I slid throughout the lake’s floor like a skater on ice, the bow of my canoe slicing easily by the waves whereas diamonds sparkled on the water and shimmered off the antlers at my ft. This was one thing new. I’d seen flip-flops, fish, and beers on this context, however by no means antlers. I may get used to it.
My pal Parker informed me this was the perfect a part of searching whitetails by boat. It isn’t seeing a buck emerge from the timber, taking a shot, or first resting your arms on the fallen animal’s flank. No. Essentially the most satisfying second of this sort of hunt was if you lastly slide a deer into your canoe, push off, and float away with no sound–simply you, the buck, and the water.
Picture through Dylan Lenz.
Why Hunt from Boats?
I traveled to Alabama this previous December to strive my hand at boating for bucks, a observe that’s selecting up steam with hardcore DIY whitetail hunters. Utilizing a ship, you may entry public lands or pressured personal areas that people can’t comfortably attain. By crossing lakes, rivers, or swamps, a savvy hunter can infiltrate in any other case inaccessible public floor or simply save themselves a prolonged hike into the world. The rewards for this further work are much less pressured deer, greater deer densities, and, typically, older bucks. Briefly, higher searching.
My mentor on this journey was Parker McDonald, a diehard whitetailer and host of the Southern Floor Looking Podcast. Parker made a reputation for himself by efficiently searching public land deer by water throughout a lot of the South. We met at a nondescript boat ramp late one night alongside a slim channel of nonetheless water. The solar was setting, and the water’s floor was mirror flat, reflecting oranges and purples from above. We loaded our canoes with rifles, packs, life jackets, and lanterns. Then we set off.
Our vacation spot was a protracted peninsula stabbing into the lake. This grew to become residence to our camp for the subsequent 5 days. From right here we’d climb out of tents and set off every morning and afternoon for far-ranging places, all accessible by water, stretching for miles in both route. Looking water techniques by boat supplies simple avenues to vast stretches of hunting real estate. The chances practically paralyzed me.
Picture through Bobby Jahrig.
The Greatest Buck Boat
The next day we rose early, sipped espresso whereas listening to the mild lapping of waves on the shore, and set off once more—this time to hunt.
On our means, drifting silently and slowly by the black fog, I acknowledged one other benefit to this strategy: stealth. We cautiously beached our boats on the shore, tied them off to rocks, and set off for a brief hike to a vacation spot simply up the bluff. There was no lengthy and loud hike by crop fields or acorn-filled timber that will ship deer working. As a substitute, we slipped within the backdoor with no sound and have been up a close-by tree earlier than daylight.
Accessing a spot like this isn’t potential with simply any boat. A “buck boat” has to examine many alternative bins. It must entry tight and shallow waters quietly whereas additionally having the soundness and carrying capability to deal with searching gear and a deer too.
Parker’s craft of selection for this job and the rig we used on this journey was a canoe-kayak hybrid. These are small, practically steel free (ie. silent), and light-weight like a kayak, however with the added utility options of a ship.
Parker mentioned a normal canoe or kayak will work too. These are simple to launch and transport in most conditions whereas additionally driving excessive sufficient within the water to entry nearly any location—a shallow backwater slough, tiny Midwest creek, or excessive water in a Southern swamp.
The draw back to those choices is that they aren’t nice for overlaying massive distances. When solely depending on a hybrid boat for water entry in recent times, Parker discovered himself spending an exorbitant period of time on the water to achieve distant areas on massive rivers and lakes.
“I might be getting up at 1:00 within the morning to be on the water by 3:00, to be to a spot earlier than daylight. And that weighs on you,” he mentioned. For that reason, Parker has added a small aluminum boat and outboard motor to his repertoire, which could be value contemplating for different hunters with huge water locations in thoughts.
Ted Zangerle of The Looking Public prefers a ship like this as properly. “My favourite sort of boat for deer searching is a normal flat-bottom jon boat with an outboard,” he mentioned. “I can rise up and down fast with the motor, however can nonetheless snake my means into shallow backwaters and creeks.”
I spent my first morning of the hunt with Parker observing how he accessed his hidey-hole public land locations the place he units his ambush websites. The timbered hills rising from the shore creased into perfect terrain funnels for cruising bucks. Adjoining personal land meals plots gave ample incentive for does to frequent the world.
Picture through Dylan Lenz.
I set out later that afternoon alone, in search of out equally productive places, motoring to the south that night and exploring a northern department the subsequent day. The change of tempo from earlier weeks of climbing throughout Midwestern cornfields and slogging up Northeastern mountains was exhilarating. My conventional technique of whitetail searching, so anchored in a single place, motionless, terrestrial, had turn into stifling. This was simply the splash within the face I wanted.
Sure, every morning and night, I sat and stared and waited. However in between these instances, I flew. It made all of the distinction.
It was on these subsequent days, whereas working in opposition to excessive winds and trying to cowl longer distances, that I noticed for myself the worth of a motor, one thing I’d lengthy assumed was an pointless indulgence. Whether or not utilizing a canoe or a flat-bottom jon boat, each Parker and Zangerle suggest an electrical trolling motor. This provides you adequate oomph to get by average wind however nonetheless permits for quiet entry and shallow water maneuverability.
“When we now have a spot in thoughts and we all know there are seemingly deer inside earshot once we’re pulling up with the boat, we are able to drop that trolling motor in and it makes for a lifeless silent strategy,” Zangerle mentioned.
Whereas Parker prefers a minimalist strategy to his boat, mounting nearly nothing apart from his motor, he reiterated to me throughout our journey the significance of getting good lighting for the early morning and late night time boat journeys by the blinding fog that waterways ceaselessly conjure. We each used high-powered headlamps on our hunts, whereas additionally working small lanterns on the again of our canoes as working lights. Zangerle takes this one step additional with using a mounted LED gentle bar. “A brilliant gentle on the entrance of your vessel may help keep away from quite a lot of logs and in the long run will assist prevent some cash in motor repairs,” he mentioned.
Picture through Dylan Lenz.
What Mattered Most?
On my third day of exploring Alabama’s waterways, I lastly found what I was looking for. I wound down the principle channel of the lake for half a mile then turned off right into a slim slough that pinched and petered out after just a few hundred yards. Steep wooded hills rose above me on both aspect, forming an nearly amphitheater-like bowl of combined hardwoods. I slipped up the inside draw and topped out, discovering an oak flat rising tight in opposition to a sequence of previous clear cuts. I settled in in opposition to a tree trunk.
9 hours later my quarry appeared, easing his means off the oak flat, working scrapes and, lastly, pausing simply lengthy sufficient for my crosshairs to settle.
Later, with that buck in my boat, I leaned again in my seat as I bobbed gently up and down and considered simply how proper Parker was. It was a public land deer hunt that almost all can solely dream of. Loads of deer, nearly no different hunters, numerous signal, and each Parker and I crammed our tags on the identical day.
However what stood out most weren’t the deer sightings or set off pulls. It was the early morning fog lifting off the water, the breeze in my face as I cruised at noon, the waves singing me to sleep every night time, and that final lengthy heavy float out. Discovering or constructing the right whitetail boat is a worthy pursuit for apparent sensible causes. To me, although, it’s much less about what that boat may help you do and extra about what it could take you thru. As is the case with all of life, it begins and ends with water.
Characteristic picture through Bobby Jahrig.