Duck Hunting Boats

Duck Hunting Boats: What to Look for in a Good Waterfowl Vessel

Here's some duck hunting boat info for those on the look for a new waterfowl vessel.

A good duck hunting boat can open up a whole new world of hunting opportunities for waterfowlers that have always wanted one, but for one reason or another haven't pulled the trigger.

With a great many options for both serious and casual waterfowl hunting enthusiasts, it may be a daunting task to dig in and find the right one for their style of hunting.

It can be easy to set your sights on a fully-rigged boat with a camo blind, lights, gun lockers, and a quality amount of deck space for you and your friends, but a rig like this can wreak havoc on your wallet. For some, a rugged Jon boat with a small outboard is probably all they need.

The decision needs to be made based on the kind of hunting that you're doing. Is it open water waterfowling on the Great Lakes, river hunting the upper midwest, or the backwaters of the Louisiana bayou? Each of these brings their unique quirks to the duck hunting community, but it's also not out of the question that there is some crossover with styles, brand, and models to keep everyone happy.

Having said that, purchasing a boat isn't always a one-size-fits-all decision. Whether you're using it to sneak into the middle of a flooded backwater, or to get into a perfect spot in a coastal inlet, you will need to decide if you want a fancy rig, a basic duck boat, or something in between.

Duck Hunting Boat Basics

The experts at Ducks Unlimited have graciously covered the different types of duck hunting boats, and we'll glean a lot of info from them as we talk through the different types.

Flat Bottom

If you're hunting backwater marshes, sloughs, or the flooded timber typical of most flyways, a flat-bottomed Jon boat should be plenty. They are simple in design and have a lightweight construction that makes them easier to push pole through thick reeds and even carry over obstacles if needed.

And with the shallow draft on a Jon boat, you can slide these boats into six to 10 inches of water and still make it through.

Flat bottom boats are great when paired with a mud motor. They are also fairly wide and stable enough to allow for platforms or a boat-blind.

On the downside, their square-shaped bow tends to slap the waves, making for a rough ride in any kind of choppy water.

Look for a boat with an all-welded hull and at least a .125 inch hull thickness. Having such a thick, welded hull means you can put your waterfowl hunting boat in spots where others can't get at, such as over levies or other natural dikes.


For bigger waters, V-bottom boats are more stable, especially on rough water, but still have the maneuverability and draft to get into tight, shallower areas. V-bottom boats have a heavy duty and stable configuration with sharp keels to part waves and high gunnels (or gunwales) and transoms to keep the water out.

Many also come outfitted to both hunt and fish from, making them great options for someone looking for a more versatile duck hunting boat.

The venerable V-bottom boats are typically designed for crossing big water, like the Great Lakes for example. They can be either aluminum or fiberglass and are often the choice of diving duck hunters. 

Mod-V Bottom

These are the types of boats seen most often in places like the costal inlets of Georgia and on Long Island, typically for diving duck species.

Semi-V or mod-V bottom boats are designed for a wide range of waterfowl hunters due to their versatility. They have a pointed bow and a less severe chine that will part waves, but are also equipped with a flat enough bottom for shallow-water duty.


An airboat is a little outside the reach of most duck hunters, but if you can get your hands on one, they may just be the best of the best. 

The "go-anywhere" attitude that an airboat driver can adopt will work wonders for a duck hunting trip. Granted, it might be a little tougher to hide an airboat, and the aircraft-style propellor certainly isn't quiet.


Without going too deep into the subject, most duck boats can be operated with either a two-stroke (gas and oil mixed fuel) outboard motor, or a four-stroke motor. Four strokes are generally cleaner, more fuel efficient, and don't require the mixing of oil and gasoline.

The big difference comes when the talk turns to mud motors, or motors that are designed to ride over obstacles. Mud motors offer a much greater shallow-water capability than traditional outboards, especially the long-tail motor version which are right at home in the stump ridden and soft bottom areas perfect for duck hunting.

Accessories for Your Duck Hunting Boat

Beyond the duck hunting-specific items that waterfowlers typically use, some accessories are quite beneficial once you graduate to boating in general. Obvious things come to mind such as PFDs, cushions, anchors and rope, a tool kit including a spare prop and, of course, a shear pin and an extra plug.

While running lights should also be mentioned, some types are more specific to duck hunting like a plug in or bow mounted spotlight, or simply a good quality handheld LED flashlight. Many duck hunters opt for a depth finder, trolling motor, and a transom saver. Other obvious items include a spare tire for the trailer, ball bearing kit, and a trailer wheel-specific lug wrench. For those hunting with dogs, a dog ladder is a standard feature.

A good waterfowl boat needs to haul a lot of decoys at times, along with hunters, dogs, and hunting gear. It needs to be durable, provide cover as a duck blind, and quality lights since most all waterfowl hunters will be riding in the dark. A gun box doesn't have to be a must, but it is very valuable for hunting around the water.

From South Dakota to Arkansas, all the way to New York, a new boat can be the object of our duck hunting desire, but it's a big decision to make. Finding a dealer that offers models with some or all of these attributes will not only have you hunting comfortably and safely, but with versatility and success.

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