The worst part of the paddle is the beaver dams. We have to get out of our fully-loaded canoes and kayaks to hump the boats over these mud and log-packed obstructions to continue on our way. This is just a part of duck hunting on small creeks in the Northeast. Although today, I am in my brand new Old Town Discovery 119 Solo Sportsman canoe, and because this boat is so easy to maneuver, the beaver dams have yet to bother me during my 2-mile paddle.
I am at my annual duck camp for the opening weekend of New York’s Northeastern zone. I’ve been coming here for the first weekend in October for several years, and my dad has been hunting here since 1982. I flew back from Colorado just for this hunt and to test out the Old Town Discovery 119 Solo Sportsman. I knew that the small water, tight bends, and excessive beaver dams I would be hunting in would make for the perfect proving ground. After a week of hunting from the Discovery 119 Solo Sportsman, there is only one thing I can say—this boat was made for duck hunters.
- Color: Camo
- Number of Paddlers: 1
- Material: Three Layer Polyethylene
- Length: 11 ft 9 in
- Width: 32.5 in
- Weight: 56 lbs
- Weight Capacity: 298 lbs
- Bottom Shape: Shallow Arc
As the name implies, the Discovery 119 Solo Sportsman is a one-man boat. It can fit a dog but not another person. When I unwrapped the canoe in my driveway, I first noticed how light it was. This thing is like a feather compared to some other hunting canoes and kayaks. It is easy to pick up, carry, and throw on top of a car or in the bed of a truck.
The low gunnels make it ideal for getting in and out of the boat without issue—perfect for humping over beaver dams, sending the dog out, and picking up decoys. The open design of the canoe is conducive to one of the most gear-intensive pursuits—waterfowl hunting. Duck hunters bring loads of decoys and equipment into the marsh. The Discovery 119 has plenty of room to store decoys, blind bags, jackets, and any other gear you need to hunt. The stern and bow are completely open, other than the accessory track that runs across the front of the bow, but that still doesn’t limit space.
I knew this would be one of the most comfortable boats I’ve ever paddled when I sat down in the seat. Hunting winding creeks in the Northeast often means long, treacherous paddles through mud, over hummocks, and past beaver dams. Being comfortable is critical for these long journeys. The Discovery 119 kayak-style seat is mounted to the gunnels of the boat and sits on top of foam blocks that serve as flotation if the boat capsizes. The seat is extremely stable and comfortable with a padded and adjustable backrest. A simple pull cord located on the front right side of the seat controls the angle of the backrest and locks in wherever you want it. Plus, it even has padded armrests on the side for extra comfort.
How I Tested the Discovery 119 Solo Sportsman
I strapped the 11-foot, 9-inch canoe to the roof of my car and headed toward the US-Canada border in Northern New York. This would be my testing grounds for the next 5 days during the opening week of New York’s Northeast waterfowl season.
I arrived at the put-in on opening morning, tossed the canoe off my car with ease, and loaded it up with 18 floaters, 1 spinner, a marsh seat, a blind bag, a gun, and extra layers. I dragged it down the bank and hopped in to start my 2-mile paddle. My dad was behind me in a 12-foot green Ocean Kayak that would serve as a good comparison throughout the hunt.
The fully-loaded Discovery 119 Solo Sportsman paddled smoothly and tracked well—the boat’s ability to stay on course—with minimal effort. I was extremely comfortable, and once I locked the pull cord to the teeth of the adjustment mount, it never moved. Meanwhile, my dad started to complain a quarter-mile into the paddle because his seat—or lack thereof—was killing his back. Don’t underestimate the importance of a kayak or canoe’s seat, it can make or break a long paddle.
It was at the first beaver dam that the Discovery 119 really shined. I hopped out over the low gunnels without any problem and slid the canoe right over. The flat bottom of the boat made it easy to pull over beaver dams and shimmy through mud flats. Boats and kayaks with larger keels tend to grab onto vegetation and mud, turning it into an anchor and creating tiring work for the hunter.
