Best Kayaks for Bowhunting

By Brodie SwisherAugust 20, 2020

Deer hunters across the country are discovering the benefits of hunting from a kayak. The ability to access low-pressure properties and get away from the crowds makes these little vessels hard to beat. 

But the question always comes up, “What kind of kayak do I need for hunting?” 

What's the best kayak for bowhunting?

So to help you narrow down the search, here’s a look at some of the best kayaks for hunting; particularly bowhunting for deer.

Check them out in the video below…

Bare Bones Kayaks

Regardless of what you may hear from the elitist, you can get into the kayak hunting game, even if you’re on a pretty tight budget. Bare bones kayaks are affordable kayaks that cost $150-$300 and give you the basic kayak to get you from A to Z in your hunting areas.

These are not feature-rich kayaks, nor are they load hauling kayaks. They simply deliver the bare bones minimum. The key is to find the rig that allows you the most storage and gear hauling ability as possible, despite their compact size. 

I personally like the Pelican kayaks I found at Academy Sports. They were priced around $229, weigh in at just 35 pounds, and have a slick cargo bed in the back to hold your backpack, treestand, gear, etc. 

Bare bones kayaks can be a budget-friendly way to get started kayak hunting.

These bare bones kayaks are not designed to haul a deer out on board. Hunting with  these rigs will require you to float your deer out whole, or quartered down and stuffed into your kayak. A life jacket strapped around your deer allows you to float it out whole when tethered to the tail end of your kayak. 

These rigs are typically in the 8′-9.5′ range and weigh less than 45 pounds. They typically have a weight capacity in the 250 pound range. They are handy for throwing in and out of the truck quick and easy. They are the easiest kayaks to drag any distance if you’ve got to cover some ground to get your boat in the water. One person can easily handle this kayak, from start to finish. 

You’ll find this style of kayak at stores like Walmart, Academy, and farm supply stores. Check out the Pelican Bounty 100X for a lightweight option that works really well for hunters.

The Pelican Bounty 100X is compact in design, super light, and has a slick bed in the back for tying down gear.

Middle of the Road Kayaks

Middle of the road kayaks are typically the next step up for hunters wanting more space and stability for their hunting adventures. 

These kayaks feature a more solid build, increased storage capacity, and much better load hauling ability. You’ll find  these kayaks with a more open design, making them better suited for hauling treestands, gear, and even a deer on the way back out. 

These kayaks still tend to be somewhat narrow, so stability can be an issue depending on how you handle the load on board. But with a little extra time and attention, these boats can handle some pretty decent loads to get you back away from the crowds. 

The Ascend 10T is compact, yet has more room with an open deck for load hauling.

You can expect to pay $300-$700 for the mid-level kayaks, ranging in size from 9′-12″ and weighing in from 45-75 pounds. Load capacities typically range from 250-400 pounds.

The Ascend series of kayaks found at Bass Pro Shops are hard to beat when it comes to a mid-level kayak that works well for hunters, at an affordable price. The Ascend 10T is a nice option that can easily be thrown up on a roof rack, or back of the truck, and has suitable cargo carrying space as well.

Will your kayak be able to safely haul a deer out?

Load-Hauling Kayaks

There’s a price to pay for load-hauling kayaks. They don’t come cheap. But for those willing to make the investment, these high end kayaks offer maximum load-hauling and stability.

You’ll find a rugged build with seemingly endless options and accessories with these larger, load-hauling rigs. They earn their keep with hunters due to larger open decks in the front and rear for hauling gear and deer. 

Deer hunters haul a lot of gear. Kayaks with an open design allow for maximum load hauling ability.

Due to their heavier weight, these kayaks aren’t typically thrown up on top of the truck or cargo rack, nor do they fit just right in the back of a truck bed. In most cases, these larger kayaks ride on a trailer of their own, particularly for hunters wanting to minimize the effort it takes to get them in and out of the water on their own. 

Larger kayaks are easily handled when loaded on and off a trailer, as opposed to a roof rack, or back of a truck.

You’ll find these kayaks in the 12′-14′ range and weighing in at 75-100+ pounds. What really makes these rigs ideal for hunting is their load hauling ability. You can expect to find load capacities from 400-650 pounds when you step into these larger load-hauling kayaks.

The larger design of the Hobie Outback allows for hauling some serious loads.

Better kayaks come with more features and functions. Aside from extreme load hauling abilities, you’ll also find smaller features that are designed to make life easier when hunting from a kayak. 

Track systems designed to accommodate racks and rigs for gear make the commute safer and more comfortable. Bow holders, adjustable seat system, camera mounts, GPS mounts, and more can be built into the adjustable track system on these high end kayaks. 

Bow mounts are handy for keeping your bow secure en route to the stand.

As mentioned, you can expect to pay the price when it comes to these higher end kayaks, with prices ranging from $1000-$3000. Some of the best of the best include the Hobie Mirage Outback and the Nucanoe Frontier 12. 

The Hobie Outback features a bullet-proof design that is rugged and dependable. It has a reputation for being one of the toughest kayaks on the market. It boasts a ton of add-on options for accessories and gear and can handle some substantial loads with a 425 pound load capacity. 

The Nucanoe Frontier 12 is the widest kayak we’ve come across at 41″ from side to side. This extra width makes it incredibly stable and allows the largest load capacity at 650 pounds. 

The Hobie Outback is a favorite among hunters, and fishermen too, for it's rugged design and add-on options.

Final Word

Whether you’re just getting started with kayak hunting, or simply looking for an upgrade, be sure to check out the kayaks mentioned above for some great options at every level of the game. 

We want to hear from you! What kayak do you hunt from? What do you like, or hate? 

Comment below and let us know what you think.  

Brodie Swisher
Brodie Swisher is a world champion game caller, outdoor writer, seminar speaker and Editor for Bowhunting.com. Brodie and his family live in the Kentucky Lake area of west Tennessee.
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