When we think of going duck hunting, we picture birds flying overhead, ducks making great retrieves and smiles on the faces of the kids with whom we share blinds.
We don’t generally stop to think about what it takes to stay safe. But we should. After all, what good is a great hunt if we don’t go home at the end of it? The Minnesota DNR recently distributed a news release that serves as a good reminder to all of us that whenever we head out duck hunting on or near the water, we should wear a life jacket.
Here’s the release, and a quick reminder that no bird is worth your life:
Drowning is biggest safety risk for waterfowl hunters
Live to hunt another day by wearing a life jacket or float coat
Hunters hitting the water this fall in pursuit of ducks, geese and other waterfowl are reminded to include life jackets on their hunting gear checklist.
“Hunters in Minnesota are trained from a young age to always put safety first,” said Lt. Adam Block, boating law administrator for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Enforcement Division. “For duck and goose hunters, that means always wearing a life jacket on the water – no exceptions.”
More waterfowl hunters die every year from drowning than from other types of hunting incidents. Swamping, capsizing and falling overboard are all common factors leading to these deaths, but in nearly all cases the hunters would have survived had they been wearing a life jacket.
“Before launching the duck boat, make sure everyone on board is wearing a life jacket or float coat,” Block said. “It’s the one item that greatly increases your odds of surviving a water emergency and living to hunt another day.”
The wide variety of comfortable, camouflage life jackets designed specifically for waterfowl hunting includes inflatable vest and belt-pack styles, insulated flotation jackets, and foam-filled shooting vests with quilted shoulders and shell loops.
“Typical foam-filled vests or float coats provide optimal insulation against cold air and the effects of hypothermia, but without question, the best life jacket for waterfowl hunting is the one you will actually wear,” said Lisa Dugan, DNR boating and water safety outreach coordinator. “Choosing a life jacket style that works for you, and wearing it every time you’re on the water, is not only a good choice – it’s the best choice you can make.”
At the very least, all boats must carry one U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket for each passenger, and boats longer than 16 feet must also have a throwable flotation device immediately available. Children under 10 must wear a life jacket.
Other water safety tips for duck hunters include:
Don’t overload the boat; take two trips if necessary.
If wearing hip boots or waders, learn how to float with them on.
Stay near shore and avoid crossing large expanses of open water, especially in bad weather.
Share trip plans with someone and advise them to call for help if you do not return on schedule.
Use a headlamp, spotlight or navigation lights to alert other boaters to your presence in dark and/or foggy conditions.
Carry a cell phone or personal locator beacon in case of emergency.
Visit mndnr.gov/boatingsafety to download the DNR’s “Water Safety for Duck Hunters” brochure and learn more about water safety for hunters.