War Eagle offers boats for duck hunting from 14-23′ in length, widths ranging from 36-72″, sides from 19-27″, with aluminum in thicknesses from .80 – .125.
War Eagle also offers eight licensed camo patterns from Mossy Oak, Realtree, and Advantage, along with several other paint options.
T- Lock System
Most War Eagle duck hunting boat models use a versatile T-Lock cap rail system. This heavy-duty rail allows you to attach up to 32 company-designed accessories or easily remove them, along with various after-market options.
War Eagle accessories include a holder/shell tray, rod holders, lighting and spotlights, trolling motor brackets, cleats, tie-offs, cargo rails, and handrails. There are also steps or ladders for easy entry and a stable bow fishing platform, spacious enough for two shooters or anglers.
The versatility of this rail mounting system makes converting your fishing boat into a hard-core duck chaser and back into a crappie/bass rig a breeze – just by adding or removing your rail-mounted gadgets.
War Eagle makes it easy when it comes to options. You can purchase a bare-bones open design and fix it up yourself or have your dealer install everything you need for you and your equipment to stay dry and protected.
Fall is right around the corner, so now is a great time to figure out the right boat and motor combination to chase some ducks and catch a few fish.