Tips & Tactics

Whitetails & Waterways

Whitetails & Waterways

By Mark Melotik

Have you seen them? Of course you have. Each year avid deer hunters are inundated with new-gear innovations and improvements touted to lead you to your next big buck. Now, there’s no denying that some of the “latest and greatest” can help make you a more effective hunter this fall. But I also know that many deer hunters remain late to the game when it comes to adding gear that has been around forever, yet can greatly expand your deer-hunting opportunities — especially on public lands.

Canoes, kayaks, waders and hip boots may not be standard rut-hunt gear, but they’ve become a few essential pieces of my regular deer-hunting arsenal. That’s because they help me reach areas most hunters simply don’t go. Water may be essential for life, but it’s also a barrier. You don’t have to be told that creeks, rivers, lakes, and swamps can act as literal fences in deterring up to 90 percent of less-motivated hunters.

For fast, efficient day trips, simply car-top a lightweight watercraft to a river that flows through a county or national forest to access lightly hunted deer haunts. Or haul your boat to a local marsh where isolated islands or high points can act as deer sanctuaries. You might see some evidence of waterfowlers, but deer hunters? Not likely. Smart options like these are nearly endless.

Kayaks have recently skyrocketed in popularity, making them easy to find (even at bargain prices) most everywhere. And some other recent gear innovations make them more wise than ever for deer hunters. I once considered kayaks mostly unsuitable for deer hunting due to limited gear-hauling ability, but new lightweight, compact saddle systems have changed the game. No longer must I haul around bulkier, heavier treestands, so kayaks are now solidly in play. I recently picked up a lightweight, compact sit-on-top kayak built for fishing that measures just 10 feet and weighs less than 50 pounds; I plan on using it extensively for bowhunting deer this fall.

Still, my favorite deer-hunting watercraft is a canoe. Even a very compact canoe’s deep cradle-like design means it will easily haul all your essential gear and then some. My trusty 17-footer easily holds bow or gun, portable treestand (or ground blind) and fully loaded pack — and could even hold a similarly equipped buddy. Where canoes really shine? Hauling back a deer carcass from isolated spots, and over extreme distances, where dragging would be unthinkable.

A couple bonuses to picking up a portable hunt-focused watercraft this spring? Your new rig will also expand your angling adventures, and you’ll have all summer to paddle around and explore. Don’t be surprised if you paddle your way to a few new deer hunting hotspots.

Photo Caption:
Other than your legs, human-powered canoes are the only way in or out of the BWCAW, tucked neatly into my home state’s far northeast corner. This is a hunt for those who like to ditch the crowds and test their outdoor mettle, and a better backdrop for this ambitious combo might not exist anywhere on the continent.

Copyright 2024 by Buckmasters, Ltd.

Copyright 2020 by Buckmasters, Ltd