Mississippi River Duck Hunting Skiff

Someday I hope to replicate this simple duck hunting skiff, here paddled by my father many years ago in the favorite spot we call "Three Lakes" on the Black River Delta, near Onalaska, Wisconsin. These simple double-enders used to be very common on the River, and many were of this particular design. The term "skiff" was always used colloquially to describe this type of craft. I don't have the lines, nor do I know of any of the old wooden skiffs currently in existence, so I may have to reconstruct what I can from photographs.

Duck skiffs were used to layout decoys, retrieve ducks, and "jump" shoot small creeks and marsh edges on slow days. Some used them to paddle out to the hunting grounds in protected water. We always towed a skiff out to our traditional hunting area, as you must pass thru some open, occasionally dangerous, water to get there. The skiff was rather heavy as I recall, maybe 80 lbs or more, but I think it could be built much lighter.
Under tow, you can almost rough out the flare angle (I get 18 to 20 deg. port side), but from the position of the towrope you can tell the skiff is actually headed off to port a few degrees, so it gets more complicated.
The skiff had side deck coamings, and fore and after decks. It paddled quite well with one adult or an adult and dog, but with 2 adults plus gear it could get very squirrelly and banana peel like crazy when heeled a bit. We never did unintentionally dump it, although I recall pushing it to the edge and beyond what it was designed to do quite a few times.

Yes, it IS a form of "pirogue", a hard-chine, flat-bottom, double-ender. But there was a tradition of building these locally on the upper Mississippi, with some regionally unique features. I never heard the southernish term "pirogue" on the upper Mississippi - it was always "skiff". (Perhaps a holdover from the days when things "southern" weren't thought of so fondly "up north"?) I've collected what general "pirogue" designs I've found on my Pirogue Page, but still don't quite have this boat!

Back to Fritz's Boat Page

Contact:  Fritz Funk (fritz@funk.io)