What Safety Precautions Should I Take When Hunting From a Boat?

What Safety Precautions Should I Take When Hunting From a Boat?

Hunting from a boat is quickly growing in popularity, as inflatable boaters can practice better boating safety. Like pontoon boats, inflatables allow you to simultaneously navigate the icy cold water and hunt or catch fish. But what safety precautions should you take when hunting from a boat? Below, we look at how to use your boat safely when hunting on the water.

Take a Boat Hunting Safety Course

Many states require you to take a boat safety course to get a valid hunting license or a boating license if you plan to hunt in a boat. What will you learn in a boat safety course?

  • Hunting laws in your state
  • Avoiding recreational drugs
  • Boat trip preparation
  • Boat safety gear
  • Getting out of the water into the boat
  • Navigation and safe operation
  • Boating emergencies
  • Enjoying water sports such as hunting

You may also have to learn swimming skills before you you qualify for a boating license. Once you pass your course, you will legally hunt from a boat, depending on your boat type and gun license.

Secure Your Firearm

Securing your firearms should be one of your top boat hunting key safety precautions. There are several reasons for this. First, you do not want your gun to accidentally go off while you are transporting firearms. Second, you want to limit access to guns if you have young passengers. Last, the gun needs to work when you pull it out to shoot your game. With this in mind, remember these three basic guidelines when securing your firearm on the trip:

1. Protect Your Gun from the Water

If you are hunting from a boat, the gun will likely get wet if you leave it out in the open. Therefore, store the gun in a waterproof case, bag, or container. Your gun is more likely to fire if it is not wet.

2. Limit Access with a Lockable Case

There are times when you may want to take children on your hunting trip. If the child does not plan to hunt, you will want to carry a lockable case to limit access to the gun. If the gun is lying in the boat, the child may accidentally trigger it when bumping it. Or they may get curious enough to fire the gun. A lockable case limits access in hunting boats.

3. Anchor the Gun to the Boat

When riding the waves at high speeds with your inflatable boat, your gun will likely jump around. To prevent the firearm from bouncing out of the boat, anchor the case to the boat using tie-downs, rope, netting, other items. If possible, try to add an accessory or feature to your boat so that you have a secure, designated anchor every time you get in the boat.

Prevent Your Boat from Capsizing

Inflatable boats or catamarans are almost possible to capsize. However, with enough weight, the boat can tip over under ideal conditions. Capsizing can be especially dangerous with firearms in a small hunting boat. There are some safety precautions you can take to keep your inflatable from capsizing when hunting from a boat.

  • Distribute the weight evenly throughout the boat - don't pack too much weight on one side.
  • Know your boat's weight limit and do not exceed it.
  • Know your dog's weight and temperament. Try to transport a lighter, calmer hunting dog.
  • Have a plan to get to land quickly and avoid hypothermia or cold water shock if you capsize.

If you plan to be in a stationary position once you get to your destination, you may want to consider anchoring your boat on multiple sides. Anchoring is never a good idea in rough waters. However, it can be a smart safety precaution in calm weather conditions.

Check the Weather

A dedicated hunter doesn't think twice about hunting in the rain, snow, freezing temperatures, or high winds. However, there is a difference between hunting in harsh weather on land hunting and boat hunting in that same harsh weather on the water. As such, you need to make sure you check the weather forecast before you head out on your trip.

While icy waters and rain are less than ideal, your main safety precaution will always be related to wind. Keep these tips in mind when deciding if the wind is too much for your boat hunting trip.

  • Know the wind classifications so you can determine how much wind is too much for boating.
  • Match the WX boating forecast to your vessel. 
  • Stay ahead of the forecast using electronics, monitoring the immediate weather conditions, and keeping the wind at your back.
  • Know how much wind is too much wind depending on your experience and specific inflatable boat.

Also, make sure you check the long-term forecast for your entire trip, not just the forecast for the day. If you are going on a hunting trip for three days, you need to know the forecast for the entire three days. Last, make sure you check the forecast from time to time. Weather can be unpredictable.

Wear the Appropriate Personal Flotation Device

One of the most common causes of fatalities among duck hunters when hunting from a boat is the failure to wear an appropriate personal floatation device. The type of flotation device you wear depends on the type of boating trip you plan to take.

Life Jacket

Life jackets are an essential safety precaution. Make sure everyone on the boat has a life jacket. Life jackets should be tested by underwater agencies and approved by the U.S. Coast Guard. You should also wear them at all times when you are on the boat. Choose a life jacket that fits properly based on your height and weight. Always have an extra life jacket no matter how many people you take on the boat.

Float Coat

The safest way to stay warm on the water is to wear a flotation jacket. Also known as a float coat, this accessory can be a valuable asset whether you are trying to start your season early or extend your time on the water when the weather gets cold. Keep in mind that a float coat is not the same as a life jacket. A float coat is essentially a waterproof jacket that covers your entire body and keeps you warm.

