Waterfowl hunters face safety challenges that the average land-based hunter does not. 

The complicating factor is water.

The tips below dealing with firearm safety, weather and water safety are taught at FWP Youth Waterfowl Hunting Safety workshops. They're a good starting point for safe waterfowl hunting.

 The season for hunting ducks and geese begins Oct. 4, check the regulations for details and other season dates.

 

Firearm Safety

bulletOnly shoot when a bird clears head level or higher.
bulletWatch the muzzle while making the stalk - open the action.
bulletBe extra careful during loading and unloading your gun around other hunters and their dogs.
bulletKnow where your partners and the other hunters are at all times.
bulletNever shoot in your partnerís direction, and consider sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with hunting partners to prevent stray shots.
bulletDecide which side of the blind is your shot ahead of time and stick to it.
bulletOnly two hunters should shoot at any flock.
bulletOnly one hunter should shoot at a single bird.
bulletBe careful of your footing, open the action when moving or wading.
bulletIf you do fall, check your firearm carefully for barrel obstructions, mud in the action or other effects of water or mud that may hamper the safety firearm.

 

Weather

Waterfowl hunters are among the highest risk group for hypothermia because of their proximity to water, wind and poor weather conditions. 

If you fall in - go home!  Or, take a break and change into warm, dry clothes.  Be prepared to build a warming fire.  Without a readily available heat source, hypothermia can set in very quickly if you are wet, even in relatively mild weather. To stay warm and avoid hypothermia:

bulletWear wool clothing or clothing that stays warm when wet, like some fleece products.  Bring extras in a waterproof bag.
bulletControl wind and wetness by using appropriate waterproof shells, jackets, waders and boots. 
bulletBring a variety of high energy and high sugar content food bars for quick energy/calories. 
bulletWear a hat.  Most warmth escapes through your head. 
bulletYour extremities are very important.  Itís no fun to hunt with cold feet, hands or head.  Bring chemical hand warmers for emergencies.

 

Boat Safety

 Hunters in boats are near, in, and floating on bodies of water and wearing heavy clothing that restricts swimming ability.

Though a life jacket may be bulky, it will still keep a hunter afloat if it's the appropriate size. Consider wearing a life jacket designed for waterfowl hunters called a "float coat".  They come in different camo patterns, provide excellent protection from cold, wind and rain and prolong survival time if the waterfowl hunter falls overboard. A float coat can replace your regular hunting coat while also serving as your PFD.

While preparing for the hunt, donít forget, if you plan to use a motor boat, to check to be sure the boat is in good working condition, with enough gas for the trip to prevent you from being stranded or breaking down.

Take the proactive steps to reduce your chances of drowning.

bulletMake sure everyone on board a boat has a properly fitted, Coast Guard approved life jacket or float coat.
bulletNever stand in an unsecured boat to shoot.
bulletShoot only when at a natural/comfortable angle.
bulletBe aware of dogs, and other partners while in a boat - be extra careful with your gun.  Like a blind, a boat is a close quarters situation.
bulletUnload your shotgun when moving from place to place in a boat.
bulletPut your unloaded shotgun in a secured case.  This keeps the shotgun cleaner and will remind you to unload before moving. 
bulletFloating gun cases earn their keep once the boat is upside down.

            Donít let the hazards keep you home, just plan ahead and use common sense. Getting home safe and sound makes every hunting trip a success