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Staying safe in a duck boat

October 4, 2010

by Chris Schultz

From the DNR

With many duck hunters heading out for the Oct. 2, Minnesota opener, 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.

“We want all hunters to come back to shore safely,” said Tim Smalley, DNR boating safety specialist. “However, the lack of flotation devices is still one of the most common law violations among waterfowl hunters, and the most common cause of duck hunter deaths.

Thirteen hunters have drowned in boating accidents since that time.

“While 13 deaths is 13 too many, before life jackets were mandated, three to six hunters died in duck boat accidents nearly every season,” Smalley said.

According to national statistics, more hunters die every year from cold water shock, hypothermia and drowning than firearms mishaps.

Last year, a 60-year-old hunter not wearing a life jacket, capsized in a 10-foot john boat and drowned in 5 feet of water in Rat Lake in Becker County.

Minnesota law requires a readily accessible U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket for every person on duck boats.

Plus, for boats 16-feet and longer, one U.S. Coast Guard approved flotation seat cushion must be on board to throw to someone in distress.

Seat cushions are no longer approved as primary flotation devices, however.

Everyone on the boat needs a wearable personal flotation device of the proper size and type.

Life jackets made with the waterfowler in mind are available in camouflage colors.

According to water safety experts, having a life jacket doesn’t matter if it’s stuffed in a decoy sack when the accident occurs.

“You just don’t have time,” Smalley said. “Trying to put on a life jacket during a boating accident would be like trying to buckle a seat belt during a car crash.”

The DNR discourages hunters from wearing hip boots or waders in the boat due to safety concerns.

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,” Smalley said. “However, if you do wear that sort of foot gear and suddenly enter the water, by pulling your knees up to your chest, air trapped in the waders or hip boots can act as a flotation device. You should practice that maneuver in warm shallow water before you need to do it in an emergency.”

The DNR offers these water safety tips for duck hunters:

• Wear a life jacket to and from the blind; there are now life jackets available for around $40 with mesh in the upper body that allow hunters to shoulder a gun but still offer protection from cold water.

• Don’t overload the boat; take two trips if necessary.

• Learn how to float in waders and hip boats or don’t wear them in the boat.

• 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 traveling party does not return on schedule.

• In case of capsizing or swamping, stay with the boat; even when filled with water, it will provide some flotation and is more likely to be seen by potential rescuers.

“If you are near enough to a cell phone tower, it’s not a bad idea to bring your cell phone along in a waterproof, zipper lock bag to call for help if you get into trouble,” Smalley advised. “You can use the phone without removing it from the bag.”

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 888-646-6367, or download a copy from www.mndnr.gov.

Waverly Gun Club upcoming events

The Waverly Gun Club has a number of events coming up and running through October.

Below is what the gun club has going on. For additional information, go to www.waverlygunclub.org, or call Kevin at (763) 242-4553.

• Doubles league begins Thursday, Oct. 7 and runs for four weeks. Teams or individuals are welcome.

• Range site-ins will take place for three weekends starting Saturday, Oct. 16 and Sunday, Oct. 17; Saturday, Oct. 23 and Sunday, Oct. 24; and concluding Saturday, Oct. 30 and Sunday, Oct. 31. Times are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

• Cancel and carry class will be Monday, Oct. 18 and Tuesday, Oct. 19.

Prairie Archers steak/shrimp dinner Oct. 9

Prairie Archers will be hosting a steak/shrimp dinner at the Dodge House in Lester Prairie Saturday, Oct. 9.

The dinner runs from 5 to 8 p.m.

The cost of the dinner ranges from $8 to $14.

Call in your reservations before Friday, Oct. 8 to either Jim Richardson (320) 395-2721 or to the Dodge House (320) 395-2877.

Each dinner includes baked potato, tossed salad, bread, dessert, coffee or milk, and a complimentary drink.

Migration reports
From Avery Pro-Staff

• Name: Ben Cade
Date: September 28, 2010
Location: Buffalo, MN

Weather: Sunny with highs in the sixties and lows in the forties.

Snow Cover: None.

Water Conditions: Area lakes and rivers are 6 to 12 inches above normal. Many area fields have standing sheet-water. I have seen several flooded corn fields.

Feeding Conditions: There are still few fields for the birds to pick from at this point. Many fields are still too wet to harvest. Beans were beginning to be picked, but harvest has slowed with the wet weather. The recent rain has opened up some low lying grassy areas for feed as well.

