Reviewing the stable waterfowl hunting boat that paddles like a real kayak
When you’re duck hunting on public land, the key to success often lies in finding a way to get away from the crowds. Walk-in areas within a reasonable reach of the parking area can turn into a reenactment of the Battle of Gettysburg by first shooting light.
I have no patience for crowds; I hike, camp, and hunt with the express purpose of getting away from people. I’m always in search of new places off the beaten path because I’m not interested in having birds shot over my decoys by strangers.
Here in the Puget Sound region of Washington, we are fortunate to have large areas of saltwater marsh and tidelands available to hunters. The trick is getting to these areas from a public access point. You can join the masses and get in a powered boat, but that doesn’t get you into some of the shallowest areas deep in the reeds. Plus, with a bigger boat, you need to pay close attention to the tides or risk getting stranded high-and-dry. I took up kayak hunting a few years ago and haven’t looked back – yes, it’s a lot of effort, but my efforts are rewarded with solitude.
Being Midwesterners by birth, my husband and I started our duck hunting journey in a 1957 Old Town canoe. It is a gorgeous boat and we look like a nostalgic scene from a catalog every time we launch, but the boat was getting abused and it’s frankly not the vessel you want to be in when the wind whips up. So we set off in search of the ideal hunting kayak: stable enough to carry a dog and a bunch of gear, light enough to carry from the truck to the access point, and streamlined enough to track straight when paddling open water. It was a big ask. There are plenty of human-powered waterfowl boat options, but very few of them hit all of those key points.
My research led me to NuCanoe, which happens to be a local company in northwestern Washington. They make a variety of models marketed as a “hybrid” between canoes and kayaks, though their latest models align more closely with the other premium, sit-on-top fishing kayaks on the market.
Being local to the NuCanoe factory, I was lucky to be able to shop their scratch-and-dents and score a great deal on a pair of boats. But even if you aren’t local, their boats are well worth a closer look for duck hunting.
NuCanoe makes a couple of suitable hunting models in varying lengths: the 10-foot F10, the 11-foot Flint, the 12-foot Frontier, and the 13.5-foot Pursuit. Each has their own advantages; for my needs in coastal tidelands and open water, I selected the longer Pursuit.
All of the boats share a common theme: simplicity. The boats are designed with a clean deck to maximize the potential for customization. Most of this is geared for kayak fishing, but it makes a great platform for duck hunting as well.
NuCanoe offers plenty of well-thought out features, from comfortable grab handles to waterproof hatches. There are also countless accessories from foot pegs to clever anchoring systems – including a pedal drive system that I covet but sadly doesn’t fit into my budget!
The thing that immediately separates the NuCanoe Pursuit from other boats in the category is just how paddle-able it is. It truly paddles like a “real” kayak. The 13.5 feet of length gives the ability to track straight with minimal effort. Since I’m crossing big water on my way from the launch to my hunting spot, the ability to paddle well is critical for my safety.
Like other boats in this category, the NuCanoe Pursuit is exceptionally stable. My 55 pound dog can climb in and out without risk of us both swimming. I can also shoot a 12-gauge from the boat without rolling it. The peace of mind that is afforded by the stability goes a long way toward helping me focus on the hunt and not on my boat.
NuCanoe is primarily focused on fishing, but they’ve realized that there’s a market for waterfowl hunters as well. They have layout blind attachments for most of their models, which I find to be very functional. I can paddle (or drag) the boat into the shallow reeds and camouflage myself and the dog within minutes.
Aside from the incredibly functional boat, the quality and customer service really set NuCanoe apart. It’s rare to encounter a company that is so driven to support their customers. When a design issue was discovered with a leaking hatch, the company contacted all of the owners and sent replacement parts so we could incorporate the redesigned seal. When one of our boats sustained a deep gouge, a quick email with photos got us an immediate response and a recommendation for a DIY repair method. Recall that I purchased my boats as factory seconds – no problem, I’m still part of the “family” and all the benefits that come with it.
NuCanoe boats aren’t cheap; they won’t compare with the stacks of plastic kayaks at your local big box store. If you aren’t venturing very far from shore and plan to be in a controlled environment at all times, then those cheaper boats are probably fine. But if safety and quality will make the difference between a fun day on the water or possible tragedy, then it makes sense to pay more for stability and maneuverability.
I couldn’t be happier with my NuCanoe Pursuit. For me, it fits into that narrow window between “stable waterfowl boat” and “paddles like a real kayak”. This boat is my ticket to solitude on the water and the ability to get into ducks away from the crowds.
The exceptional customer service is what puts me over the top from “Sure, I love my boat,” to raving about it to anyone who asks. There aren’t enough companies left that offer this kind of direct-to-consumer support, but NuCanoe is one of the great ones.
NuCanoe Pursuit Kayak Review
Last modified: May 22, 2020