Duck hunters who use a boat to get to their blinds should remember they must follow boating, as well as hunting rules. And because inclement weather is common during the duck season, it’s advisable to implement proper safety measures.
Packing the required safety gear including adequate flotation devices along with hunting equipment, hunters and dogs could exceed the boat’s weight capacity.
Several fatalities among Panhandle duck hunters over the past several years were the result of the combination of overloaded boats and frigid water temperatures.
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game asks hunters to be familiar with their boat’s capacity. All boats under 20 feet built after Nov. 1, 1972, have a capacity plate permanently affixed in a location clearly visible to the operator. The plate lists the maximum horsepower, maximum number of persons, and maximum weight capacity including all people, dogs and gear.
Overloading a boat reduces the amount of freeboard. Insufficient freeboard — the distance between the water line and boat’s gunwale — can lead to poor handling in rough water, and makes it easier for the boat to swamp. Weather conditions including whitecaps, excited dogs or the wake of a passing boat can quickly send water over the gunwale and into the boat.
Idaho law requires a life jacket on board for every passenger, and a throwable (type IV) personal floatation device is required in boats more than 16 feet long. While adult boaters are not required to wear their jackets in Idaho, duck hunters have found life jackets that are camouflaged, that offer less restriction and provide added warmth.
Remaining seated while shooting from a boat improves accuracy and the boat’s stability. Hunters have been knocked out of boats from the recoil of heavy magnum waterfowl loads.
Good preparation and common sense while waterfowling can assure the outing is a safe one.
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Information provided by Phil Cooper, a wildlife conservation educator employed with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game in the Panhandle region.