Species and Numbers: We have a very good number of wood ducks around. I have seen scattered bunches of teal and mallards hitting some of the area corn fields and traditional wetlands.

Migrations: Nothing major since September 14. We have a fair amount of geese around and some nice groups of wood ducks. Mallards are slightly more difficult to locate.

Season Stage: We are between seasons right now. Our general waterfowl season opened.

Hunting Report: NA

Gossip: Deer have been on the move recently. I saw one very nice buck while scouting for ducks Monday, Sept. 27. Others have been reporting seeing a few deer on the move.

Conservation officer reports from area
From the DNR

• CO Brian Mies (Annandale) checked anglers in Stearns and Wright counties.

CO Mies also talked with students at Ney Park about trapping and furs.

CO Mies spent time checking goose hunters, small game hunters and archery deer hunters.

• CO Rick Reller (Buffalo) attended the Wright County Field Day for 5th graders in Wright County.

Reller gave a presentation on Mammals of MN.

Reller followed up on several complaints and took numerous calls about nuisance animals and hunting questions.

• CO Steve Walter (Waconia) checked several bow hunters who were not seeing many deer.

Anglers and boaters were checked on area rivers and lakes.

Many calls were returned on hunting seasons and regulations.

Equipment was prepared for use if needed for flood assistance.

The Crow and Minnesota rivers are at very dangerous levels and are still rising.

• CO Jackie Glaser (Mound) patrolled Hennepin and Carver counties for bow hunters.

Several calls have been received regarding possible baited deer stands.

She continued to check fishermen on Lake Minnetonka finding people fishing with extra lines and no fishing licenses.

Small game hunters and ATV operators were checked in Carver County.

She continued to monitor boats and trailers being taken off Lake Minnetonka for invasive species.

• CO Wayne Hatlestad (Litchfield) checked angling, boating, and ATV activity.

Additional time was spent checking goose, small game, and archery deer hunting activity.

Hatlestad also checked WMAs/WPAs, patrolled other public lands, and spoke at a FAS class in Darwin.

• CO Brett Oberg (Hutchinson) focused on small game and archery enforcement.

CO Oberg continues investigations related to deer hunting.

The heavy rain throughout the week has brought about an increase in calls for special beaver permits in the area.

CO Oberg spent time at Camp Ripley armoring division firearms, and also spent time talking to FAS classes.

DNR says everyone should have wilderness survival skills
From the DNR

Three lost Minnesota bear hunters, recently forced to spend the night in the woods is a good reminder that anyone enjoying the outdoors should know the basic rules of wilderness survival, said Capt. Mike Hammer, DNR Enforcement Education Program coordinator.

Panic is the biggest enemy if someone gets lost in the woods. Hammer said the acronym S.T.O.P. could save a person’s life.

• SIT: Collect your thoughts and realize that you are not lost; you just can’t find your camp or vehicle.

• THINK: What do I have at my disposal both physical and mental that can help me in this situation? Inventory your survival kit and start to develop a plan.

• OBSERVE: Look around, is there shelter, water, an open area where searchers could see you?

• PLAN: Create a plan of action. Pick a spot that you can build a fire for heat and signaling. In addition, can the spot provide basic shelter? Most of all remain positive, you will survive.

A basic survival kit can be packed into a quart zip-lock bag and should contain the following.

• Basic shelter materials: Two 55-gallon garbage bags and 30 feet of braided mason’s line.

• Means to start a fire: Disposable lighter, waterproof matches or matches stored in a waterproof container, or 10 feet of toilet paper or petroleum jelly soaked cotton balls in a 35 mm film canister.

• Means of signaling: Whistle, signal mirror (could be an old CD). A fire is also a signal.

• Means of knowing direction: A compass.

• Comfort food: Food bar, nuts or trail mix.

When heading outdoors, plan for the unexpected and be prepared to spend the night in the woods.

Here are some things to do before heading out.

• Always let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.

• Carry a compass or GPS and know how to use it.

• Carry a basic survival and first-aid kit.

• Carry a cell phone since they work almost everywhere.

• Check the weather and dress for it.

These outdoor safety tips and much more about outdoor survival are part of the Minnesota DNR Hunter Education Firearms Safety Program.

There is a free online study guide for hunters and outdoor enthusiasts that can be found on the DNR website at www.dnr.state.mn.us/safety/firearms/index.html then click on HunterExam.

