With more public waters banning fossil fuel boats, kayak hunting is getting more popular than ever, and many are finding it to be a cheaper and more relaxing alternative to hunting from fuel-based motorboats.
For thousands of years, kayaks have been used for transportation, fishing, sightseeing, and even racing. As our hunting equipment develops with things like firearms and decoys, kayaks are being used for hunting waterfowl in calm waters.
But good equipment is critical in any hunter’s endeavors and can be the difference between success and failure. So if you’re a kayaking beginner looking to get into kayak hunting or an amateur looking to update your rig, follow along to find the right best duck hunting kayak for you.
At a Glance
- Pelican Sit-on-Top – Best Overall Pick
- Sevylor Coleman Colorado – Best for Camping
- Sun Dolphin Journey 10 SS – Budget Pick
- Intex Dakota K2 – Best for Mobility
- Perception Pescador Pilot 12 – Best for Rough Waters
Why You Need to Buy a Duck Hunting Kayak
An old-school waterfowl hunter using a motorboat or jon boat may think of kayak hunting as nothing but a fad. Still, I recommend everyone in the game to consider the potential of kayaks and weigh in on their numerous advantages, which we’ll go over now.
With traditional watercraft, duck hunting can be a tad expensive for a leisure activity, and even if you sell your hunt, it can be challenging to overcome the costs.
Kayaks excel in the cost department because they’re much cheaper to buy and require much less maintenance. For reference, a good kayak typically costs less than a low-end jon boat.
You won’t need an RV or a massive garage for your kayak, as kayaks are much easier to transport and store than their motor-based counterparts. A single hunter can carry their kayak onto a semi-truck bed, fit it in an SUV, or even carry it like a backpack if it’s inflatable!
Because they’re so easy to transport, you can start a new hunting journey from any spot you like.
Due to their small size compared to motorboats, kayaks can reach virtually any place with several inches of water. Say hello to hunting in coves, marshes, mangroves, and anywhere with shallow water!
No more turning off your engine every time you find a spot! The lack of an engine makes kayaks the quietest vehicle for hunting waterfowl.
The quietness makes it easy to paddle up to unsuspecting duck and take a quick shot, all while making little to no noise!
You can use your duck hunting kayak for more than just hunting them waterfowls. During off times, you can strip down your kayak and go for some recreational paddling in your favorite spot, or fit it with some nets and go for some kayak fishing!
The 5 Best Duck Hunting Kayaks in 2021
I’ve selected five kayaks that stand out for duck hunting and considered who they cater to. Without further ado, let’s look at how they fare and the pros and cons of each!
1. Pelican Sit-on-Top – Best Overall
Looking at Pelican’s Sit-on-top gives you a feeling of balance. This uniquely designed kayak is an excellent option for beginners as it’s lightweight (50 lbs/22 kg), very user-friendly, and easy to maneuver.
Aesthetically, it looks fantastic in pictures and even more so in person, with an overall unique shape in comparison to other kayaks. It seems very wide, but it’s only 30.5 inches (77 cm) across, with a comfortable length of 10 feet, or just above three meters.
Pelican really had ergonomics in mind when designing this kayak, as you’ll be able to tell the moment you set foot inside. New kayakers can easily topple over into the water when hopping on, but this one’s cockpit is open (or sit-on-top as we call it) to allow for easy entry.
Additionally, the seat is padded with a high-quality cushion that’s easily adjustable in every direction! You can move it a little higher, a little forwards, or even completely reverse it if you’d like. There’s even a strap to secure the seat, so you never have to worry about it falling off.
What I would’ve preferred in this kayak is for the paddle holders to secure the paddles more tightly. It’s easy to drop your paddle and into the water in a quick reflex situation.
- Comfortable with an adjustable seat and footrests
- Large fishing rod holder that can double as a shotgun rack
- High capacity storage with a quick lock front compartment
- Handles in all directions for easy transport
- Paddle holders are too loose for some situations
- Has no airtight storage
The Pelican Sit-on-Top is an excellent balanced option. It’s comfortable, sturdy, and has lots of storage for your gear.
2. Sevylor Coleman Colorado – Best for Camping
The Sevylor Coleman Colorado inflatable kayak really comes in handy on camping trips, especially if you plan on hunting for food. It weighs only 40 pounds (18 kg) and deflates down to dimensions 30 x 12 x 19 inches (76 x 30 x 48 cm), so you can carry it like a backpack.
Its interior is packed with pockets and straps for equipment, and the rim has plenty of D-rings if you’d like to attach anything, and considering it holds up to an impressive 470 pounds (213 kg), you’ll be comfortable bringing along a lot of your gear.
Despite being inflatable, it’s a very stable kayak and holds up well in calm waters. It’s easy to move around in and has a small rear fin to help with maneuvering if needed.
