The leading cause of death among hunters across the United States is not firearms as most people might think but drowning. Most hunters understand the safety of their firearm is paramount. However, they tend to ignore simple safety precautions when hunting from a boat.
It is always easy to handle your firearm in the field and at a shooting range. However, are you ready to hit the target from a moving boat?
Many hunters use boats to get to their favorite hunting spots or hunt ducks in rivers and lakes. Whether using powered boats or non-motorized watercrafts, taking safety precautions should be a top priority.
Statistics from the U.S Coast Guard show that hunters are involved in an average of 35 boating accidents each year leading to 14 loss of life and 27 serious injuries.
One of the most effective and easiest safety precaution hunters can apply is put a safety jacket on before they get into the boat and take it off only after climbing out of the boat.
Safety Precautions When Hunting from a Boat
Understand Your Boat
Understanding your boat is a crucial precaution in getting through the hunt safely but one that most hunters tend to ignore. Most boats used for hunting like the sneakers, punts and flat-bottomed boats are more prone to tipping over and capsizing.
It is common knowledge to understand your vessel before hunting from it. When in a boat hunting, disaster can strike suddenly and deadly. Will your boat capsize or stay afloat when filled with water?
Knowledge about your boat can make the difference between life and death. Did you know if you can’t swim it is safer to stay in an overturned boat rather than swim offshore? Good understanding of your boat can help you make these very important life decisions.
Never stand in your boat to take photos as this can make the boat lose balance and fall. Shots can be taken from a seated position. If there are animals with you like a dog, make sure it is under control at all times.
Carry Lighter Loads
It is quite easy to forget or underestimate the weight you’re carrying with you into the boat. Know the carrying capacity of your boat and always ensure you stay within limits. One of the leading causes of boating accidents is overloading.
Overloaded boats are unstable and tend to tip over with little movement. The weight of your safety gears, dogs, decoys, ammunition, and firearms must be accounted for as this is the weight that most hunters forget to account for when climbing into the boat.
Understand the Local Weather Conditions
Never go boat hunting when rough water conditions are predicted. It is always IMPORTANT to know what the weather is doing. Severe weather conditions can make flat-bottomed boats, punts, sneaker boats and canoes capsize with easy.
At the first sign of bad weather, abandon your hunting and plan it when the weather is calm.
Avoid the Use of Drugs or Alcohol When Boat Hunting
When in waters, you need to be at your best mental and physical health to be able to recognize threats and react accordingly. However, drugs and alcohol slow down your physical and mental reactions putting you at a greater risk of drowning or being involved in a boat accident.
Further, alcohol makes you lose heat increasing your chances of suffering from hyperthermia and drowning. You need to be in your best physical and mental abilities to be able to use your watercrafts safely.
Most hunters will tell you hunting can be quite demanding physically. For those who have gone duck hunting, you know the effort you have to put driving to a good hunting spot, setting out decoys and camps. The last thing you want is becoming fatigued when boat hunting.
Fatigue not only slows your ability to recognize threats but also impairs your judgment. The moment you realize you’re fatigued, pack up your things and head back to camp.
Wear the Right Clothing
Right clothing matters a lot especially when people drown. However, the clothing should offer protection but not restrict your movement in the water. The clothes worn should be ones that you can swim in with easy. Avoid clothing that will reduce your buoyancy.
Wear a PFD
This is one of the most important safety precautions that every person using a boat should perform. Wearing a personal floatation device (PFD) or lifesaver jacket is a must. It is even compulsory to wear PFD or lifesaver jackets on most boats.
The PFD should be worn the right way and fitted on your body as per the instructions. If you’ve never worn any before, don’t shy away asking for help.
A PFD should always be worn in the following circumstances:
- When visibility is restricted
- When boating alone
- At the first sign of bad weather
- When hunting in unfamiliar waters
- During emergency situations
Every person accompanying you for the hunt must have a PFD on the boat and in a good working condition. Most hunters ignore lifesaver jackets and PFD because they alert ducks and other animals from a distance, but this should not be a reason to avoid wearing them.
There are camouflage lifesaver jackets and PFD out there that have been specifically designed for duck hunting.
Never Hunt Alone
Hunting with another person gives you another set of eyes to look out for weather conditions and any threats. It also gives you great company making boat hunting more enjoyable. Your partner can help you in case something goes wrong.
Distribute Weight Well Along the Boat’s Centerline
Passengers and gears should be properly positioned to ensure weight is well distributed. The boat should run with its bow slightly raised.
Regardless of your hunting experience, taking the necessary safety precautions is always recommended. You never know when disaster will strike. It is very important to get into a habit of following these precautions. Hunting on a boat is quite different from hunting on land. Any simple mistakes can lead to loss of lives.