Duck Hunters Are Boaters Too
Many duck hunters don’t see themselves as boaters because they generally use their boat simply as the means to get to and from their hunting spot. After all it’s not like they are towing skiers or an inner tube full of kids around the lake, but nothing could be further from the truth.
With the 2008-2009 duck season set to open Saturday, Oct. 11 in most of the state, the Nevada Department of Wildlife wants hunters to implement a few boating safety precautions to keep themselves and their passengers safe and sound. Because the only thing that should be bagged during a duck hunting trip is a few are ducks.
“Hunters, perhaps more so than the average recreational boater, should exercise every safety precaution. Especially when you consider the added equipment hunters carry in their boats and the additional layers of clothing they wear to protect against the weather. There is also significant chance for hypothermia due to cold water temperatures should they happen to fall over board,” said Lieutenant David Pfiffner, game warden with the Nevada Department of Wildlife.
First and foremost everyone onboard the boat should wear a life jacket. A life jacket will keep you afloat if you fall over board allowing you to concentrate on getting yourself out of the cold water instead of struggling just to stay afloat. Also, a brightly colored life jacket will make you more visible in the water if you do happen to fall over board. Another good habit is to avoid wearing hip waders while onboard the boat. During a fall overboard, the wader could fill with water, and the added weight of the water will make self rescue almost impossible.
Second, make sure you have all required safety gear on board. This includes a fire extinguisher, life jackets of proper size and fit for everyone on board, and a Type IV throwable cushion. While not mandatory, some additional items Pfiffner recommends boaters should carry on their boats are flares, a paddle, whistle or bell and a VHF marine band radio. Carrying an extra set of dry clothes in a waterproof sack and securely attaching it to the boat is always a good idea as well.
“Filing a float plan and letting someone know when and where you will be hunting and your expected return time will help rescuers locate you quickly if there is an accident,” said Pfiffner.
Boats are a great tool for carrying heavy gear to your hunting spot, but if loaded improperly or overloaded the boat could capsize. Check your boat’s capacity plate for weight limits and make sure to distribute the weight evenly in the boat. If you are planning to hunt from your boat make sure to set up clear shooting zones with your partner in order to avoid any accidents. Remember, it is illegal to use a vessel to drive or stir up waterfowl for the purpose of hunting so wait until the boat is stationary before beginning to hunt.
Perhaps the most important safety tip is to take a state approved hunter safety course along with a National Association of State Boating Law Administrators approved boating safety course. These courses will provide you with the necessary information to keep you safe while hunting and boating. More information about those courses can be found online at www.ndow.org or by calling (702) 486-5127.
The Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) protects, restores and manages fish and wildlife, promotes fishing, hunting, and boating safety. NDOW’s wildlife and habitat conservation efforts are primarily funded by sportsmen’s license and conservation fees and a federal surcharge on hunting and fishing gear. Support wildlife and habitat conservation in Nevada by purchasing a hunting, fishing, or combination license. For more information, visit www.ndow.org.