Seven Boating Tips For A Safe Waterfowl Hunt
Drowning is the leading cause of hunter deaths on the water, life jackets urged.
January 1, 2016
As many of Arizona's hunters trek into area forests to fill their freezer with meat for the year, waterfowl hunters too are heading outdoors to hop aboard their watercraft for their piece of the action.
A Family Tradition
"Hunting is woven into the fabric of Arizona and for many, it's a family tradition carried on for generations," said Josh Hoffman, Arizona Game and Fish Boating Safety Education program coordinator.
"Hunters already know that firearm safety is paramount every time they go out, but many don't often go the extra distance to wear a life jacket while hunting on the water. Strapping on a life jacket can often mean the difference between life and death, especially when hunting in cold water."
Many hunters utilize boats, kayaks and other watercraft to battle through wind, cold, dust, rain or snow to arrive at the "special" hunting spot. To ensure a safe trip, hunters are encouraged to remember these seven following tips:
• Leave a float plan with family and friends, detailing where you're going and when you plan to return.
• Don't overload the vessel. Make sure it can safely transport you, your gear and maybe your dog, if it's coming along.
• Distribute weight evenly inside your vessel.
• Use care while loading and while moving around. Most boats used during hunting are flat-bottomed and tend to tip over quite easily.
• Always wear a life jacket. Consider placing one on your dog as well, as cold water can cause their muscles to cramp while in the water.
• Transport firearms safely with the action opened, unloaded and cased whenever possible.
• Cold-water immersion can be deadly so dress appropriately and if you fall overboard, climb back into or on top of the boat. If you cannot, stay near the vessel, use decoys, oars or anything floating nearby to help stay afloat.
Nationwide last year, 37 hunter-involved watercraft accidents resulted in 13 deaths and 22 injuries, according to U.S. Coast Guard figures. Drowning was the leading cause of death in 78 percent of the 610 total recreational boating fatalities in 2014 nationwide. Of these incidents, 84 percent of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets.
Most Common Accidents
"Falling overboard and capsizing are most often the most common types of fatal boating accidents for hunters," Hoffman said. "Simply wearing a life jacket and following Arizona's boating laws can prevent tragedy and ensure everyone goes home safely."
Life jackets aren't just a good idea for adult hunters on the water; they are required by state law for anybody 12 years and younger when the boat is underway. Even after the boat has become a camouflaged duck-blind, there must be a life jacket aboard for every passenger.
For more information on boating in Arizona, to sign up for a safety course and for a video on properly fitting a life jacket, visit http://www.azgfd.gov/boating. To purchase a hunting license, visit https://license.azgfd.gov/home.xhtml.