Waterfowl Hunters: Know Your (Weight) Limits Hunting seasons for most species of game animals are open. Most hunters are taking wise safety precautions by wearing hunter orange in the field as they pursue their pastime. An often overlooked aspect of hunter safety is boating safety while pursuing waterfowl.. Nearly every year, a boating tragedy occurs in northern Idaho that results from a boat capsizing or swamping in very cold water. Duck hunters take great care in preparing for the hunting aspect of their outings. They carefully check decoy lines and weights, design and build camo blinds, purchase warm clothing and boots, pattern steel shot loads, practice calling, etc. Often overlooked, however, is the mode of transportation to the hunting location and the safety considerations needed to get there and back. Hunters using a boat to get to their island blind, and those hunting from their duck boats are going not only on a hunting trip, but they are also going on a boating trip. The most common mistake waterfowl hunters make in their boating trip is overloading the boat. All vessels under 20 feet in length and constructed after Nov 1, 1972, must have a capacity plate permanently affixed to a location clearly visible to the operator while the boat is underway. The plate lists (among other things) maximum allowed horsepower, maximum number of persons, and maximum weight capacity in persons and equipment. By the time you put on an outboard motor, load three hunters and all their gear, and then call a retriever into the boat, it is very easy to exceed the weight capacity of many boats without knowing it. Exceeding the weight capacity of a boat creates a very dangerous condition. Overloading reduces the amount of freeboard, which is the vertical distance measured on the boat's side from the waterline to the gunwale. Insufficient freeboard can lead to poor handling in rough water and makes it easier for the boat to swamp. Duck hunters are often out in the worst weather where whitecaps or the wake of a passing boat could quickly send water over the gunwale and into the boat. An excited retriever can unexpectedly move in the boat adding to the danger when a boat is overloaded. Duck hunters typically wear waders and very heavy coats, making swimming very difficult should their boat take on water or capsize. Add in the effects of ice cold water, and a mishap becomes an immediate life threatening emergency. Idaho law requires a life jacket on board for every passenger, and a throw-able (type IV) personal floatation device is required in boats over 16 feet long. While Idaho boaters are not required to wear their jackets, it is very strongly recommended. Many companies now make camouflage life jackets and float coats that can be worn while duck hunting that do not flare birds and are reasonably comfortable to shoot in. Such an item would be an excellent Christmas gift for someone on your list who enjoys duck hunting! If you are hunting from the boat, remaining seated while shooting will improve your accuracy and the stability of the boat. Hunters have been knocked out of boats from the unanticipated or underestimated recoil of heavy magnum waterfowl loads. Even if you are not seriously hurt, the blow to your pride would long endure!