MN Conservation Volunteer to publish 70th anniversary calendar
From the DNR

A calendar titled “Wild Minnesota,” featuring photographs by six of Minnesota’s finest nature photographers, is being published by the Minnesota Conservation Volunteer, a magazine of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“Each issue of the Minnesota Conservation Volunteer includes great photos by great photographers, but we always have many more images than we have space,” said Kathleen Weflen, editor-in-chief. “The Wild Minnesota calendar gives us another way to share these photos with a wider audience.”

To celebrate its 70th anniversary, Minnesota Conservation Volunteer collected more than 30 stunning photos that capture iconic images of Minnesota’s natural beauty.

From the North Shore to the prairie, from sled dogs to moose, each month features a large seasonal photo that captures the magic of Minnesota’s great outdoors, as well as several smaller images of the state’s wildlife and wild places, according to Weflen.

The calendar features photographs by Jim Brandenburg, Layne Kennedy, Bill Marchel, Gary Alan Nelson, Judy Olausen and Richard Hamilton Smith.

Each month includes seasonal information, important dates and interesting facts.

The calendar is 133⁄4 by 103⁄4 and costs $16 plus shipping and handling.

It can be pre-ordered now (shipping begins Nov. 1) from Minnesota’s Bookstore, www.mnbookstore.com or toll-free 800-657-3757.

Proceeds from the sale of calendars will support the publication of the magazine, which is funded by contributions from readers.

About Minnesota Conservation Volunteer

For 70 years, Minnesota Conservation Volunteer has published stories, essays, and photographs that support the mission of the DNR by celebrating the state’s woods, waters, and wildlife, and encouraging conservation and careful use of Minnesota’s natural resources.

For more information, visit www.mndnr.gov/magazine.

All cisco and smelt used for bait must be preserved
From the DNR

To help prevent the spread of Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS) in Minnesota waters, anglers cannot use cisco or rainbow smelt as bait in any body of water effective Monday, Oct. 4.

The exception is those who use fish that have been preserved by a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) permit holder, using accepted methods known to make the virus inactive.

“This expedited, emergency rule was enacted to protect Minnesota’s inland waters from VHS, which is now present in Lake Superior,” said Linda Erickson-Eastwood, DNR fisheries program supervisor. “With cisco and whitefish netting season upon us, it’s imperative that people understand the new rule.”

In June, DNR classified Lake Superior as infested with VHS and prohibited public harvest of all bait from its waters.

Cisco is known to carry VHS, and rainbow smelt are likely carriers.

Both are popular baitfish used in Lake Superior and inland waters.

Erickson-Eastwood said it is likely that some private individuals harvested bait prior to the ban, froze it and plan to use it this winter, following in the footsteps of past tradition.

The new rule prohibits such use. Also, under current law, smelt or cisco that were taken from designated infested waters cannot be preserved and used for bait.

Anglers who harvested and froze cisco and smelt for use this winter as bait can have it preserved and labeled by an authorized permit holder.

Bait dealers, bait retailers, fish hatcheries, commercial netters, fish packers, fishing guides and aquatic farms may be permitted to preserve cisco and smelt for baitfish.

For more information about getting an application to be permitted or who has been permitted, contact the DNR Section of Fisheries at (651) 259-5213.

When fishing using preserved cisco or rainbow smelt as bait, anglers must have in their possession the label from the batch of bait being used.

The label must contain the bait processor’s DNR permit number, the lot number, and the date of processing.

It is legal to harvest cisco and rainbow smelt for personal consumption in Lake Superior and Minnesota’s inland waters.

VHS does not have any impact on humans through direct contact or via fish consumption.

Question of the week
From the DNR

Q: The fall hunting season is upon us. Do resident or nonresident hunters who possess a lifetime Minnesota hunting license need to get a license for the current year?

A: Every hunter or angler who possesses a lifetime Minnesota hunting license must obtain an annual license at no cost for the current year.

Those planning to hunt pheasant, waterfowl, or fish for trout and salmon, must purchase the necessary stamps.

Hunters who intend to harvest migratory game birds must also get their HIP (Harvest Information Program) certification.

All deer hunters, including lifetime deer licensees, must apply for antlerless permits before the deadline each season.

Regular lifetime deer licenses will be issued at no charge to the licensee; however, hunters will be charged for any additional bonus deer licenses.

Lifetime licenses can be obtained at any of the more than 1,500 license agents located throughout the state.

Lifetime licenses may also be obtained by phone by calling 888-665-4236 or online at www.mndnr.gov/licenses.