Can You Deer Hunt From a Boat?

There are a million and one ways to hunt whitetail deer. If you get bored of normal hunting methods like tree stands, ground blinds, or spot and stalk, then maybe you have wondered “Can I deer hunt from a boat?” There have been plenty of people talk about it online and there are even a couple of videos. There are a few problems though, in most states, you can acquire an expensive ticket if you do it wrong. Other than paying fines and possibly losing your hunting license, deer can be difficult to find on the riverside. It is not all bad though! There are ways that you can use a boat to be more successful and become a better hunter.

Can You Deer Hunt From a Boat?

In short, it depends on the boat and your state. Most, if not all states, do not allow hunters to harvest whitetail from a motorized vehicle. In the eyes of the law, it is the same thing as shooting a whitetail from the roadside out of a truck. Hunting from ground-based vehicles has been a problem for decades and game wardens write tickets for it every year. However, you can shoot deer from a boat without a motor in every state. For example, you could use a canoe or kayak to paddle down the river scanning bank sides, but I would not suggest this. 

While floating/paddling down the river on a canoe or kayak may let you see a lot of area quickly and quietly, you are much more likely to find deer around food sources and secluded water holes instead of the open river. Not to mention, if you did see a deer, you can bet that it will also see you. To add to that, you will also have to shoot it while moving. You could slow down to take the shot but it will be almost impossible to keep the boat completely still for your shot. 

Daily Drinker: A 10-point visits a water hole in the early season. Donald M. Jones

How You Should Be Using a Boat for Deer Hunting

Instead of hunting out of the boat, use the boat to get to secluded places on the property you are hunting. Water can prove to be quite the obstacle for hunters, especially on public land. Most hunters are not willing to pass through moving bodies of water. Many times, there is a lot of land that is not accessible by motorized vehicles or by foot. Not to mention, kayaks can help you travel faster and quieter with the added bonus of leaving zero scent behind. If you are not walking through a lot of the woods, there is no way for you to disrupt deer or spread scent around.

Using a boat to deer hunt can get you into the most secluded parts of the property where pressured bucks are hiding. If you use a boat on public land, you can get access to places and deer that no other hunters are hunting or even seeing. I think you already know how awesome it would be to be able to hunt the areas of your local public land that no one else hunts. Bucks are likely going to be retreating to these hard to get to areas due to the pressure that other hunters are putting on them. Whitetails are probably bedding in these areas as well. Hunting public land buck beds is a very successful strategy for harvesting over pressured public land bucks. Check out my guide on how to use this strategy here: How to Hunt Public Land Buck Bedding Areas 


Technically, you can hunt from a non-motorized boat. Though I would not recommend it. What I suggest instead, is to use a canoe or kayak to get to hard to get areas of your hunting properties. Areas that are cut off by water are generally not hunted as much as easy to get to hunting areas and pressure bucks are likely to take refuge from hunters in them. You can take advantage of this when you are hunting public land. Using a kayak to get to a stand location also lets you enter your stand quickly and quietly, leaving no scent trail behind and keeps you from bumping deer on the way in. I definitely suggest getting out and scouting some areas that are only accessible by water for the next season, you never know what you could find!

Thanks for reading my article about whether or not you can deer hunt from a boat. I hope you enjoyed it and learned something you didn’t already know. If you like my content, subscribe to my weekly update. If you have any other questions about boat hunting or just want to connect, feel free to email me at

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