Capsizing and falling overboard into cold water are major hazards for hunters.During hunting seasons, most waters are cold enough to pose a serious hypothermia threat. According to the Coast Guard Auxiliary, 70 percent of boating fatalities nationwide are the result of drowning; almost 90 percent of the victims were not wearing life jackets.
The Coast Guard lists a few simple rules to make hunting on the water safer and more enjoyable:
▶ Leave a float plan with someone at home, describing where you are going, who you are with and when you expect to return.
▶ Transport firearms to the boat unloaded, cased, muzzle first, with the action open.
▶ Always wear an approved and properly fitted life jacket when in a boat.
▶ Carry a throwable flotation device in case someone falls overboard.
▶ Stow visual distress signals on-board.
▶ Know the weather forecast for the area. High winds can be dangerous. Cancel the trip if water conditions aren't safe. Keep an AM radio handy for the latest updates. Better yet, buy a VHF-FM marine radio with NOAA weather channels.
▶ Never overload your boat. Load gear low in the boat and distribute the weight evenly.
▶ Always stay seated when shooting from an open boat.
▶ Never anchor from the stern.
▶ If an accident occurs, stay with the boat and use distress signals.
▶ Unless clothing is creating a hazard, do not remove extra clothing. It can help prevent hypothermia.
▶ To retain body heat, pull your knees to your chest and keep your elbows to your sides.
When overboard without a life jacket:
▶ Trap air in chest waders by bending your knees and raising your feet then lying back in the water to help you stay afloat.
▶ An oar under the knees and another behind the back and shoulders can be used to keep you floating.
▶ Trap air in hip boots by bending your knees and lying on your back to help you remain afloat.
▶ Decoys stuffed inside your jacket will provide additional buoyancy.
While all accidents cannot be prevented, following these few simple rules could increase your survival chances.