Belly Boating to Ducks
Day 1: Why I Needed a Belly Boat to Hunt Ducks
Editor’s Note: Belly boats can take you safely to the secret places ducks love – spots where other hunters never go.
I’d heard the eerie, whistling sound of waterfowl darting through the timber in the pre-dawn light on a January morning. I knew the ducks were feeding on acorns in flooded timber just off the river. All I had to do was wade-out into the swamp to shotgun range just as the new day dawned. The flooded timber was a part of a beaver slough. I slid into the icy water in my chest-high waders. “Today’s the day,” I said to myself. “I’ll have my limit and be out of here in 45 minutes.” I was shocked when the water closed over my head. I felt myself sliding down into a hole. As I went under, I grabbed a branch and dug my feet into a muddy bank. I crawled-out of the hole and stood up. I was freezing cold and totally frustrated. I’d spooked all of the ducks, ruined my hunt, soaked my clothes and realized I could freeze to death. But I made it to the car and got the heater going.
Driving home that day, I made a firm resolve not to let anything like this happen again when I was hunting ducks. I had several options. I could wear a life jacket, but they were so bulky that they often were impractical for duck hunting. I could wear a wetsuit, which would keep me warm. If I did get wet, the wetsuit would insulate me from the cold. I could wear a drysuit, but those things were so tight, confining and clumsy that the only place they were really appropriate was underwater. Then I thought of using a belly boat. If I could find a belly boat that would allow me to wade in the water yet hold me up if I stepped into a beaver run or a hole, I might have the solution. Another advantage of a belly boat was that I would be able to retrieve my ducks that fell in deep water that normally would be over the top of my waders. The third advantage would be that if I was in waist-deep water, I could sit in the belly boat, and my feet wouldn’t mire-down in the mud. Sitting comfortably, I could wait a long time for ducks to show-up without fatigue. I decided that a belly boat was the solution to my problem.
The Right Belly Boat:
Anyone who hunts ducks very often knows that you need some way to carry your gear. A good day for duck hunters is usually the worst day for the rest of the world. A cold, blowing rain with some sleet and ice mixed-in is ideal weather for duck hunters. But to persevere in that kind of weather, a hunter must have a belly boat with secure pockets for gear such as additional gloves, a rainsuit, an extra box or two of shells, maybe a lunch, a dry pair of socks and the other things you always need when you don’t have them. I also needed rings on the belly boat to tie my ducks on after I downed them. I also wanted a splash board to keep water off the front of my waders and me. The belly boat had to be in camouflaged colors to fit in well with the flooded timber where I’d be hunting. I didn’t want a small belly boat with the usual car-tire tube. If the ducks were flying high, and I was a little off-balance when I shot, I’d flip-over in a little belly boat. I needed one big enough to be stable on the water. My ultimate belly boat for duck hunting turned out to be a Bass Pro Shops’ one (visit the website, since there’s several different ones available). It met all my requirements and was comfortable and stable. To learn more, go to www.basspro.com, or visit your local Bass Pro Shops’ store.