By Chris Schultz Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal & Howard Lake Herald, Minn. September 22, 1997
A prescription for duck hunters
Although many waterfowl hunters have already gotten a taste of hunting this year via the September Canada goose hunt and the Youth Waterfowl Hunting Day.
The real season, the one that brings out a majority of the hunters, gets rolling Saturday, Oct. 4 at noon.
On that day, duck hunters in our state will be out in thousands, many in our area. They will be out early in the dark morning, with waders on and boats filled, to get the best spot. The water will be cold, and many of the boats will be overloaded with decoys, hunters, equipment, and dogs. Anticipation and excitement may be so high that certain elements of safety are overlooked.
In waterfowl hunting, like most outdoor adventures, safety is of the most importance, and no matter how high the anticipation or excitement, there are certain common sense elements that must not be overlooked.
With the basics of firearms safety being at the top of the list, and with the majority of hunters being very cautious when the gun is in hand, we'll move on to a few safety tips that many duck hunters forget when they see a flock of mallards cruising through the sky.
Across our state and in our area, a majority of the duck hunting is done on the water and in boats. Hunters must consider themselves to be boaters before hunters.
In duck hunting on the water, the boat is more than just a tool to get from the landing to blind. With that in mind, here a few suggestions to keep your waterfowl hunt safe and fun.
- Practice, practice, practice - know your boat and get it on the water a few times before you plan on hunting. How heavy is it? How much weight can you put in it? How steady is it? Is your dog accustomed to it and has he been in it before? How difficult is it for your dog to get in and out of it? Practice is the only way to gain that knowledge and get comfortable with your boat.
- Don't overload your boat. There are many different styles and types of duck boats. Each boat is designed for certain conditions and can safely carry only so much weight. If your boat is a two-pointed fiberglass model and is designed to handle 300 pounds, then a dozen decoys, your dog, and yourself is about all that boat can handle.
- Don't just bring your PFD, wear it. That camouflage boat cushion doesn't meet the legal requirements and doesn't cut the mustard for safety.
- There are several PFDs on the market that are comfortable to wear and my suggestion is to make sure you have one good one for every person that will be in the boat. If you're like most duck hunters, that PFD won't be worn unless it's comfortable. Remember, the water is cold and a that PFD won't do you any good unless you have it on. Instead of buying a dozen new decoys, buy two new PFDs.
- The DNR reviewed 10 separate accidents resulting in 14 waterfowl hunter deaths in Minnesota and found that none of the 14 victims were wearing a PFD. All of the accidents were a result of the boat capsizing or swamping due to overloading, sudden shifts in weight or weather conditions.
- Know the area you will be hunting. Is it a small slough or a bigger lake? Will your blind be set up in deeper water or very shallow water? Is the bottom hard or very muddy?
- Knowing the area you will be hunting is very important. On several occasions, I've seen wader clad hunters hop out of their boats into mud and water they assumed was only a foot or two deep, but was actually four to five feet deep. If there weren't other hunters in the area to assist them, they would have been in big trouble.
- Be prepared for bad weather and high winds. In late October and early November, our weather can change with the snap of a finger.
- Understand hypothermia and know the heat escape lessening position.
- Don't push your luck when you're wading. If you're not absolutely sure about that next step, don't take it.
- Finally, be prepared, practice, and use common sense.
If you're looking for more information on boating and waterfowl hunting safety, call the DNR at 1-800-766-6000 and request a brochure titled a "Prescription for Duck Hunters."