Nothing beats a canoe for good times on the water, or for bad times during emergencies. I did quite a bit of research before I bought my canoe, and I’m very pleased with it. I took the time to learn what would handle the best and do what I wanted it to do.
I looked at everything from hull design and the materials the canoe is made from to how the seating and length of the canoe affects the stability.
There are three prominent hulls when it comes to canoes — flat, shallow arch, and the narrow, long, skinny canoe you can see on river canoe trips during the summer. There are other hull designs, but these are the basics.
The flat-bottom canoe is easy to get into, and it paddles easily, but as you put weight into this one, it begins to get unstable. That makes it a poor choice for trapping and hunting.
The skinny river trip canoe does not hold much weight and is fairly easy to tip over. Again, not a good choice.
Shallow-arch canoes with a keel — the ridge that runs along the bottom — allow stability. It handles rough water from wind and waves well, and it holds a lot of weight — usually in the 700-pound range, even in shorter canoes. This is an excellent choice for trappers and hunters.
There are several types of canoe materials to choose from. It can be overwhelming to make a choice.
Wooden canoes are beautiful to look at, and owning one for touring a lake just to look around or scout an area for the upcoming season would be nice. In trapping and hunting situations, though, it would get gouged and scratched. Wooden canoes are too pretty and expensive for that.
Fiberglass is a good choice because it is strong and light. If you damage it on rocks or trees, it is patchable by a pro. Make sure it’s a composite fiberglass, though, or it will be too brittle.
The two most popular canoe materials are aluminum and polyethylene (or plastic as most people call it). Aluminum canoes are the most memorable types from the past, but they are becoming less popular these days because lighter and less expensive types are available. Aluminum canoes tend to have the flat or narrow skinny hulls and might not hold as much weight. They are durable and can be welded for repair.
The last option is plastic. Plastic canoes are strong, and they flex when you bump into something. They must be stored out of the sunlight because prolonged exposure to the sun will destroy the integrity of the plastic and make it brittle. They are lighter and more readily available than canoes made from other materials. These types tend to be popular as well and are on the low end of the price range.
Length and width
The length of a canoe affects tracking in a straight line when you paddle. The shorter canoes turn easier, but they can be influenced by wind. The longer canoes might need a second person to help paddle, steer and carry at portage places because of the extra weight longer canoes have. I personally would not go any shorter than a 14-footer for trapping and hunting.
The width of canoes and the shape of the sides as they come up from the water matter also. It’s easier to get your paddle to the water when the sides of the canoe come straight up. However, with this type, you give up stability.
The canoe with sides that flare out and up are far more stable, but you have to stretch out farther to reach the water. The wider the canoe, the more stable it is, but you give up a little maneuverability.
Seating in most canoes is for two people. The longer types have seats for three people. The two-seat option has a seat very close to the back or stern of the canoe. The second seat is up in the bow but only close enough to allow comfortable legroom.
I paddle my canoe backward from the bow seat when I’m alone, so I have a more stable canoe. It places my weight closer to the middle.
The canoe that I chose is a 14-foot Old Town Rogue model with the shallow arch and flare-out sides. It is wide at the center and fairly deep. It came with two molded plastic seats, and the canoe itself is plastic. I’m very pleased with the way it handles the wind and waves out on the lake I trap.
My canoe is rated for 700 pounds and is very stable with me, my traps, drowning rods, and the rest of my gear that goes along with water trapping. I carry the skinning gear I need with me in case I have a good amount of catches so that I don’t overload the canoe.
Most times, though, I just bring the animals back to the house though. During the trapping trip, you can just toss the catches into the bow of the canoe or on the floor out of your way. If you trap for land animals, you might want to bring a plastic tote, so they stay dry.
Learning on the water
The first year trapping with my canoe was a learning experience. I took notice of some modifications that would make trapping from the canoe easier.
My canoe has a wood brace in the middle to make it easier to carry, but I needed more tie-offs. I bought some cleats from the store that were also plastic but plenty strong for this canoe. I placed these on the seats and bolted them on so they would be stronger to tie off to.
Boats tend to pull away from the bank or dock when you try to step out of them. So, I rigged up a drag hook and braided rope. I tied it off at the handle, and when I arrive at a place to get out, I just toss it on the bank and use the cleat to make it tight to shore. Sometimes, I use the drag and rope to help me get out of the canoe by hooking it on a tree limb and pulling it tight, much like a handrail.
I also put my water pack basket next to the wooden brace to help keep it from falling over so easily. I keep traps and stakes in buckets to keep the floor of the canoe cleaned up. It is also easy to grab what I need to make a set with the gear stored this way. I put drowning rods on the floor near the front for easy removal. They are out of my way while I paddle the canoe.
The other use for this canoe is hunting. I always carry a break-open 20-gauge shotgun and my pistol on my hip. Squirrel and rabbit season is open during trapping season. I see both along the bank, so I take advantage of this with the shotgun. It’s hard to aim straight with the pistol in a rocking canoe.
I always wear a life vest while I’m on the water. I like the kind with the mesh top so I can shoulder the shotgun properly. This type of vest also removes some of the bulk so I can place traps more easily.
Keep your cell phone and some matches along with some Band-Aids in a Zip-Lock bag on your body so if you fall in, you have those with you. Another good item to keep in the canoe is a tote tub to keep things dry. Paddling a canoe tends to put some water on the floor when you switch the oar back and forth.
Fishing is also a lot of fun in this canoe. The places you can go with it are almost endless. My children enjoy coming with me. I just let them paddle how they want and correct as necessary from my spot in the back.
Shopping for a canoe can be fun. It is as simple to start as typing the word “canoe” in a search engine on the computer. A ton of sites will show up, and each will explain in further detail the information I just went over.
I suggest you try this kind of trapping and hunting. Get away from the crowds on the lakes and rivers where the big boats can’t go.
Suggested resources for preppers and survivalists: