Ask Phil: New Shotgun or New Duck Boat?

I have been saving my pennies to upgrade my 870 express to a Super Black Eagle II or Xtrema 2 … Continued

I have been saving my pennies to upgrade my 870 express to a Super Black Eagle II or Xtrema 2 ($1500-ish used online) but recently I have been wondering if my money would be better spent on a cheaper used jon boat to hunt out of. A boat would give me access to more hunting grounds and would make hunting more comfortable.

As someone who makes a living reviewing guns, do you feel that hunters put too much emphasis on which gun they take into the field? And, as a walk-in duck hunter would you give up your high-end semiauto for the opportunity to hunt new location?
—David

This is perhaps my favorite Ask Phil question ever. Thank you.

You can kill a duck with any shotgun, but you can’t kill any ducks at all if you’re not where the ducks are.

If the boat will put you under more ducks, absolutely, buy the boat. No question.

Yes, hunters put too much emphasis on the guns they take to the field. I do, because I like guns. I enjoy owning them, trading them, fooling with them, and hunting with them, but on the list of factors that contribute to me getting birds, guns are way down the list below location, hiding, shooting skill, decoy placement, and calling (in that order).

As a walk-in hunter, which I was for many years and still am on occasion, I would absolutely trade a high-end semiauto for an opportunity to hunt better places. (For the record, I don’t shoot high-end semiatuos. More like mid-level semiautos: Beretta 3901, V3, X2, etc).

Now, ask yourself: will the boat really get you more ducks? I thought a sneak boat would be the answer to my woes on my local reservoir. I had some good hunts with it and I’m glad I have it, but I’m not sure how much difference it actually made to my success rate. The heads may not be greener on the other side of the marsh.

Also, I don’t know where you hunt, but the price of an SBE II can buy you just enough jon boat to get yourself killed if you take it to the wrong place at the wrong time. In that case, you’d have been a lot better off spending money on the gun.

If you do go with the boat, route, I’d suggest you look at sneak boats like the Attbar AquaPod or the MoMarsh Fatboy, both of which are very stable and comfortable to hunt out of as layout boats.

And, I know you didn’t ask, but a lot of hunters I see would be better off spending the price of a new gun on a shooting lesson and a lot of target shooting in the summer. If you hunt where you don’t get many chances at birds, being able to kill the ones you do see in range is the best way of all to improve your success rate.

I hope this helps you make your decision.
—Phil

Thanks again for sending in this question. You will receive this Cabelas range bag as a token of my gratitude.