Waterfowl season begins Sept. 21, remember safety

With many duck hunters anxiously preparing for the Sept. 21 Minnesota opener, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is reminding everyone that safety never takes a break, especially during waterfowl season.

Since 2005, five people have died in duck hunting-related boating accidents. Overloading, swamping and capsizing are the most common causes, while lack of life jacket use is the most common contributing factor.

“The message is simple,” said Kara Owens, DNR boat and water specialist. “Life jackets save lives.”

A U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket is required for every person on board all boats, including duck boats.

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

Life jackets are now made with the waterfowler in mind and are available in camouflage colors, including inflatable life jackets and belt-pack vests.

“They have mesh in the upper body that allows you to shoulder a gun,” Owens said. “That way, you don’t have to keep taking the vest off when you shoot.”

The DNR offers these water safety tips for duck hunters:

  • Don’t overload boat; take two trips if necessary.
  • If wearing hip boots or waders, 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 for help 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 still float and is more likely to be seen by potential rescuers.

The DNR has a free “Water Safety for Duck Hunters” publication. It is available by contacting the DNR Information Center at info.dnr@state.mn.us or calling 651-296-6157 or toll-free 888-646-6367. Publication is also available online.