From side to side, the kayak measures about 24 inches (60 cm), but the seating area is 16 inches (40 cm) wide, which is okay for most people, but a larger adult sitting in the back may find the leg space too narrow, especially over long periods.
Fortunately, the seats are removable, so if you’re going on a solo trip, you’ll enjoy a comfortable ride with lots of room for yourself and your items!
Note that inflation can take about 20-30 minutes, which isn’t that long but makes immediate deployment impossible, so remember to let it fill while you prepare your other equipment.
- Can hold two people
- Has lots of pockets, straps, and D-rings
- High capacity with 470 lbs maximum weight
- Easy to maneuver with its fin
- Somewhat long inflation time
- Interior is susceptible to sharp objects
If you’re constantly on the move and like to bring along lots of gear, the sturdy Sevylor Coleman Colorado is your choice!
3. Sun Dolphin Journey 10 SS – Budget Pick
We hear a lot about avoiding budget kayaks because of their shortcomings, but the Sun Dolphin Journey 10 SS is a miracle of an affordable kayak that’s probably the best in its price range. Its features are comparable to those of mid-range kayaks and even beats them in some areas.
Similar to the Pelican Sit-on-top, the Journey’s cockpit is open to allow easy entry. Though it’s very lightweight, coming in at only 30 pounds (just under 14 kg), so you can carry this one around anywhere with its front and rear handles.
The caveat here is its storage. It only holds up to 250 pounds (113 kg). It also has an airtight container in the back for your phone, wallet, and keys, but it’s hard to reach while on a trip. There’s also some room at the front that could fit a half dozen decoys or so.
I found the best storage strategy to be taking off the rear box, tying it to your kayak from the handle, and dragging it behind like a sled; then, you’ll have a nice space in the back for your gear or game.
- Lightweight with front and rear handles for easy transport
- Has four ¼ inch scuppers for quick drainage
- Comes with an airtight box
- Adjustable footrests and pads on the side for thighs
- Low capacity with 250 lbs maximum weight, unideal for heavier users
- Seat isn’t very adjustable, and only the backrest is padded
The Sun Dolphin Journey 10 SS is a good pick if you’re on a budget, and it performs well for its price. If you’re a larger user, it may be too small for you, but there’s a 12-foot larger variant worth checking out.
4. Intex Dakota K2 – Best for Mobility
Here’s another inflatable kayak for those looking for speed and sharp maneuvering. At just over 30 pounds (just under 14 kg), the Intex Dakota K2 is super lightweight and fitted with two fins: one long for straight line tracking and one short for quick turns.
It comes with two inflatable seats to support two people, and they’re also removable for solo hunters who want more storage for their gear.
The Dakota K2 is also an excellent option for beginners, as it comes with accessories that a beginner will likely not have, such as two 86” (2.13m) collapsible paddles, a manual air pump, and two dry strapped bags for your items.
The K2 has three air chambers, and you can fully inflate it in only five minutes! When deflated, it shrinks down to about 18 x 24 inches (45 x 60 cm), so it’s easy to carry around on your back, and when you’re ready for deployment, drop it and pump it full of air.
Unfortunately, it comes in a bright white color with red stripes, so it won’t blend in well with the environment. I recommend painting it a camo color to avoid spooking any game on your trips.
- Lightweight and easy to transport
- Fully inflates in just five minutes
- Comes with paddles, an air pump, and dry bags
- Has two bottom fins for easy maneuvering
- Unnatural color that can spook prey
- Susceptible to sharp rocks or objects
If you like traversing lots of waters and moving quickly, the Intex Dakota K2 is a great pick for you. It comes with paddles and an air pump, so you won’t bother buying them separately if you don’t have them.
5. Perception Pescador Pilot 12 – Best for Rough Waters
If kayaks were cars, then the Perception Pescador Pilot 12 would be a jeep. Perception designed this one to be a sturdy, stable kayak that works well in calm and rough waters. It has built-in buoyancy to maximize stability, and you can even stand on it to take a precise shot.
It’s pretty large for a kayak, coming in at 12.5 x 33.75 inches (32 x 86 cm), and weighs an astonishing 95 pounds (43 kg), by far the heaviest kayak in this selection. As for durability, it’s made of high-density material that’s abrasive- and corrosive-resistant so that you can drag it ashore without worrying about damage.
For such a big rig, it comes with a lot of space. It’s 12 feet long (over 3.6 meters), can hold up to 475 pounds (215 kg), and has wide, comfortable legroom for taller users and spacious storage in the front and rear. You could even bring your dog along in the back!
If you’re still getting into paddling, you’ll like the two assistive features on this one: a pedal system to help you move in more turbulent waters and a rudder control handle with 360 degrees of turning. But keep in mind that these are here to complement your paddling, not replace it. Your paddles will still do most of the work.
