Learn all about what safety precautions to take while hunting on a boat to have fun as well as ensuring your safety.
Hunting from a boat can be a thrilling experience. It is more challenging than hunting on land, but it is also riskier.
Whether you are new to this sport or are a pro at it, you can never discount the importance of safety precautions.
Any hunt can turn into a nightmare if you don’t follow the safety instructions carefully.
In this post, you will learn some safety precautions that you must keep in mind when you go into the waters for hunting from a boat.
We shall be dividing the safety precautions into three categories –
1. Personal safety
2. Carrying proper equipment
3. Understanding and following the laws about hunting in water.
Risks of hunting from a boat
Before you learn about the safety precautions you should take while hunting from a boat, you must be aware of all the risks involved.
Hunters or anglers have been gravely injured, and some have even died due to drowning, cold water shock, and gunshot wounds.
- People can fall overboard, or their boats can overturn when they stand up to take aim.
- Overloading the boat can lead to it capsizing.
- Choosing an unstable boat can also be dangerous.
So, here are the safety precautions that you must take when you go hunting on a boat.
Personal safety while hunting on a boat
1. Learn how to swim
Knowing how to swim is essential if you want to undertake any activity on a boat.
Some people may argue that this is not essential if they wear a life jacket, but they couldn’t be more wrong.
Unexpected things can happen when you are in deep waters, and you may not even get time to fasten your life jacket. Knowing how to swim gives you a better chance of survival if things go wrong.
For example, if your boat capsizes, you will be able to swim to safety and help other members of your hunting party if you know how to swim.
2. Train your dog to swim
If you are taking your dog with you on the boat, you must train him to swim as well.
Your dog may be the best when it comes to hunting on land, but you shouldn’t assume that he will be composed on a boat. If your dog is not used to the movement of the vessel and freaks, your boat may capsize.
So, train your dog to swim- first in shallow waters and then in deep waters. You may also consider putting your dog in safety gear for extra protection.
3. Be well rested
Sleep well and be rested before you go on a hunt. This way, you will be in your best senses and alert for the hunt.
You must also avoid using drugs or alcohol before or during hunting. These can dull your senses and slow down your reactions, which can be dangerous if you hunt on a boat.
Save the drinking and partying for when you come back safe and sound from your hunting trip.
4. Dress appropriately
Wearing a personal floating device (PFD) or a life jacket is a must, even if you are a pro swimmer. You may be confronted with a difficult situation when you’re out hunting, and your life jacket can save your life.
Don’t carry just any life jacket or floating equipment; make sure you take good quality life jackets that do not tear up or deflate quickly.
Modern technology has resulted in quality life jackets that are non-invasive and non-movement restricting. You can even buy camouflage life jackets.
Wear waterproof clothing under your lifejacket to save yourself from cold. Waterproof clothing can help prevent water shock. This type of apparel warms up quickly, even after falling into icy cold water.
Wear light clothing, which makes it easier to swim or move. If you are hunting in winter or a cold area, wear something that is both warm and light.
5. Check the weather
You should never judge the weather by how it looks in the morning, as the weather can change for the worse pretty quickly.
Consult the state’s meteorology department to see if the weather is appropriate for hunting on a boat. Modern technology has ensured that meteorologists can now predict the weather quite accurately.
Check the radio and local television channels to stay informed about the weather. Carry a small battery-powered radio along with you to check on the weather forecast on the go.
You can predict the weather yourself even if you don’t have a radio by following these professional tips –
- Change your plans as soon as you see lightning. Head to the shore and stay away from large water bodies.
- Count the seconds between the time you see the lightning and hear the thunderclap. Now divide the figure by five. This method will tell you how many miles away you are from the storm.
- You should know the weather fronts to be able to forecast the scale of the storm successfully. Cold fronts are fast-moving, and they cause stormy weather.
If the weather conditions are bad, you should postpone your hunting plan till the weather improves. Hunting in bad weather is dangerous.
6. Prepare a float plan
A float plan is a vital safety precaution that you must take before hunting on a boat. It should give all the details of your trip including –
- Why are you on a boat?
- The description and registration number of the boat
- The total number of people on board
- The time of departure
- The expected time of arrival
- The exact location of where you are going
Leave this paper with someone reliable who can inform the authorities if you do not arrive back on time.
Stay within the area that you have mentioned on the float plan to receive immediate help in case of an emergency.
7. Bring a friend
Take a friend along with you when you go hunting. Not only does it make your hunt more fun, but it also makes it much safer.
Another person on the boat means you have another set of eyes on the lookout for any danger. Ensure you distribute the weight evenly on the boat when there is more than one person on the boat.
Having two people on one small boat has its own set of challenges. Here’s what you must keep in mind to minimize the risk of accidents –
- It would help if you sat back to back with one hunter facing the bow and the other facing the rear.
