by Ed Crumb, Native Watercraft Pro
These days, one can find a multitude of different types of kayaks on the rivers, lakes, inlets, and bays across the US. Fishing from a kayak has become increasingly popular since I first started and if you're willing to put in a little extra work, the benefits are incredible. The kayak gets you close to the fish, it's quiet, and in many cases, it gives you an extra edge. So what about hunting, specifically waterfowl hunting from a kayak?
My journey to duck hunting from my kayak started a couple years ago, hunting in swamps and ponds in Southeastern Virginia. Many mornings standing in the swamps, I wished I could get on the other side of this or that, get decoys just a little farther out in the hole, or retrieve a downed bird just out of my reach, but couldn't because the water was just too deep to cross. Dragging a 14ft or larger Jon boat just did not seem like the answer, it was way too heavy, bulky, and honestly, running a trolling motor or even paddling in a logged-filled beaver pond in a boat just sounded like too much of a hassle. So as an avid Kayak fisherman from my Native Watercraft Slayer Propel, the only answer was another kayak that was suited specifically to my needs.
This was the point that I started my search for the perfect kayak hunting setup. There are a ton of different options out there and as many seasoned kayak enthusiasts know, rigging can be an ever-evolving process. So please, take this information and adapt it into your very own duck hunting platform, keeping in mind that there are a number of different ways to do it. These are the methods that have put birds in the box for me!
When choosing a kayak, these were what I had identified as my most important attributes.
- Capacity (room for gear)
I will expand and go over what I chose and how I ended up with my perfect duck hunting setup.
Yes, safety is first and foremost! As I already had much of my safety gear for fishing in my kayak, this was fairly easy for me. I already had a great PFD and a YAKATTACK Visicarbon PRO, but for running the kayak in the swamps or even public rivers, I felt I needed something more, something that would light up the swamp while setting decoys but, more importantly, something with extra visibility if I was on the public waterways. Another important factor was stability in a kayak, especially if I needed to stand while setting decoys to get a better view or throw out the spread.
From a safety standpoint, I wanted a kayak that was very stable and easy to stand in. I also wanted high sides on the kayak, a seat that balanced out very well, tracks already mounted on the kayak to attach accessories if I wanted them. And last, plenty of room for all of my gear to fit safely in side.
My next choice for safety was installing a light on the front. This seemed a little challenging when choosing how to rig it until I found the SeeLite website. I ended up purchasing a 6" double row light bar to install. In this configuration, I would have both flood and spot lights in one package. Additionally, I purchased the wiring harness with the remote control (which attaches nicely on my call lanyard) for ease of use, less drilling, and one less switch to worry about attaching to the kayak. All I can say about this light is WOW! It will light up the swamp extremely well and allow you to set that perfect spread. It also helps when a boat is racing to the blind in the wee hours of the morning they will not be able to mistake you for anything other than a boat.
Now that I had my light, the next question was how I wanted to set it up. I actually contemplated this for a while, trying to figure the best configuration. In the end, I just used the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) thought process. I purchased the front hatch cover from Native Watercraft and that is where I decided to put it. It was very easy to do just drill some holes in the top and use the provided hardware to secure it down. The next thing I did was run the harness towards the back of the kayak to where the seat is located. I did drill a few small holes along the side rail of the kayak just to install some zip ties to secure the harness along the way. Now where to finish the wiring harness and put the battery? I already had the First Class Seat Pack for my seat and that is where everything ended up. This provided a dry place for the battery to sit, and an easy access area to store everything.
Concealment is at the top of every duck hunter's list. It is paramount to be hidden extremely well so naturally I had to figure out a way to hide a 15 foot kayak. Native Watercraft offers their kayaks in a camouflage pattern, hence another reason to choose the Ultimate FX 15. But how do I cover myself and the kayak to blend into marsh grass or any number of different scenarios? I needed something simple and effective. For starters, when I purchased the hatch cover, it came with bungee straps across the front. This made an easy attachment area to start with some fast grass on the front. The next thing I purchased was two Beavertail Blankets. They are 4 foot wide and 7 foot long camouflage blankets with straps included to attach more fast grass. They are perfect to cover up the kayak from front to back and lay on top of me while sitting. They are also easy to remove so nothing was permanent. The last thing I needed was a way to secure the blankets on top of the kayak. So far, the best option has been to use binder clips to secure the blanket inside the rails of the kayak.
A couple things to think about when concealing the kayak to eliminate anything that shines:
- Spray paint the Beavertail Blanket with a light dusting of camouflage paint to dull down any of the burlap that seems bright
- Spray paint the hatch cover
- Spray the kayak as well as any screws or attachment hardware that might stand out
The result is a kayak that can blend in almost anywhere. Keep in mind that this is one of a hundred different ways to conceal your kayak. So again, take my process and expand on it. I am always open to ideas that will make things better.
(This illustration is to show what can be done with the beavertail blankets and fast grass. In my experience, this is not enough. You have got to be back in the shadows or in the grass/reeds to really be concealed.)
CAPACITY (Room for Gear)
Another important need is room for gear. Already having a Native Watercraft Slayer propel for fishing, I was able to weigh the pros and cons of different kayaks that might fit my needs. In the end, I felt that the Slayer just did not have enough room for what I wanted to do. So the search began.
I needed something with plenty of room for all the "stuff" I would need to take into the marsh for a morning of duck hunting. It needed to be fairly dry on the inside, with enough room for a blind bag, decoys, a gun, lucky duck spinners or flappers, jerk cords, etc. It also needed to be easy to get into and out of. It also needed plenty of room for just about everything I needed to take, have high walls to keep things from falling out or the need to strap stuff in. I want to be able to throw everything in the kayak, put the wheels on it, and go.
I do want to add that there is also another option for gear especially if you feel the need to carry more than a dozen or so decoys. There are times when I have used my decoy sled to provide me with increased capacity. I will usually just clip the sled to my anchor trolley to tow behind my kayak. Keep in mind that this can be a little cumbersome in a beaver swamp that is filled with trees, blow downs, and/or submerged stumps.
Fairly simple right!? I would say yes except for one thing, sitting in a kayak with all the gear inside. You have to be able to have all that stuff in there with you and still be comfortable. And trust me; nothing is worse than paddling through the marsh worrying about things falling out. So make sure you have enough space to be comfortable and still be safe.
Pick a kayak with a good seat. Pick one that has leg room, while still allowing gear to be spaced out around you. Pick one that keeps as much water out of the kayak as possible and pick one that you will be able to lay back in for concealment.
Hunting out of the kayak gives me the advantage of stealth along with silence. Nothing is better than quietly paddling through the marsh to the X. On a recent guided hunt, I wished I had a couple more for clients. As it was, we had to use a boat to get across to the blind. We were hunting an early season spot where a lot of birds were roosting and the only way to get across with the boat without spooking the birds was to paddle and not use the motor. While it was only a few hundred yards to get to the blind, it would have been so much easier if everyone had kayaks.
In the end, I chose the Native Watercraft Ultimate FX 15. It had plenty of room for decoys, bags, spinners and just about everything else I wanted to carry along. The high/low seating offered an extremely comfortable and stable seat. The FX is very stable with enough room to stand and toss out decoys if you want. It has gear tracks to attach any accessories you might want. Anchor trolleys on each side already installed. The Ultimate FX 15 has changed the way I duck hunt.
Next time you're dragging that Jon boat to the marsh and paddling it around, think about how you can work smarter and not harder. You may just realize that life would be easier if you had a couple kayaks!