Take a Hunting Buddy

It's understandable to want to get away from it all and spend a weekend alone on the water. However, it's not always safe. Regardless of how skilled a boater you are, you can't account for unpredictable conditions and accidents. Hunting buddies are always preferable when hunting from a boat in the dead of winter. Together, you can practice safety precautions to keep each other safe.

The best hunting buddies are licensed hunters who have taken a boat hunting safety course. They also have experience hunting from a boat. They know the necessary safety precautions and can help you out if the boat capsizes or you get injured. If possible, make a safety plan with your hunting buddy in advance to prepare both of you.

Take a Trained Hunting Dog

Hunting dogs that are incredibly skilled on the land may have zero skills when hunting from a boat. Therefore, as a necessary safety precaution, train your dog to hunt out of a boat. Doing so creates a safer boating experience for both you and the dog. If you cannot train your hunting dog, you can always find a professional trainer who can prepare your dog for hunting from a boat.

Remember, introducing your dog to a boat can be an intimidating experience at first. All you have to do is have one bad experience, and your dog won't forget it for a lifetime. Therefore, make sure that you set your dog up for success. Train it on land and gradually move it to water to get used to hunting from a boat. Make sure you also learn safety precautions when hunting from a boat with your dog. Doing so can save the life of you and your pet.

Pack a First Aid Kit

Another necessary safety precaution is to bring a first aid kit when hunting from a boat. Your kit may look different from a standard first aid kit since you will be hunting on the water and no land hunting. A proper kit has the following items.

  • Emergency survival blanket to warm up victims of shock or hypothermia
  • Pressure bandage with a sewn-in, non-adhesive pad to staunch hemorrhagic bleeding
  • Compact roll of high-quality gauze to stop bleeding and help prevent infection
  • Adhesive bandages, including wound closure strips and specialty shapes for fingers
  • Antibiotic ointment to help prevent the infection of minor wounds
  • Antiseptic wipes for cleaning minor wounds
  • Tweezers to remove ticks or clean debris from wounds
  • Chest seal for penetrating chest trauma
  • Personal protective equipment (surgical masks, medical gloves, eye protection)
  • Anti-diarrheal medicine and electrolyte powder or tablets to combat dehydration
  • Personal prescription medicine and Ibuprofen or pain medicine

Make sure you inspect and update your kit at least once a year or before each trip. Restock it as necessary and throw away any outdated or damaged items.

Do Not Shoot When the Boat Is Moving

Never fire shots or release arrows until you stop the boat, turn the motor off, and anchor the boat properly. Always remain seated when shooting to keep the boat from moving around. Some states may have laws that prevent you from intentionally moving the boat while shooting the gun. For instance, it may be illegal for one person to operate an outboard motor while another person shoots.

Check your state's guidelines to find out the laws regarding shooting in a moving boat. If it is legal to shoot in a moving boat, there may be limits on what type of firearm you can use. Most states prohibit the use of fully-automatic firearms in flat bottomed boats or inflatable small boats. The main reason for this is for your safety and general boat safety.

Know Your Hunting Area

Hunting on private property, restricted land, or near a residential area is quite possible when hunting from a boat. Therefore, you need to take safety precautions and know where you are hunting at all times. Rivers, lakes, and bays often have entry points where other people put their boats in the water. Some hunting areas may be adjacent to residential neighborhoods where houses are on the banks.

If you do not know where the hunting grounds end and restricted property begins, you could accidentally shoot someone. You may also be on private or public property that does not allow you to transport firearms or hunting gear. If you have permission to hunt on someone's property, take additional boat hunting safety precautions. For instance, you may want to wear orange outer garments or even colored hunting boots. Try to avoid camouflage life jackets, as they are incredibly difficult to see.

Pack Smart

Finally, another vital safety precaution is considering all the cargo and supplies you will take when hunting on the boat. You will need to prioritize what you bring so that you can get the proper equipment on board. In addition to the essentials, you may want to consider a few things to take when hunting, such as

  • Float plan
  • Compass waterproof storage
  • Warm drinking water
  • Valid hunter education card
  • Fire starting kit

A float plan is an overview of a boat excursion that you should take when hunting. It can give authorities a head start in looking for you if you fail to reach your destination. A float plan document should include the description of the vessel, schedule, and number of persons onboard. It can be especially important if only one hunter is on a trip.

If you wonder what safety precautions you should take when hunting from a boat, the guide above can help you get started. Whether you are firing your first gun or have extensive experience with dangerous wildlife, proper handling and transporting of firearms can keep you safe during stormy weather, in a capsized boat, or during boating accidents.

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