Words and photos by Jeff Little
When I started fishing out of a kayak on the upper Potomac River in 1998, I didn’t know anyone else who did it. It was many years before I stopped getting long stares at the boat ramp followed by twenty questions about my rig and how I was able to stay upright when I caught fish. Adam Corry has been duck hunting out of a kayak for more than a decade. These days, the Wilderness Systems pro staffer runs the Kayak Hunting Facebook group, but he is still as much in the minority as I was in 1998. Here are my 20 questions for this pioneer. Read the rest in part two. -JL
#1-2: When did you first hunt out of a kayak, and what was your thinking in doing so?
Corry: I started about 2002. I’ve always loved waterfowl but just saw a different way to do it. I just kept passing up places that were either too hard to get in with a boat or too far of a walk with no way to pick up birds without a dog. So, I guess not having a dog and wanting to hit some skinny water spots is what got me started.
#3-4: You hunt in salt water. Aren’t you concerned with the salty water corroding your gun? What do you do to keep it dry and protected?
Corry: A lot of waterfowlers face saltwater during hunts. I try to avoid salt spray during travel and set up but sometimes you just can’t. I keep my gun in a floating soft case until I’m set and ready. I also keep a pre-oiled rag in my dry bag to wipe down. When I get home it all gets broken down, cleaned and oiled.
#5-6: What species do you hunt? Do you have a favorite?
Corry: I hunt every legal species I can during the season. Typically my spots are home to mallards, pintails, black ducks, gadwall, teal, blue bills, canvasbacks and sea ducks with plenty of chances for Canada geese too. Without a doubt the wood duck is my favorite bird to hunt. Plenty of my wood duck spots are made for a kayak.
#7: Why don’t you hunt with a dog?
Corry: I don’t hunt with a dog unless a friend brings one along. I know of other guys hunting with their dogs in the kayak and it sparks my interest but I have made it this far without one. Having the kayak has given me the ability to retrieve ducks in a way that took a lot of trouble before so for me it works.
#8: Tell us about your current kayak, and how you set it up to blend in with your hunting grounds.
Corry: My current go to is the Wilderness Systems Ride 135. Of course I got the camo and then went to work on a blind design. My hunting grounds are almost exclusively salt marsh so I went with raffia grass, woven palm and military netting. I made sure to use a few different subtle color and texture changes to try and match the majority of cover I’m in. I also made sure to go a little vertical to really break up that form and hide me. The blind flips forward and down to the bow for travel and set up, and comes back to cover the cockpit.
#9-10: What’s your usual decoy spread like? How long does it take to set it up?
Corry: It depends on a lot of factors; where I hunt, wind, duck behavior, and what part of the season but I like to keep to around a dozen or less for tight-water puddle duck situations just mixed about in no real order, just something that looks natural. I might throw a pair of Canada floaters in the mix on the outskirts of that kind of group. It gives me the ability to make a greater presence visually and fool those birds if they happen to fly by. On big water I tend to go with two to three dozen using divers like canvasbacks and buffleheads in a “J” hook style. Set up for just decoys usually takes me ten minutes on the low end and certainly up to 30-40 on the high end. It often depends on if the drift is right and if I end up having to put out, regroup to the bow hatch on land, and head back out again.
#11: What makes for the kind of place that kayaks do well in that traditional boats may not?
Corry: To me it’s all about access. I’m not going to paddle two hours in the dark across a wide open windswept river when I can use the jon boat. At the same time I’m not jamming my jon boat into a ditch line and pulling it across a few inches of water so I guess its all relative. The one real nice thing about the kayak is you can do a lot of exploring in areas that you may have trouble in a traditional boat especially at low tide. I’ve found many little holes that hold water at low tide and hold the ducks too, especially in the middle of the day.
If I decide to move I can do it with stealth. When I’m out scouting I look for sign on exposed tidal flats like prints, feathers, food availability in the area and the most logical places to hide and set up decoys if I like the spot. I tend to slow down and take my time when scouting in the kayak. I like the advantage of throwing the rig in the pickup bed and hitting more than one spot in a day instead of fooling with the boat. I recently scouted a pretty extensive creek that has a roadside soft put in right on the road shoulder, while the nearest ramp is another eight miles down the same road. Looking at satellite imagery, the ducky part is nearest the road access so it makes sense. I also just really like the idea of getting some kayak fishing in while scouting too.
#12: Now you have a traditional waterfowlers boat. When do you use that instead of your kayak?
Corry: I have a 14-foot flat bottom jon with a short shaft 20 horsepower. It is a real nice rig and gets plenty of use and is a great crabbing rig too. I use it on some of the more special days of the season like Thanksgiving, the Christmas holiday, and New Years because those are the days we like to group up and worry more about cooking good marsh grub. Plus there are just some times when the ducks are in the spots that require the boat ride, and of course for taking friends and family.
Continue onto part two of Hunting Waterfowl by Kayak: 20 Questions.
Jeff Little is a Regional Pro Staff Director for Wilderness Systems Kayaks and produces instructional fishing video for his Tight Line Junkie’s Journal Pivotshare channel.