by Naomi K. Shapiro
When it comes to duck hunting, there are many ways to find ducks... it's getting to them that can be difficult because of their location!
When targeting ducks on big water such as open flowages or reservoirs, use a "camoed" 14 to 16 foot Jon boat, or a 14 to 16 foot aluminum, v-hull boat which can safely get across big water, even when there are waves. Another plus of these craft is that they have ample room to carry larger numbers of decoys, as you'll need more decoys when hunting big water and still have room for your equipment and your buddies. A small motor is all that's needed. No 250-horse four-stroke, with a 50 gallon gas tank is necessary! You want "light" and "quiet" when it comes to a motor.
For smaller water, such as marshes, backwaters, or recreational areas, you can drag a Jon boat, but many savvy duck hunters will use a canoe. It's light. It's fast. It's easy to get into small areas, and it's easy to conceal. Canoes are very important for the many recreational areas that prohibit motors – and a lot of these areas are the absolute "primo" duck hunting areas around. A canoe can carry decoys and equipment, and is silent. But don't kid yourself -- operating a canoe properly takes "learning." Canoes can, and will, tip if handled improperly. So, for sure, do some practice, and then only go out with someone who knows what they're doing in a canoe. You don't want to end up in the drink and lose all of your equipment because you or the person or persons with you didn't know about balance, and steering, and handling. Also... always wear flotation gear when on the water -- whatever type of craft you're in! Good swimmer? Great, but remember fall water is cold, and if you tip and don't have proper flotation gear on, you can experience almost immediate hypothermia. 'Nuff said.
A canoe can handle two to three hunters. Find tall reeds or cattails and slide your canoe into these areas. A good tip is to carry some simple fold up chairs with you. Set them up in the water, and sit on them (with your chest waders on of course). Put the canoe in front of you, and use it like a "table" for your guns and shells, etc. Take some camo netting, and set it up over the canoe. You'll be perfectly concealed. You can put your residual equipment in the belly of the canoe. If you can't find ample cover, have your netting fitted on two posts (one on each end), sit the posts in the mud between you and the decoys and you've got a perfect blind.
Last and not least -- some duck hunters are now starting to use kayaks. One hunter can handle a kayak, with decoys, equipment and a gun and you're good to go. Again --not for the neophyte. Kayaking is an "acquired art," but can be very useful in remote and near inaccessible areas.
Guide Phil Schweik recognizes that some hunters like to use "inflatables." He personally doesn't recommend it (using an inflatable). Phil says that you have to row like heck and its takes effort and time to get across the water. You don't realize just how much energy and effort is required, and, while you may be strong and "buffed" enough to do it "going"... "coming back" is another story! Also, inflatables can be punctured regardless of what manufacturers promise. This is especially true if you're moving through brush, tag alders, twigs, sticks and branches. Nature can at times find ways of puncturing even the most hardy material, and, in the fall, you don't want to end up in the water – or be stranded in some remote, inaccessible place.