Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz
Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal & Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Minn.

August 4, 2003

No life vests, expired licenses are most common violations

Chris Schultz is on assignment this week. Look for his column to return in the August 11 issue.

From the DNR

DNR conservation officers and county sheriff's deputies are taking note of a large number of boaters who violate the law by not carrying the proper number and type of personal flotation devices (PFDs or life preservers) on board their boats.

"It just amazes me as I go through the officers' reports, how many people forget their life jackets or don't have enough on board," said Tim Smalley, Minnesota DNR boating safety specialist.

"This law isn't new; it's been in effect for just about forever, but some boaters just 'space out' when it comes to their safety equipment. A life vest is the one thing that has been proven over and over to help prevent boating deaths."

It isn't just life preservers that boaters seem to be forgetting about. According to Smalley, other boating law violation list-toppers include: lack of current boat registration, intoxicated operation of watercraft, and operating violations for personal watercraft ­ also called Wave Runners, Jet Skis, Sea Doos, etc.

The DNR offers these tips to help boaters have a safe outing and avoid running afoul of the law.

· Carry the correct number and type of readily accessible life jackets on board. That includes a Coast Guard approved wearable life jacket for each person on board the boat. Boats that are 16 feet or longer (except canoes and kayaks) must carry a Coast Guard-approved boat cushion or ring buoy as a throwable device.

· Make sure your boat's registration (license) is up-to-date and the Minnesota numbers and validation decals are correctly displayed on both sides of the forward half of the boat.

· Avoid alcohol while boating. It is unlawful to operate a motorboat while impaired, and it's a bad idea for even passengers to be intoxicated on a boat.

· Watch your wake. As boats get larger, the damage caused by their wakes can be larger, too. A DNR officer recently reported a boat capsized, the occupant thrown into the water by a large boat wake and his head was cut by his own boat's propeller. Wakes can also increase shoreline erosion, especially in times of high water levels.

· Watch where you are going. The number one cause of boat collisions is failure of the operator to keep proper lookout.

· Know the personal watercraft laws and obey them. You are required to display the personal watercraft rules decal issued at no cost by the DNR in full view of the operator. You may only operate a personal watercraft between the hours of 9:30 a.m. and one hour before sunset.

Maintain a slow no-wake speed (5 mph or less) within 150 feet of non-motorized boats, shore (unless launching a skier), docks, swim rafts, swimmers or moored or anchored boats. You also may not jump the wake of other boats within 150 feet.

Boaters may obtain a free copy of the Minnesota Boating Guide with a summary of the state's boating regulations at 1-800-MINNDNR (646-6367), or download one from the DNR's web site:

Surplus bear licenses available in August

From the DNR

Although there were 20,110 quota area bear licenses available this year in 11 bear permit areas, 5,144 licenses remain for seven of those areas because there were not enough applicants, according to the DNR.

The remaining licenses will first be made available to this year's unsuccessful applicants beginning at noon today. There were only 1,457 unsuccessful applicants, so that will leave a minimum of 3,687 licenses available for nonapplicants.

Beginning at noon Monday, Aug. 11, all remaining licenses will be made available to anyone, whether they previously applied or not. The surplus licenses will be available on a first-come, first-served basis at any of more than 1,800 statewide Electronic Licensing System vendors or at the DNR's License Center at 500 Lafayette Road in St. Paul.

"This is the first year that bear permits will be available to anyone, whether or not they submitted a license lottery application," said Lou Cornicelli, DNR Big Game Program coordinator.

Licenses remain in the following bear permit areas: Permit Area 51, 1,533; Permit Area 45, 931; Permit Area 24, 735; Permit Area 25, 686; Permit Area 31, 665; Permit Area 13, 432; and Permit Area 22, 162.

A map showing the location of these bear permit areas can be found on the DNR Web site at Bear licenses, with issuing fee, cost $39 for residents and $196 for nonresidents.

Licenses for the No-Quota Area can be purchased directly at any Electronic Licensing System agent beginning July 1. The No-Quota Area is that area of the state outside of the 11 lottery permit areas, where there is no limit on the number of bear licenses issued.

The 2003 Minnesota bear season runs from Monday, Sept. 1 through Sunday, Oct. 12.

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