Safety is essential in open water duck hunting
New rules for the 2013 waterfowl season now allow hunters to hunt on open water for migratory waterfowl on a few selected bodies of water including portions of the Mississippi River, Lake Pepin, Lake of the Woods, Mille Lacs Lake and Lake Superior.
Open water hunting is new to many hunters around the state, so the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has a warning about the potential dangers of hunting in open water late in the season.
“We are excited to offer this new waterfowling opportunity, but want duck hunters to keep safety in mind before they head out on the water,” said Tom Landwehr, DNR commissioner.
Many open water hunters use layout boats. A layout boat is a one or two person boat with a very shallow draft and extremely low sides which allow the hunter to set-up near a spread of decoys just slightly above the water’s surface. The shallow draft and low sides make this type of craft extremely vulnerable to wave action or wakes from other boats and could cause it to swamp or capsize.
The low profile of a layout boat makes it hard for other boaters to see waterfowl hunters, especially in low light or wavy conditions.
Layout boats should be accompanied by a much larger tender boat that is used to put out decoys, set the layout boat, retrieve downed birds and is used to transport the hunter to and from the anchored layout boat. The tender boat can come to the rescue should something go wrong.
Open water hunting is typically conducted late in the waterfowl season when diving ducks are migrating.
“The later the hunt, the colder the water,” said Kara Owens, DNR boat and water safety specialist. “Hunters need to know if they fall overboard the possibility of cold water immersion and hypothermia greatly increases.”
The DNR offers tips for safe and responsible hunting including:
■Be prepared. Proper foul weather gear is a must. Keeping dry is important.
• Wear a life jacket. State law requires an accessible and wearable U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket for each person on board all boats, including layout and duck boats.
• Do not overload boat with gear and avoid a sudden shift in weight. Leave the dog on the tender boat or at home.
• Keep an eye on the sky. Do not hunt during rough weather and stormy conditions.
• Most duck boats don’t make good tender boats. Use a boat designed for deep water that can handle waves.
• In case of capsizing or swamping, stay with the boat, even when filled with water; the boat will still float and is more likely to be seen by potential rescuers.
• Always tell someone the hunt location and time of return and hunt with a companion or group.
• Carry a cellphone or VHF radio for emergency communication.