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I thought this was quite interesting!

SEPTEMBER 16, 2003
Media contact: Tim Smalley, Minnesota DNR boat and
water safety specialist, (651) 296-0895.

DNR urges duckboat discretion
Most duck hunters are already packing their gear for
the Sept. 27 Minnesota opener. The boat has been
repainted, missing decoy anchors replaced and the
piquant bouquet of Hoppe's Number 9 wafts up from the
"I wonder how many hunters have forgotten to pack
their life jackets," mused Tim Smalley, Minnesota
Department of Natural Resources boating safety
specialist and life-long duck hunter.
"Ever since 1988, when life jackets were first
required on board duck boats, the lack of flotation
devices is one of the most common violations DNR
conservation officers find while checking
waterfowlers," Smalley added.
DNR records indicate that although some hunters still
forget to carry life vests, the law is working. In the
15 years since life jackets were first required, seven
hunters have drowned in boating accidents.
"That's seven too many, but in the bad old days
before duck hunters were required to have life vests,
sometimes seven hunters would drown in boating
accidents in a single season," Smalley noted.
Last year two duck hunters drowned in separate boat
accidents. One hunter, who fell out of his boat while
placing decoys, wasn't able to stay afloat without a
life vest. In the other mishap, three hunters in a
10-foot boat, equipped with a small outboard motor and
loaded with gear, capsized in choppy conditions with
water temperatures in the high 30s. They all wore life
vests, but one died from hypothermia after being
immersed in the frigid water for over two hours.
The law requires that there be a readily accessible
U.S. Coast Guard approved wearable life vest for every
person on board duck boats. For boats 16 feet and
longer, there also has to be one Coast Guard approved
throwable device (seat cushion) in the boat. Seat
cushions are no longer approved as primary flotation
devices, so everyone aboard needs a wearable personal
floatation device of the proper size and type.
Of course, a life jacket does no good if its stuffed
under a boat seat when the accident happens.
"Trying to put on a life jacket during a boating
accident would be like trying to buckle a seat belt
during a car crash," Smalley said. "You just don't
have any warning that an accident is going to happen,
so the smart thing to do is wear a life vest on the
way to and from the blind."
There are new inflatable Coast Guard approved
flotation devices made with duck hunters in mind.
"The advantage to an inflatable life vest is that you
can wear one and you almost forget you have it on
because they are so comfortable," Smalley said.
The most common fatal duck hunting
accident is a capsizing or fall overboard from a small
overloaded boat. Cold and rough water conditions often
figure into the death-dealing mix. The DNR advises
hunters to take several trips in an adequately sized
boat to and from the blind, rather than overloading
the boat. Avoid cutting across large expanses of open
water. Stay closer to shore so in case of a capsize,
you have a much better chance of being seen by
potential rescuers. Stay with the boat, even if you
have to climb on top of it when its overturned.
"There is an old saying in water safety that you only
have a 50-50 chance of being able to swim 50 yards in
50 degree water," Smalley noted. "Just try holding
your hand in a bucket of ice water for three minutes.
It just about can't be done. Now imagine having your
whole body immersed in water that cold."
Contrary to common belief, waders and hip boots will
not flip a practiced wearer upside down. By bending
knees to keep the air trapped in the boots' shins, a
hunter can trap enough air to stay afloat long enough
to return to the boat.
"We have heard from hunters who survived by simply
following that simple procedure," Smalley said.
"Bodies of drowned duck hunters have been recovered
with waders pulled half way down. When the waders are
pulled down, all the air trapped inside is released
and you have a more difficult time staying afloat."
Another problem with taking off waders in the water
is that it requires the hunter to immerse the face and
head, which can induce what drowning experts call the
torso reflex.
"The torso reflex is the automatic gasp for air that
happens when your face is suddenly immersed in cold
water," Smalley said. "If your mouth and nose are
under water when the gasp occurs, drowning is the
probable outcome."
Smalley advised hunters who have to wear waders in
the boat, to practice floating in them in warm,
shallow water.
The Minnesota DNR offers these tips to help make duck
hunting trips safe and successful:
o wear a life jacket to and from the blind, with or
without waders
o don't overload your boat
o learn how to float in waders and hip boats or don't
wear them
o stay near shore; avoid crossing large expanses of
open water, especially in bad weather
o let someone know where you are going and when to
expect your return.
The DNR has a free waterfowl hunting boating safety
brochure, "Prescription for Duck Hunters," available
by calling the DNR Information Center at (651)
296-6157 or 1-888-646-6367. It may be downloaded at

[This message has been edited by CD (edited 09-18-2003).]

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