Hunting From A Canoe: Take Your Hunting Game To A New Level


A few years back I started using a canoe to access public land hunting spots. It has changed the way I think about access and has improved the number of sightings on a hunt. On top of that it’s just plain fun to access a spot to hunt via a creek, river, or lake. Using a canoe will increase the amount of area you can cover but often times makes accessing a specific spot easier. Regarding which hunting canoe would be right for you, check out this article that covers a couple different options.


Old Town Sportsman Canoe


I wanted to go over a couple topics on why a canoe is a great option and can be easier to use than you might think. For this hunting from a canoe article I will cover the following.

  • Quietness
  • Mobility/Access
  • Load Capacity
  • Safety Tips

Quietness Of A Canoe

No matter what type of game you are after being able to sneak into a spot quietly is of the utmost importance. Especially as you are either entering or exiting a hunting area. Accessing a spot by foot is much louder and causes a larger impact to the area. The noise from the sound of the paddle through the water is about the only continuous noise that will be made. Thankfully that noise is drowned out from the sound of the moving water around you especially if you are passing through in a creek or river.

Another aspect I noticed about using a canoe for water access is that if deer do see you they tend to be less alarmed and don’t determine you to be a threat. A firsthand example of this would be a couple seasons ago while I was using my canoe to access a pinch point I wanted to hunt between a creek and a crop field. As I was making my way up the creek to get into position a buck started to cross the creek in front of me about 80 yards. The buck stopped in the middle of the creek as he was trying to confirm what I was. After a couple seconds he continued on across the creek at a walking pace and never acted like he was in danger.

This happened to me again mid-morning one day as I was scouting a new area. I paddled up into a small creek. Right before I got out of the canoe I looked up and 2 does were crossing in front of me at 30 yards. They clearly acknowledge my presences but it was more out of curiosity. Eventually they continued on their path and moved off.

From my experience deer do not associate you with danger if you are in a canoe on a body of water. There are only so many ways you can access a property by foot and animals have learned that a person walking slowly through the woods is danger.


Becoming mobile has been one of the greatest attributes to me becoming a better hunter. Using a canoe will drastically increase the ground that you are able to hunt and also how you access particular areas. For example, I hunt a piece of public land that is long but not wide. Fortunately there is a river that runs through the middle of it and instead of walking 1 mile into my spot I can use my canoe and slip in much easier.

Another example is a piece of public that only allows hunting after November 15th and is archery only. The east side is accessible by an access trail from the road. With my canoe I can access this piece from the west side via a boat ramp and quick paddle across a section of the lake. This gives me an advantage because due to the rules for this piece it is already less pressured. Pairing it with my access route with the canoe and I am able to be hunting a low pressure area and make less of an intrusion.

A canoe is also a great option if you need to speed scout an area. Maybe a on an out-of-state hunt or hitting new property in a home state. You can cover much more ground quickly and quietly. Also, the ground scent a are dispersing is decreased because many times you can get within a 100 yards or so of a certain area. I often times hunt right along the river or creek as pinch point terrain features are commonly found nearby. The wind also is a lot more constant because the river can pull a scent down stream.

An overlooked perk of having a canoe is you don’t have to carry a gear as far. A lot of people today film their hunts or even a stand and sticks can add up after a while. Saving a back and legs will pay off especially when a 4 days into a week-long hunting trip. It’s the little things sometimes than can keep you in a positive mindset. I love being a mobile hunter but I’ve been in situations before where you end up in thick cover. Every branch gets hung up on something. It can be frustrating.


Hunting Gear In Canoe


Along with hauling a gear around having the ability to float whatever game you pursue back to the truck is very nice. I think we all have been in that “Burning legs and Busted Lungs” moment trying to drag a deer out of the woods. 2 years ago when I shot a buck my wife and I dragged it out. We are stilled married but my wife said she will never do that again. Having a canoe will allow you to hunt farther into a section of property and save a legs, back, and lungs.

Load Capacity

Load hauling capability is the main reason I decided to go with a canoe over a kayak. Kayaks that I had looked at had a weight limit of 350lbs to 400lbs depending on the model. My body weight alone is 170lbs. Add in my pack, hunting clothes, bow, tree saddle, sticks, and I’m easily over 200lbs. A 150lbs deer is well within the realm of possibility here in the Midwest. With this combined weight, its pushing the weight limit of a kayak.


Hunting Gear In Canoe


The size and design of a canoe is a better option than a kayak as well. With a kayak you will need to strap items down or worry about them falling into the water. With a canoe all you have to do is load a stuff up and go.

My current canoe is an older model Old Town Sportsman and it can handle up to 750lbs and only 12.5ft long. Also, I have the option and capability to take a friend hunting or bring in reinforcements to take up a blood trail.


Old Town Canoe Sportsman Logo


As far as weight comparison of a kayak to a canoe, yes canoes are heavier. Fortunately, I’ve never been in a position where I had to drag my canoe a far distance. Basically all access location are not far from a road so the extra weight isn’t an issue.

I’ll gladly take the extra weight of a canoe because the ability to haul basically 2x the weight far outweighs the 10 to 20lbs of extra weight. When I kill and harvest an animal I can easily make the trip back to my truck in 1 trip.

Safety Tips

A life jacket is a must have especially when you are going to be hunting in the fall and winter. I always have one with me. I’ve had family sink a boat while duck hunting and it’s never a call you want to receive. Thankfully everyone made it out safely. A life jacket is just as important as wearing a safety harness whenever you are up in a tree. We all have someone who needs us or depends on us. Take a safety seriously.

One thing that I have done the last couple seasons is text my wife when I leave the boat ramp and make it to my stand. I’ll also send her a pin of my location. In the event I should fall into the water or break a bone she knows exactly where to send help.

An idea I plan on using this season is packing a dry bag with fire starting materials. As they say “plan for the worse but expect the best”. Even if a life isn’t in danger being able to make a fire might lift a spirits should you get a little wet and need to dry out and warm up.


If you have waterways available in the areas you hunt I can’t recommend a canoe enough. Thinking about an out-of-state hunt for this year? Adding a canoe to a arsenal can open up a lot of land that you never would be able to access. If your looking at getting a canoe check out a breakdown of a couple canoes that will fit your needs.

Besides that there is the fun factor of using a canoe to hunt. Last season as the light escaped from the sky it started to snow. I had used my canoe to access an area to hunt. Only having the light from my head lamp I pushed off into the river. Nothing but the sound of water and snow falling surrounded me. It was one of those times that a are fully present and appreciate the moment.

If you have any questions regarding using a canoe to hunt with please let me know. I’d be happy to help anyway I can. Have a tip for hunting out of a canoe? Leave a comment below and share.

Have a good one.


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