- Removable pedal system
- Rudder control handle with 360 degrees of turning
- Very high capacity with 475 lbs maximum weight
- Adjustable captain’s chair
- Comfortable for tall people up to 6’7” (2 meters)
- Fairly heavy, not as easy to transport as others
- Has no airtight storage
The Pescador Pilot 12 is the 4×4 of kayaks. It’s large, sturdy, and spacious and is best for large users or those who frequent rugged waters.
How to Pick a Duck Hunting Kayak
Knowing the key features of a duck hunting kayak will make your search easier and your judgment better, so let’s look at them.
For those into kayak fishing, you should know that almost any fishing kayak will work for duck hunting, and maybe kayaks advertised for fishing can easily double as duck hunting kayaks.
Longer kayaks have a few advantages over shorter ones. They’re easier to maneuver as you can go faster with fewer paddling strokes, and the added length makes them track better in a straight line.
More length also means more space and more storage capacity, so a longer kayak will carry more and perform better while doing it, as the extra length adds more stability to the kayak.
Shorter kayaks also have their pros. They’re less expensive as they’re made of less material and are lighter and much easier to transport, but their most significant advantage is their ability to make better sharp turns.
Your height also matters. Though most users will be fine in any length, if you’re over 6’2” (188 cm), then even 10-foot kayaks might not be enough.
Width mainly affects two things: stability and steering. Narrower kayaks can easily topple over if the water or wind aren’t calm, but a kayak that’s too wide will be a hassle to steer, requiring much more effort to push aside the water.
I recommend at least 20 inches (50 cm) of width for best stability and no wider than 35 inches (89 cm) to keep steering manageable.
When it comes to weight, consider how much you can personally carry. Kayaking isn’t always paddling around water. You’ll be moving your kayak around land a bit, maybe to get over a dyke or get your kayak onto your truck.
Some kayaks are as heavy as 90 pounds (40 kg), making them difficult to move around, especially if you’re carrying other equipment. Some others are as light as 20 pounds (9 kg) and feel like a suitcase. But these two are extreme cases, and most will weigh about 30-50 pounds (14-23 kg).
I found that with the guns, ammo, decoys, battery, and other equipment, my kayak can quickly gain an extra 50 pounds or so, so bear in mind your equipment when looking for a manageable weight.
Think about where you plan on keeping your equipment. A dozen decoy ducks can easily take up a third of your kayak’s capacity, and it can fill up pretty quickly depending on your equipment, so make sure your kayak has enough storage for your needs.
Ultimately, capacity shouldn’t be a huge problem since you can hook a sled behind you, but it’s probably easier to have all your stuff in one place, so do consider storage.
Colors and patterns are a key difference between duck hunting kayaks and their touristic counterparts.
A camo pattern in tan, green, brown, or some shade of these will help you with concealment to avoid spooking your game.
You don’t want to go duck hunting in a conspicuous hot yellow or red kayak. You could paint or spray yours if its color doesn’t blend in with the environment, but it’s easier to get one that’s ready to go right away.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Hunt From a Kayak?
Yes. Kayaks are very quiet and don’t spook waterfowl as motorboats do. You can paddle up to an unsuspecting duck, take your shot, and retrieve the downed bird, all while making little to no noise (except for the gunshot). Kayaks also let you hunt from areas of shallow water.
How Do You Camouflage a Kayak?
If your kayak isn’t camo, you can spray it. First, spray it entirely in tan. Then get at least two spray cans in camo colors like black and green, lay some tree stems or leaves on the kayak, and spray over them. Move the stems around for varied patterns.
How Do You Carry Decoys on a Kayak?
There are two methods: loading them onto the kayak and dragging them behind. Loading them can take up space quickly, whereas dragging them behind can create some resistance while paddling, especially in windy weather. Ultimately, you have to choose what works for you.
Is It Better to Have a Longer or Shorter Kayak?
Longer kayaks are easier to paddle in, hold more weight, and are more stable than shorter kayaks. They also track better in straight lines and move faster with less effort, so they’re more efficient. However, they cost more, are heavier and harder to transport, and don’t turn as well.
Which Are Better, Sit-on-Top or Sit-in Kayaks?
Sit-on-top kayaks have open cockpits and are thus easier to get into and out of without toppling over, and you won’t feel as confined in them. Sit-in kayaks shelter you more from wind and water, so they’re recommended if you’re paddling in a cold environment.
Choosing the best duck hunting kayak for you depends on several factors such as what equipment you have, the waters you frequent, whether you’re solo or have a partner, your size, and more.
If you’re a solo hunter looking for an overall balanced option, I recommend the Pelican Sit-on-Top. It fares well in every department: it’s easy to paddle, comfortable with its adjustable seat and footrests, has high storage capacity, and is pretty light and easy to transport.
But if you’re a large user (over 6 feet or over 200 pounds), you’ll want the sturdier Pescador Pilot 12, which is a large 12-foot long and 95-pound heavy kayak designed to withstand more arduous conditions and hold a lot of weight.