Hunt ducks with paddles
Kayaks and canoes aren’t just for hot-weather fishing.
Versatile personal watercraft are also great for winter throwing and blowing adventures for squirrels, ducks and even Canada geese.
I caught the throw-and-blast paddle bug in 1995 while float fishing on Oklahoma’s Lower Illinois River with Bob Borgwat, former editor of Arkansas Sportsman magazine. It was a cold, gray day in January. The trout didn’t bite at all. We rounded a bend and caught a flock of about 50 mallards lounging in a calm pool. Borgwat was in the front. If he had had a shotgun, he could have gotten three green heads easily at point blank range.
I took this lesson in Missouri, where I often floated the Lamine River inside the Lamine River Conservation Area near Tipton, Missouri. This section of the Lamine River is not good for fishing until early spring, but in the winter it attracts wood ducks and chip ducks. You don’t expect a high volume shooting experience in a canoe, but it was a good way to pack a duck or two.
You can do the same on rivers and streams all over Arkansas. There is never a time when I don’t meet ducks while floating on the Caddo and Ouachita rivers, and I always see a lot of Canada geese whenever I float on the Ouachita River between Remmel Dam and Malvern. There is one spot on the Ouachita River downstream from Malvern that still attracts a lot of mallards. It is reliable enough that someone built a makeshift awning on a middle island.
It is, of course, an honored tradition to hunt squirrels while floating or paddling a river. Squirrels often forage in trees at the edge of riverbanks or along the shore. Canoes don’t alarm them so you can get really close.
Ducks are a little harder to approach from a pedal boat, but resident Canada geese are unconscious. You can paddle almost directly to them. This makes hunting easier as you don’t have to turn off an engine and make sure your boat doesn’t yet have forward momentum after being powered up.
For added safety, it is prudent in winter to paddle a canoe and kayak with a partner. If you jump out of a canoe or find yourself submerged, a partner can help you get to safety and help you retrieve your gear.
If you hunt and overturn a canoe in deep water, your shotgun will be lost unless you take precautions. You can avoid losing a gun by attaching a long length of paracord or small diameter rope to a float. Attach the other end to your weapon’s sling or tie it securely to the stock in front of the grip. If the gun gets into the water, you can grab the float and pull it up.
Additionally, it is difficult for a soloist to maintain control of a canoe while maneuvering it into position for a shot. Shooting opportunities often occur in tight spots around logs, sticks, and other obstacles, as well as near vortices. You don’t want to try to pivot in a seat with a shotgun at your shoulder as your canoe spins through a whirlpool or rifle, and you also don’t want to be in an awkward, heavy position with a shotgun. raised to your shoulder when your canoe hits a rock or log.
The best way to paddle hunt is with a buddy. The person at the stern steers and propels the boat. The person in front takes the shot. The paddler always keeps the shooter pointed downstream or towards the bank. The boat should never be positioned in a way that requires the shooter to point a gun at or above the coxswain.
After the bowman gets a few hits, switch places.
The main disadvantage of hunting from a canoe and a traditional paddle kayak is the movement of the paddles. Paddle hunting is stealthy, but sometimes not stealthy enough, especially when approaching ducks who are notoriously suspicious of movement.
A pedal kayak mitigates this inconvenience by eliminating vertical and horizontal flashes from paddling strokes. With a Hobie kayak and its pedal-powered Mirage Drive, the only movement is back and forth. It is not visible and you steer the boat with a manually operated rudder lever.
Other kayaks, like Native and Old Town, have foot propellers. Pedaling this mechanism produces an unwanted vertical movement.
A kayak can also give you access to hunting areas that conventional motorboats cannot reach. A person who works at an outdoor facility in Hot Springs uses a Native Slayer kayak to access premium green woodland water in west-central Arkansas. The few who are familiar with this area take it lightly, mainly because it is difficult to reach. When the mallards are in these woods, he has some great hunts and has shown us pictures to prove it.
He does not hunt in his kayak. He simply uses it to access distant waters where he hunts in the traditional way, standing next to a tree and calling mallards into a hole.
Even in heavily trafficked waters like those in the Bayou Meto and Dave Donaldson Black River Wildlife Management Areas, a kayak can be an effective way to slip into remote areas where other people aren’t. It takes time, of course, and you have to time your route in order to leave an area when the hunting hours are over.
The challenge of this type of hunting is getting in and out of a kayak wearing waders and bulky clothing. You have to be in very shallow water
Of course, kayaking is the domain of solitary or duo hunters. It allows duck hunters to enjoy a quality, non-traditional, low-impact hunting experience that involves a minimal amount of equipment. A kayak does not have the cargo capacity of a War Eagle duck. You are limited to what you can store on the deck.
In that sense, it’s liberating. It cuts duck hunting down to its essentials, finding a good spot away from others and relying on your calling ability to lure ducks under the treetops.