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Published Aug 15, 2022 4:29 PM

After hunting my way across the U.S.A. chasing the North American Waterfowl Grand Slam, I can attest to the importance of selecting the right duck hunting boat for specific waters. While all boats offer some versatility, no one could have convinced me to hunt king eiders on St. Paul Island, Alaska in a marsh boat. Likewise, I would have shaken my head if I was in a TDB while hunting tree ducks in a shallow Florida marsh. Simply put, you need boat for your hunting scenario, and factors including maneuverability, concealment, safety, and size all play an important role in making the appropriate choice for the best duck hunting boats.

Best for Big Water: TDB SeaClass

The Duck Boat Company

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Why It Made the Cut

Designed in Maine for the tough waters of the Atlantic, the TDB SeaClass was made with safety at the forefront. Built from fiberglass and with a wave-cutting hull, this duck hunting boat can handle the roughest waves when the weather kicks up.

Key Features

  • Available in 14, 17, and 21-foot lengths
  • Shallow drafting (9 inches for the 21-foot configuration)
  • Molded-in hull flotation
  • Kevlar reinforced bow

Pros

  • Handles big water like the Great Lakes or sea
  • Can hunt in open-water or along a shoreline with attached blind
  • Hard-top hull design keeps you dry, even in rough water

Cons

  • Not as versatile as other options
  • Duck-hunting specific

Product Description 

I’ve hunted out of numerous TDBs on the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and they offer superior peace of mind when the water gets rough. This hull design cuts through waves with ease, which means less operator fatigue and a more comfortable ride. The attached blind and hard-top hull keeps you out of the wind and dry while hunting, and it hides extremely well with some moderate chop. For sea ducks and divers, the TDB is great for open-water gunning.

The Best Duck Hunting Boats of 2022
The author setting out decoys from the TDB SeaClass. David Rearick

Since they’re made from fiberglass (heavy), they can be difficult to load on a trailer, especially in heavy winds. The 17 and 21-foot versions require two to three hunters for easier handling, but the 14-foot can be managed with one man. While they excel on big, open water, and you can hunt them on smaller lakes, they aren’t ideal for rivers or small marshes. But, if you hunt mostly big water and prioritize safety, a TDB SeaClass of any size is an excellent choice.

Best for Small Water: MOmarsh Fatboy DP

MOmarsh

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Why It Made the Cut

The removable transom on the MOmarsh Fatboy DP makes this a versatile duck hunting boat that allows you to hunt open water divers or backwater teal with ease.

Key Features

  • Optional detachable transom
  • Weight: 95 pounds
  • Only 4 inches of draft, fully loaded
  • Screw in drain plug for easy draining

Pros

  • Easy handling for one person
  • Fits in the back of a standard truck bed
  • Can transport one hunter, their gear, and a retriever

Cons

  • Only hunts open water with certain conditions
  • Holds one person

Product Description 

The MOmarsh Fatboy DP (dual-purpose) is suitable to hunt layout-boat style in open water for divers one day and then in shallow water marshes the next. It can be paddled, push-poled, or even equipped with a small outboard motor with the addition of an optional transom.

The DP is perfect for solo hunters, and their retriever and can be outfitted with a door system that turns it into a field layout blind for ultimate concealment, including a dog door. The Fatboy DP can’t handle big waves, so you’ll have to wait for perfect conditions to hunt bigger waters. But, if you enjoy solo hunting, the DP is an affordable, versatile option.

Best for Timber: Pro-Drive X Series TD Edition

Pro-Drive

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Why It Made the Cut

Expanding on Pro-Drive’s popular X series, the Timber Deck (TD) Edition is a versatility option for hunting in the timber. This hull can maneuver in the tight quarters that are common in flooded timber, and it offers easy in-out access at the rear of the boat for hunters and four-legged friends.

