Safe Boating Reminders for Waterfowl Hunters

The onset of winter can only mean one thing; the waterfowl season is in full swing across Idaho! While many waterfowl hunters walk to their favorite hunting spot, numerous others utilize boats with motors to reach their chosen hideaway.

As a conservation officer and an avid waterfowler myself, I frequently see hunters flirting with disaster while they operate their boats to and from their hunting locations. The combination of low light conditions, ice cold water, winter clothing, and the wearing of hunting waders makes it imperative that you do all you can to avoid an unplanned swim.

In the past ten years, nearly 67 percent of Idaho’s fatal boating accidents resulted when boat operators and/or their passengers ended up in the water. Many of those fatalities were duck hunters.

In the last few weeks, I have seen an alarming number of hunters ignoring two basic boating rules – life jackets and navigation lights. Doing so can quickly and easily turn a fun adventure into a tragedy.

Life Jackets - Hunters usually have life jackets in their boats, but they very rarely wear them. Often times, life jackets are buried under hunting gear or stowed in a hard to access compartment. Today’s life jackets are light, comfortable, and come in camouflage. Before leaving for your next hunting trip, insure that you have a life jacket for each person in your group. If you will be a passenger in someone else’s boat, bring your own life jacket just in case the boat owner forgets one for you. And before getting underway, make sure everyone is wearing their life jacket.

Navigation Lights – I often see hunters running their boat “blacked out,” that is, without any running lights. Simply put, operating your boat blacked out during no light or low light conditions will get you and/or your passengers killed. State law requires powered boats to utilize red and green bow lights and a white light on the stern, while underway between sunset and sunrise. The reason is simple: so your vessel can be seen by other boat operators. Running blacked out is a tragedy waiting to happen. It’s worth pointing out that the use of a handheld spotlight to light your way does not meet the legal requirement for boat navigation lights.

Enjoy the last half of the waterfowl season and do your part to bring everyone home safely at the end of every trip out. See you on the water.