- It would be best if you fixed your individual firing zones. The ideal would be 180 degrees in front of each hunter.
- If both hunters are facing the same direction and fire, the double recoil may cause the boat to capsize.
- Be aware of the other hunter’s movements at all times.
8. Take a boat safety course
If you are new to hunting on a boat, it is good to take a boat safety course. The course will help you to familiarize yourself with the proper handling of any watercraft.
Use the proper equipment for safe hunting on a boat
You must ensure that you have all the proper equipment you need before setting out to hunt from your boat.
Here’s what you must possess in proper working condition –
Choose a boat that is well-maintained and is in good working condition. If you do not know what you are looking for, take the help of someone who does.
Choose the boat’s size based on the number of people and the amount of gear that you typically hunt with. The type of water in which you hunt is also an important consideration.
Conduct a test run to ensure that everything is operational. You definitely don’t want to be stuck in the middle of nowhere with a non-functional or sinking boat.
Carrying a firearm is a huge responsibility, and you must be extra careful while loading, unloading, and using a gun on a boat.
Transporting firearms safely while hunting on a boat
Keep your firearm unloaded and in a case till you reach your destination. When boarding your boat, place your gun in the bow before you get in.
The muzzle should point forward into the bow. If there are two people in the vessel, the first person should settle in the bow pointing forwards after the first gun is in the boat.
Using firearms safely
There are a few basic rules that you must follow when hunting on a boat.
- It is illegal to use your weapon while the vessel is in motion.
You can lose your balance and fire in an unintended direction if the boat is not anchored.
- Keep your finger outside the trigger guard until you are ready to fire.
- If your boat has a motor, turn it off before firing.
- Sailboats must have their sails furled before firing.
- Get appropriately seated before you fire.
3. Apps and GPS
You can download hunting apps like Duckr, onXmaps, and HuntStand, which have been designed with safety in mind before you go out hunting.
These apps show other users’ locations and allow you to call them in case of an emergency. This means you have another method of contacting people closest to your site if needed.
You can also avoid the dangers of hunting near another party.
These apps also have many other useful features that inform you about the wind direction and the topographical features around you.
4. Other items
You may also want to include some other essential gear, including –
- A first aid kit
- A compass
- Waterproof storage for guns and ammunition
- Water-resistant lights
You may also want to add an emergency kit to your boat. The kit should include food, warm drinking water, a fully charged communication device, clothes, a fire starting kit, and a flashlight.
5. Avoid overloading your boat
Now that you have learned about all the essential gear and equipment you should take on your boat, you must also keep in mind that you should not overload your boat.
Know your boat’s weight limit. All boats that are under 20′ long (made after 1972) have a capacity plate fixed to them permanently. These plates clearly state the maximum weight that a vessel can carry.
Overloading your vessel can cause it to capsize, which will ruin your gear and expose you to cold and dangerous wildlife that may be in the water.
Some additional tips to prevent your boat from capsizing –
- Never overload your boat with people or gear.
- A boat that is too small or has a flat bottom has a higher chance of becoming unbalanced and capsizing. So choose your boat wisely.
- You must distribute the weight in the boat evenly.
- If you have a hunting dog with you, make sure he is well trained. If he becomes too excited, the boat may capsize. Ideally, your dog should be lying in the center of the boat.
Know and follow the laws about hunting in water
If you are going out hunting in a new area, make sure you are up to date with the regulations and laws of the area.
Each person in your hunting group should have a valid hunting permit.
You should also have a boating license and a gun license.
Different states have different regulations, so make sure you check the state’s website and read up on their hunting laws.
According to Game Management Authority, a game hunting statuary authority in Virginia –
- You are allowed to hunt duck from a boat under power up to a speed of five knots on waterways such as streams, creeks, and rivers.
- A motorboat operating at the speed of five knots or less can be used to retrieve dead or wounded ducks.
- You are not allowed to hunt ducks from a motorboat with the motor running in lakes, dams, or swamps.
- If you want to use a powered boat for hunting ducks, you need to obtain a boat operator’s license. You will also need to sit for a computerized knowledge test before you apply for a license.
- Duck hunters who use non-motorized watercraft like punts, sneaker boats, canoes, or flat bottomed boats are exempt from boat operators’ licenses. However, it would help if you still had a basic understanding of safe operation when using the watercraft.
If you are hunting from a boat in Kentucky, you need to follow the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources’ rules and regulations.
- All hunters must wear orange outer garments.
- Hunting from boats is permitted for small game and furbearers.
- You need to bring a valid hunter education card or exemption permit while hunting in lands or boats.
Final thoughts on boat safety while hunting
Hunting is an enjoyable outdoor activity, but it comes with its own set of responsibilities. To avoid any accidents, you must follow all the rules and guidelines mentioned above. This is the best way to enjoy a rewarding hunting trip.