DNR offers advice for staying safe in a duck boat; 13 drown since 1986With Minnesota waterfowl opener having begun on September 22, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reminds people to make sure they pack the one thing that could save their lives: their life jackets.
With Minnesota waterfowl opener having begun on September 22, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reminds people to make sure they pack the one thing that could save their lives: their life jackets.
Thirteen hunters have drowned in boating accidents since 1986, when a Minnesota law was passed requiring duck hunters to wear life jackets, the most recent being in 2009. According to national statistics, more hunters die every year from cold water shock, hypothermia and drowning than from firearms mishaps.
Minnesota law requires a readily accessible U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket of the proper size and type for every person on duck boats. For boats 16 feet or longer, one U.S. Coast Guard approved flotation seat cushion must be on board to throw to someone in distress. Yet, having a life jacket doesn’t matter if it’s stuffed in a decoy sack when an accident occurs.
The DNR discourages hunters from wearing hip boots or waders in a boat. Hunters have drowned while trying to take their waders off after they have fallen into the water or their boat has capsized. “That releases any trapped air in the boots and at the same time binds the victim’s feet together so they can’t kick to stay afloat,” said Kim Elverum, DNR boat and water safety coordinator.
Hunters who choose to wear hip boots or waders in a boat and suddenly enter the water should pull their knees up to their chest because air trapped in the waders or hip boots can act as a flotation device.
The DNR offers these water safety tips for duck hunters:
Wear a life jacket to and from the blind.
--Don’t overload the boat; take two trips if necessary.
--Don’t wear waders or hip boots in the boat or at least 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 authorities if the hunting party does not return on schedule.
--In case of capsizing or swamping, stay with the boat; even when filled with water, a boat provides some flotation and is more likely to be seen by potential rescuers.
By having a cell phone in a waterproof zipper-locked bag, hunters in distress have an extra chance to be rescued. The phone can be used without removing it from the bag, Elverum said.
The DNR has a free publication about waterfowl hunting boat safety called Prescription for Duck Hunters. It is available by calling the DNR Information Center at (651) 296-6157 or toll-free
1-888-646-6367. It is also available at files.dnr.state.mn.us/education_safety/safety/boatwater/duckhunterbrochure06.pdf.