I'm fishing three or four times a week at this time of year. But increasingly I find myself thinking about bird hunting, duck hunting in particular — and especially duck boats.
I am fascinated by all types of boats, and if money were no object, would own a small fleet — a small fleet of duck boats, alone, in fact.
A couple of weeks ago I succumbed to the duck boat bug and bought another one — a 15 foot 11 inch long Peenoe.
I found this unit on the Internet in International Falls, used, a 2000 model. I had been looking for one every since I was first exposed to Peenoes quite a few years ago. Star Tribune freelance outdoors columnist Bill Marchel of Ft. Ripley has one, and the two of us have fished and hunted from it often.
The one I bought is factory camouflaged, but I will do my own camou job on it, and to complete that task have just ordered a stencil kit from Cabela's. At the same time, I plan to camou a 14-foot jon boat my two sons and I fish from, and will also use for duck hunting this fall.
The advantage of a Peenoe (see video above; that's a Peenoe we're fishing with) is that it has a pointed bow, like a canoe, and therefore can get through cover more easily than a john boat. A further — and equally important — advantage is that it is highly stable, due to its overall design, and particularly the line of its chine.
Bill and I have hunted rails from his Peenoe, with me standing in the bow, he standing in the stern, poling, and his dog in the middle. I would shoot, and the dog would jump from the boat, all without the boat becoming unstable.
My Peenoe has a square stern, allowing for a motor of up to 10 horsepower to be added. But I think the boat is best served by the way Bill has it configured, with a long-tailed mud motor. This type of motor allows for a more shallow-running craft, obviously, and because a mud motor is air cooled, concerns about overheating an outboard in tough conditions go by the wayside.
My dream duck boat is similar to the Peenoe I bought. But rather than being made of fiberglass (actually, the new ones are a composite), Gator Trax duck and fishing boats — made in Louisiana — are aluminum. Check these boats out at the Gator Trax site. They're worth a lot of consideration, once you start looking seriously at the many ways a duck boat — or shallow running fishing boat — can be configured.
None of which matters, of course, if there are no ducks to hunt. In a Star Tribune column published a week or so ago, I said what's needed — especially now, considering that Minnesota ducks are still further in the tank, given the most recent spring breeding counts in the state reported by the DNR — is a new outfit (or consortium, or call it what you will) — whose goal is to argue for straight talk about what's killing ducks in this state.
As I said in the column, DU, MWA and Delta Waterfowl, among others, all do great work. But too often these groups — and the DNR — are prevented by political or financial or other pressures from calling a spade a spade in the effort to conserve wetlands, uplands and the wildlife that depend on them.
I set 1 p.m. Aug. 8 at Game Fair as the time and place that an organizing meeting will be held to discuss this possibility.
Again, I am not thinking of a group that would hold banquets or raise money (keep supporting these; they do a great job). Instead, it would form opinions — based on statewide representation — on threats to ducks and other wetland resources, and attempt to change public attitudes about these matters, and perhaps even inform public policy, or help do so.
Either that or we can all sit around doing what we've been doing, and get results that likely won't differ much from those we've already experienced.
And, soon enough, we won't need duck boats. Not in Minnesota, anyway.
Meanwhile, if you're a duck-boat nut, email me a photo at email@example.com, and I'll try to get a gallery of these Minnesota craft online for readers to assess.