The worst part of driving is the beaver dams. We have to get out of our fully loaded canoes and kayaks to jump the boats over these mud and log obstacles to continue on our way. This is just one part of duck hunting on small streams in the Northeast. Today though, I’m in my brand new Old Town Discovery 119 Solo Sportsman canoe, and because this boat is so easy to maneuver, the beaver dams should still bother me on my 2 mile paddle.
I’m at my annual duck camp for the opening weekend of the Northeast New York area. I have been coming here for the first weekend in October for several years, and my dad has hunted here since 1982. I came back from Colorado just for this hunt and to test drive the Old Town Discovery 119 Solo Sportsman. I knew the small water, tight turns, and overgrown beaver dams I would be hunting would make for the perfect proving ground. After a week of hunting from the Discovery 119 Solo Sportsman, I can only say one thing-this boat is made for duck hunters.
Old Town Discovery 119 Single player
- Color: Camo
- Number of drivers: 1
- Material: Three-layer polyethylene
- Length: 11 feet 9 inches
- Width: 32.5 inches
- Weight: 56 pounds
- Weight capacity: 298 pounds
- Lower form: Shallow arch
As the name implies, the Discovery 119 Solo Sportsman is a one-person boat. It might suit one dog, but not another person. When I opened 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 a car or in the bed of a truck.
The low balls make it ideal for getting in and out of the boat without a problem – perfect for getting over beaver dams, sending the dog out and catching lies. The open design of the canoe is conducive to one of the most equipment intensive pursuits – waterfowl hunting. Duck hunters bring loads of decoys and equipment to the marsh. The Discovery 119 has plenty of space to store tackle, blind bags, jackets and any other gear you need to hunt. The rig and bow are completely open except for the extra track that runs across the front of the bow, but this still doesn’t limit the space.
I knew this was going to be one of the most comfortable boats I’ve ever driven when I sat in the seat. Hunting winding streams in the Northeast often means long, treacherous paddles through mud, over hummocks, and past beaver dams. Being comfortable is critical for these long rides. The Discovery 119’s kayak-style seat is mounted on the gunwales of the boat and rests 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 closes wherever desired. Plus, there are side padded armrests for added 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 for the US-Canada border in upstate New York. This would be my testing ground for the next 5 days during the opening week of the Northeast New York waterfowl season.
I arrived at the fitting room on opening morning, tossed the canoe out of my car with ease and loaded it with 18 floats, 1 spinner, a swamp seat, a blind bag, a gun and extra layers. I dragged her ashore and got in to start my 2 mile paddle. My dad was behind me in a green 12 foot ocean kayak that would serve as a good comparison throughout the hunt.
The fully loaded Discovery 119 Solo Sportsman ran 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 into the teeth of the adjustment assembly, it never moved. Meanwhile, my dad started complaining a quarter mile into the paddle that the seat—or lack thereof—was killing his back. Don’t underestimate the importance of a kayak or canoe seat, it can make or break a long paddle.
It was at the first beaver dam that the Discovery 119 really shined. I jumped out on the low gunwales with no problem and slid the canoe straight up. The boat’s flat bottom made it easy to tow beaver dams and wade through mud flats. Boats and kayaks with larger keels tend to catch on vegetation and mud, turning it into an anchor and creating tedious work for the hunter.
The canoe also performed well on more open and direct stretches. This boat is fast when you need it to be, and I cruised through bigger waters with minimal effort. The light weight and excellent tracking ability helped the canoe gain speed and stay on course. However, I would not feel comfortable taking this boat out on the bay or large lake. It’s not as detailed, but it can more than handle larger streams as well as small water where sharp turns and hard maneuvers are needed.
How the Discovery 119 shoots
Like many small duck hunting boats, you can either shoot from it, or step out, hide it, and shoot from land. I chose the latter because it provides a better concealment and view of the area. Opening morning saw a strong flight of wood ducks and mallards, with fewer large ducks in the air. I was able to scratch my limit of wood ducks and got to see how the boat worked during the retrieve.
First, the boat was hidden like a gem. The camo pattern combined with the dark gray interior made for easy concealment. Plus, the boat is just under 12 feet, which makes it easy to hide. I turned him on his side and gave him some cloth and a brush. The thing disappeared. I was impressed by how easy it was to take the empty boat and drop it into the water to attract the birds. I thought this thing was fast when it was full of gear, but it can really pick up speed when you don’t have anything on it. In fact, being able to get the boat in the water quickly saved me from losing a crippled wood duck that I threw into the stream. I was able to get to the bird quickly enough and get another shot in before it reached the bank to escape.
Jump Shooting by Discovery 119 Solo Sportsman
Typically, when you think of jump shooting from a boat, you think of a two-person operation. The Discovery 119 Solo Sportsman changes the game for solo hunters. On the third day of my hunt, I went out in the afternoon to see what this boat could do on a jump.
I moved to another public marsh to scout the next morning and brought my gun with me. 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 large keel or heavy design would not be able to do this. The low water level kept the hunters at home and I had the whole marsh to myself. It didn’t take me long to raise my first group of 20 wood ducks. Then I raised another group. And then another. It seemed like every turn there were more ducks in it. Due to poor and long straight shots, I still had an empty bag. Then I came around the next bend and a group of 15 mallards flushed and a chicken fell on me. I had no problem shooting from the boat and it felt safe and stable the entire time.
The low water deterred hunters and I attributed the minimal pressure to the large number of birds. The Discovery 119 allowed me to get into shallow water, although it was still a very difficult paddle. Hunters can get an aftermarket gun mount for the extra rail so you can have the gun ready to go when the birds fry. Even without the mount, I just rested the barrel of my gun on the rail while driving. I also recommend having an extra paddle when 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 Discovery 119
There wasn’t much not to like about the Solo Discovery 119, but there are some improvements I want to see Old Town make. For starters, the lack of a yoke makes transporting this little boat more difficult. Granted, there isn’t much room to add one because of the seat, but a removable yoke might be the solution.
Hunters can also purchase an aftermarket gun mount that attaches to the front accessory rail. This is useful when shooting jump shots. Although, it is not useful when you just need to drive. A simple gun rack on the inside of one of the guns will allow you to secure your gun while driving. I built a basic gun rack to get my rifle off the floor in my old Saranac 146 two man town. make a major upgrade and take this boat to the next level.
Why the Discovery 119 is the best duck hunting canoe on the market
I have fished from a variety of small boats, canoes and kayaks throughout my life and nothing performed as well as the Discovery 119 Solo Sportsman last week. She turned a lot of heads in the duck camp and had a bunch of “boat nuts” in awe of her weight, comfort and design.
What makes this the ultimate duck hunting boat is the simplicity of the canoe. It’s lightweight, has plenty of storage space, and is easy to move around. 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 will be able to access water that other hunters cannot, and in turn, you will hunt more ducks.