Key Features

  • Available in 18 and 20-foot lengths
  • Rear entry step (AKA Timber Deck)
  • Fully flush floor design
  • Triple-taper chine for increased responsiveness

Pros

  • Great for different shallow-water hunting environments
  • Timber Deck makes getting in and out of the boat much easier
  • Interior layout offers ample floor space and minimal trip hazards

Cons

  • Currently no 16-foot variation
  • Flat bottom design isn’t great for rough water

Product Description 

The X Series is the most popular hull in this Pro Series line, and the addition of the Timber Deck makes it easy to adjust your setup when you need to. If you’ve hunted timber before, you know the difficulty of getting in and out of the boat. Thankfully, the TD makes it easy for you and your four-legged friend to bail in or out without damaging gear or taking a spill. This entry method also reduces wear and tear on your duck hunting waders, gear, and body. Add this feature to Pro-Drive’s triple-taper chines handling ability, and you have a great duck hunting boat for tight timber.

Most Versatile: GO-DEVIL Surface Drive Boats

GO-DEVIL

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Why It Made the Cut

Designed specifically for use with surface drive mud motors, these GO-DEVIL boats are rugged and can handle a variety of tough hunting conditions.

Key Features

  • Available in 16, 18, and 20-foot lengths
  • Maximized bottom surface area for increased lift
  • One-piece hull design
  • Responsive at lower speeds

Pros

  • Suitable for everything from shallow rivers to flooded timber
  • One-piece hull design offers added durability, less failure points
  • Deep sides offer more cargo room and added protection

Cons

  • Not for deep, choppy water

Product Description 

Putting a surface drive (AKA short-tail) mud motor on just any boat hull can lead to lackluster results. For example, you wouldn’t want to put a mud motor on a deep V-hull. To answer that call, GO-DEVIL knocked it out of the park with this Surface Drive hull specifically designed for integration with a surface drive mud motor.

With maximum bottom surface area, this hull will get out of the hole and get on plane quicker. This allows for faster response, which is important when you’re hunting areas of varying water depth to avoid getting hung up on obstructions or mud flats. Additionally, the tapered chine allows the hull to slide off banks and other obstacles with ease.

Best for Shallow Water: Excel F4

Excel Boats

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Why It Made the Cut

Excel’s comprehensive F4 line offers a variety of boat hulls designed specifically for shallow water mud flats and marshes.

Key Features

  • Available in 16, 17, 18, and 19-foot lengths
  • Optifade Marsh camo pattern option
  • Multiple configurations available
  • Built-in gun boxes

Pros

  • Full flat floor
  • Five different F4 models with multiple configurations
  • Console and tiller configurations

Cons

  • Added convenience features can increase the base cost
  • Transom angle designed specifically for mud motors

Product Description 

Excel’s comprehensive F4 line includes five different models with additional configuration options available for each of them. One of their most unique offerings is the Shallow Water F4 Pro Console, which pairs a fishing style console with a duck boat designed for a mud motor. In addition to the console model, their tiller Shallow Water F4 is loaded with standard features like gun boxes for your best duck hunting shotguns and dry storage for other gear.

The entire F4 line was designed to hunt shallow water, including mud flats, rivers, and even timber. The rugged hull design has a unique bull nose that can stave off unexpected bumps and bruises. And the only drawback is that transom angle is designed specifically for mud motors, so it may not be ideal for conventional outboards if you’re into that kind of thing.

Best for Mixed Water-Depth Hunting: War Eagle Blackhawk Series

War Eagle Boats

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Why It Made the Cut

While not a conventional deep V-hull, the modified V-hull on the Blackhawk series makes these boats a versatile option for hunting a variety of water depths.

Key Features

  • Available in 17, 19, and 21-foot lengths
  • 18-degree modified V-hull
  • Different paint/color options, including camo
  • Variety of standard comfort features

Pros

  • Modified V-hull cuts through waves with ease
  • Suitable for big water and shallow water edges
  • Doubles as a high-end fishing boat

Cons

  • Only available in a console configuration
  • Not as duck-hunting specific as other options

Product Description 

The Blackhawk Series by War Eagle pulls double-duty as a versatile duck hunting and fishing boat. First, its modified 18-degree V-hull cuts through choppy water, which allows hunters to cut across bigger lakes with added safety and comfort but still get shallow when they need to. Second, you can fish this boat in the off-season, but it doesn’t sacrifice comfort or features like a lot of other competitors.

