Layout Boats are the Ultimate for Waterfowling
Bob McNally 12.09.15
One of the great waterfowl hunting set-ups ever devised is the lay-out boat, which has its roots on big open waters such as Chesapeake Bay.
True lay-out boats are not an everyday sight in most waterfowl areas, but some are in use on bigger waters throughout America. They are specialized craft, among the best ever designed for duck hunting. They’re available commercially (check the internet), and some handy sportsmen make their own from boat plans about as old as American waterfowling.
A friend found a used one in Illinois, bought it, and I hunted from it with him. Made of fiberglass, it was heavy, 12-feet long, and 8-feet wide with a “cockpit” that accommodated two side-by-side hunters who sat/laid on their backs on a large, all-black bean-bag chair. It was comfortable hunting, done from a boat design that dates back to the last century, using its low profile rather than using brush or cloth to conceal hunters.
A layout boat is slat-gray in color with rounded ends and long gunwales that slope slowly upward from the water’s surface to a square compartment or “cockpit” where hunters are stationed. When hunting, a gray tarpaulin is pulled up to cover the boat cockpit, so only the tops of hunters heads are slightly exposed. It’s a low-profile boat blind that blends in perfectly with the surface on a broad expanse of water.
It’s the same type craft market waterfowl hunters used in the last century.
A layout boat does not have much space for storage, including decoys. Further, its low gunwales and flat bottom make it a difficult boat for running long distances fast with a speedy outboard. Most gunners tow a layout boat with a larger “tender” boat, in which is kept decoys and other hunt gear.
The layout boat is anchored in an open-water area where ducks have been scouted. Hunters climb aboard the boat from the tender, and then another person leaves the area with the tender boat.
A layout boat is a specialized piece of hunting equipment, not for every waterfowler nor every hunting situation. It’s not a good boat in rough water, and you’ve got to have help getting a layout boat into position, plus dealing with decoys and a tender boat. But for open-water hunting or for spooky ducks, it’s hard to beat.
The low-slung sides of a layout boat, its slate-gray color, and the absence of any type of normal boat gunwale profile makes a layout boat disappear before the eyes of ducks. Since no camouflaging bulrushes or weeds need be draped over the boat and there is no boat blind material, it’s a simple, quick-to-use duck rig.
It’s mobility also is an asset because it can be towed anywhere–deep water, shallow water, in timber, or open water. It even can be used it in fields for ducks and geese as a portable dry-blind.