S ome of us have a dedicated boat (or boats) both for fishing and hunting, but not everyone is fortunate enough to own multiple boats.
Many of us have only one boat, and we need it to function well for both endeavors. When it comes to rigging a boat for fishing, things are pretty straightforward. You need basic items such as rodholders, livewells, and electronics.
Rigging a boat for hunting, however, is a very different matter. That’s doubly true when you’re rigging a dual-purpose boat, that’s used for both fishing and hunting.
BLINDS are the biggest factor that often lead to disaster. Those of us who have dedicated hunting boats may be able to buy a blind designed specifically for that type of boat, but often in the case of dual-use boats (or merely when trying to save money) people build their own blind. The first mistake? Building a blind framed with timber. Wood is heavy, and a boat blind built from two-by-fours is going to add some serious weight to your boat. Then add in a couple of hunters, decoys, shotguns, and the dog, and it becomes very easy to reach an overload.
Instead of wood, consider constructing with light aluminum tent poles or two-inch PVC. Both are strong enough to get the job done, and at a fraction of the weight. When you brush the blind, again, keep weight considerations in mind. Remember that if you wrap the frame with burlap before brushing it, you can go a lot lighter on the branches and brush and in the long run, may be able to save some more weight.
Another factor that can lead to real problems is how the blind sits on your boat. The frame itself should always sit on top of (not hang over) the gunwales and/or decking. The problem here is water. Although the blind may provide better cover extending below the gunwales, it can also catch spray as it flies off the hull and funnel it into the boat itself. Many years ago I was a guest on a boat with a home-built blind that extended below the gunwales. It was a rather rough day. The bow was throwing off a ton of water from wave after wave, and we didn’t even notice it was being channeled into the boat until it was sloshing ankle-deep around our boots.
If you feel you need to cover the hullsides, a much better method is to leave a few extra feet of burlap or grass panels rolled up along the bottom of the blind and held in place with small bungee cords. Then remove the bungees and unroll the hullside cover when you get where you’re going.
Speaking of bungee cords, they’re the next issue. Many blinds, be they store bought or home built, incorporate cords to one degree or another in order to allow adjustments in the field. In most cases, this is necessary. But they also pose a danger to anyone hunting with a dog, or more specifically, to the dog itself.
More than once, I’ve seen an excited pup get a leg tangled in a cord as it tried to exit the boat to make a retrieve. To solve this problem, keep extra cord tightly wrapped or coiled and secured with a tie-wrap or a Velcro strap. After deploying the blind, be sure to check for loose cords, before beginning the hunt.
OUTBOARDS are the next item in question. The first issue is camouflage; not everyone wants to paint that nice, pretty cowl. And throwing grass mats over an outboard also isn’t a good idea, if you care about the finish. As it shifts in wind and waves, those grasses will eventually scratch and dull the engine’s finish.
Burlap isn’t a whole lot better, because it always seems to gather abrasive sand, sticks, and leaves. The best solution is to purchase an aftermarket camo cover, which you can put over the motor before you hunt. Or use a regular canvas cover, and throw some brush on top of that.
Another outboard issue hunters often encounter is propeller deterioration, from grinding through muck and mud. First off, whenever you go through the muck be sure to give your engine an extra-long freshwater flush at the end of the day, and get all the residual grime out of the water pump. That said, your propeller is likely to become worn down by mud through long-term use.
There’s really no way to prevent this short of replacing the prop, but if this is a perpetual issue with the areas you hunt, consider rigging your boat with a four-blade prop. Yes, you will lose a couple MPH at top-end, but the extra blade area will help make up for the surface area lost over time.
In the long run, you’ll find you need to replace your propeller about half as soon as you would with a three-blade. If you often hunt with a big crew, you’ll also gain the benefit of easier planning with a heavy load. Come fishing season, there won’t be any additional downsides.
GUN BOXES are another important item on a hunting boat, but on a boat used for fishing they’re probably just going to get in the way. A great solution is to get an extra-large marine cooler.
The exact dimensions you need will vary with brand, but yes, you will need one of those giant models, and they are a bit pricy. The beauty of using an extra-large marine cooler instead mounting add-on boxes, however, is that during fishing season your boat will have a giant fish hold.
They’re water-tight, do double-duty as bench seating, and can be secured to the deck of most boats with a $15 set of corner braces. One caveat: you have to remember that unlike the gun boxes on many dedicated hunting boats, a cooler can’t be locked. If you stop for lunch on the way home from your hunt, you need to remember to pull the guns out of the boat and secure them under lock and key in your vehicle.
DECOY RACKS may or may not be desired, but I can’t help mentioning a really impressive rig I saw a few years back. The boat owner had built a removable egg-crate-like structure out of lauan with slots for all his decoys.
It fit into the central section of his boat between two bench seats. It was painted with fiberglass resin so it wouldn’t rot, and he had a piece of plywood cut to size. The plywood sat on top of the grid-like structure and functioned as a raised deck.
When he got to his hunting spot he removed the plywood, tossed it onto the shore, and all his decoys were well-organized and exposed for setting the spread.
After the dekes were deployed he put the plywood deck back over the grid, set up his blind, and was ready for the hunt.
Most of us—myself included—aren’t quite so picky about how we stow our decoys, but the system worked like a charm and eliminated the usual hassle of un-tangling bagged or piled decoys. In the spring, he simply removed the whole structure, put it in his shed, and his boat was once again a fishing boat. Nifty.
Email Lenny Rudow at
Email Lenny Rudow at [email protected]