While the dual-purpose is nice, depending on how may features you add, they’ll quickly take up space and add cost. Additionally, the hull design will not get as skinny as a true flat bottom that has a smooth surface and is designed to minimize friction. The Blackhawk was also designed for use with a conventional outboard, so there are limits when it comes to truly shallow conditions.

Best for Open Water: Layout Addictions GHOST 2 Man

Layout Addictions

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Why It Made the Cut

Layout boats are subjected to a lot of abuse, especially when they are deployed and retrieved with a tender boat. While fiberglass has long been the standard, this layout board adds durability by way of aluminum.

Key Features

  • Completely aluminum
  • Weight: 185 pounds
  • Locking and adjustable spray shield
  • Includes shell holders and head rests

Pros

  • Durable, welded aluminum design
  • Ample boot room for a layout boat
  • Doesn’t lack hunting features

Cons

  • Not as easy to repair as fiberglass
  • Can feel colder than fiberglass

Product Description 

Layout hunting for divers has long been my favorite fall activity, even more so with a friend. After all, who doesn’t want to relive every layup miss they’ve ever made? The GHOST 2 Man allows you to do just that. This layout boat is super durable and made completely from aluminum. It hides very well, even in small chop, and includes an adjustable spray shield for rough waves. The only detractions are that the aluminum can be a little louder on calm days and transfers cold to your body easier than fiberglass, but those are minor drawbacks that the Hydro-Turf helps mitigate.

FAQs

Q: What is a good size for a duck boat?

A good size duck boat depends on your hunting style and the waters you hunt most. Having extra space is always ideal, but the bigger the hull the less maneuverable and the more difficult to handle. When you’re looking for a boat, consider the tightness of the areas you hunt, your average hunting crew, and if you ever intend to hunt alone. Armed with that information, consider buying a hull that has enough space for your average hunting crew without going overboard.

Q: What motor is best for duck hunting?

Again, depending on how and where you hunt will determine which motor is best for your style of duck hunting. The two main configurations for duck boats are conventional (think standard long shaft propeller outboards) and mud motors (both short and long-tail varieties). Selecting between the two comes down to the environments that you hunt. If you only hunt shallow water, mud motors are ideal. If you hunt deep water, conventional outboards are perfect, and if you hunt both, choosing between either is a little murkier, but short-tail mud motors will likely satisfy your needs. A better explanation requires a much more detailed article, but following these guidelines is a good place to start.

Q: How much is a duck hunting boat?

Duck hunting boats run anywhere from just under $1000 for smaller hand-powered marsh boats to more than $50,000. While cost is always important, nothing is more frustrating than choosing a cheaper option to save a few thousand bucks only to find it isn’t big or safe enough for your hunting environments. To get the most bang for your buck, do your research and investigate multiple options before you open your wallet.

The Best Duck Hunting Boats of 2022
Regardless of its other features, a duck hunting boat should help you bag more limits. David Rearick

Things to Consider When Buying a Duck Hunting Boat

When it comes time to make a purchase, start by listing out the environments you intend to hunt, the number of hunters in your party, any must-have features, and the style of outboard you intend to use. Once you have this information, you can quickly narrow down your options. It also never hurts to consider used boats, and sometimes you can find a great deal on these, as long as they’ve been maintained. Just like buying a used car, always operate in a buyer-beware mode, and make sure you check over any used boat you buy with a fine-tooth comb by looking for damage, signs of abuse, and user modifications that may be detrimental to performance.

Methodology

I’ve hunted some of the toughest ducks and other waterfowl for thousands of days over the past few decades and have had the privilege of hunting out of nearly every style of boat imaginable. To best evaluate the differences between different boat models and configurations, I always look at the finer, more subtle details that often separate one manufacturer from another. In most cases these details define the specific types of hunting environments that a boat’s hull will best fit.

The Best Duck Hunting Boats of 2022
Hunters launch for an icy hunt for King Eiders in the Bering Sea. David Rearick

Final Thoughts

The best duck hunting boats have come a long way over the past decade. Boat manufacturers have seen the need for duck hunting specific hull designs and features, which has given buyers plenty of options for boat hulls that are specific for their hunting environments. This includes everything from obstruction-choked timber to the ocean. So, whatever hunting styles and waters apply to you, there’s a boat that can fit them.