The canoe also performed well in more open and straightaway stretches. This boat is fast when you need it to be, and I cruised through bigger water with minimal effort. The light weight and excellent tracking ability helped the canoe gain speed and stay on course. However, I wouldn’t feel comfortable taking this boat out into the bay or big lake. It isn’t that seaworthy, but it can more than handle larger creeks as well as small water where sharp turns and tight maneuvers are necessary.
How the Discovery 119 Hunts
Like many small duck hunting boats, you can either hunt from it, or get out, hide it, and hunt from land. I chose the latter because it offers a better hide and view of the area. Opening morning saw a strong flight of wood ducks and teal, with fewer big ducks in the air. I was able to scratch out my limit of wood ducks and got to see how the boat performed on retrieves.
First off, the boat hid like a gem. The camo pattern paired with the dark gray interior made for an easy hide. Plus, the boat is just under 12 feet which makes it easy to conceal. I flipped it on its side and threw some burlap and brush over it. The thing disappeared. I was impressed with how easy it was to pick up the empty boat and throw it in the water to retrieve birds. I thought this thing was fast when it was full of gear, but it can really pick up speed when you have nothing in it. In fact, the ability to get the boat in the water quickly saved me from losing a crippled wood duck that I dropped down the creek. I was able to get to the bird fast enough and make a follow-up shot before it made it to the bank to escape.
Jump Shooting From the Discovery 119 Solo Sportsman
Typically, when you think of jump shooting from a boat, a two-man operation comes to mind. The Discovery 119 Solo Sportsman changes the game for solo hunters. On the third day of my hunt, I went out during the afternoon to see what this boat can do on a jump shoot.
I moved to another public marsh to scout for the following morning and brought the gun along. There was a maximum of 3 inches of water in some parts of the creek and it made for a very difficult, but doable paddle. Any boat with a big keel or heavy design wouldn’t have been able to do this. The low water level kept hunters home and I had the entire marsh to myself. It didn’t take me long to put up my first group of 20 wood ducks. Then I put up another group. And then another. It seemed like every bend had more ducks in it. Due to poor shooting and long straightaways, I still had an empty bag. Then I came around the next bend and a group of 15 mallards flushed and I dropped a hen. I had no issue shooting from the boat and felt safe and stable the entire time.
The low water deterred hunters and I attributed the minimal pressure to the high number of birds. The Discovery 119 allowed me to access the shallow water, although it was still a very difficult paddle. Hunters can pick up an aftermarket gun mount for the accessory rail so you can have the gun ready to go when birds flush. Even without the mount, I just leaned the barrel of my gun on the rail as I paddled. I also recommend having an extra paddle while jump shooting so you don’t have to worry about losing yours when you pick up the gun to shoot.
What I Don’t Like About the Discovery 119
There wasn’t much to not like about the Solo Discovery 119, but there are a couple of improvements I want to see Old Town make. To start, the lack of a yoke makes it more difficult to portage this small boat. Granted, there isn’t much room to add one due to the seat, but a removable yoke might be the answer.
Hunters can also buy an aftermarket gun mount that attaches to the front accessory rail. This is helpful when jump shooting. Although, it isn’t helpful when you just have to paddle. A simple gun rack on the inside of one of the gunnels would allow you to secure your gun when paddling. I built a basic gun rack to get my shotgun off the floor on my two-man Old Town Saranac 146. A light webbing (like the one I used on my canoe) mounted on the inside of the gunnel to support the stock and barrel would be a great improvement and take this boat to the next level.
Why the Discovery 119 is the Best Duck Hunting Canoe on the Market
I’ve hunted from a variety of small boats, canoes, and kayaks throughout my life and nothing has performed like the Discovery 119 Solo Sportsman did last week. It turned quite a few heads at duck camp and had a group of “boat nuts” in awe at its weight, comfortability, and design.
What makes this the ultimate duck hunting boat is the simplicity of the canoe. It is light, has plenty of storage, and paddles easily. Some other cool features include rod holders for anglers, a lifetime hull warranty, an adjustable footrest, and a built-in cup holder. Although the reason I recommend buying this boat for duck hunting is that you’re going to be able to access water other hunters can’t, and in turn, shoot more ducks.