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Waterfowl Hunting Safety Tips

Virginia Bird Hunting

Waterfowl Hunting Safety Tips

Cold water combined with foul weather can create hazardous conditions for waterfowl hunters. Because these conditions can be dangerous, some safety tips are provided (below) so hunters can be better prepared before heading out on the water.


To stay warm and avoid the risks of hypothermia or cold water immersion:

  • Control wind and wetness by using waterproof jackets, waders, and boots.
  • Wear a belt around your waders to prevent water from entering.
  • Wear wool clothing or clothing that stays warm when wet, like some fleece products. Bring extras in a waterproof bag.
  • Wear a hat. Most warmth escapes through your head.
  • Bring a variety of high energy/sugar content food bars for quick energy and calories.
  • Your extremities are very important. It’s no fun to hunt with cold feet, hands, or head. Bring waterproof gloves and footwear, and chemical hand and foot warmers that you can put inside your gloves or boots.
  • If you fall in — go home! Or, take a break and change into warm, dry clothes.

Duck Boat Safety

When planning a hunt, check to be sure the boat is in good working condition and includes enough gas for the trip, all necessary safety gear, and boat lights and flashlights in good working order. Hunters must follow all boating rules, and everyone on board should wear a properly fitted U.S.C.G. approved life jacket, vest, or flotation coat anytime while on the water. Cell phones and radios are important communication devices and should be properly charged and kept in a waterproof bag. A GPS unit is helpful in finding your way but don’t depend solely on it as a means of navigation, as reception varies and units can fail.

  • Check the weather before leaving.
  • Choose a route close to shore and avoid crossing large expanses of open water, especially in bad weather.
  • Anchor from the bow, never from the stern.
  • Don’t overload your boat. Check the capacity plate and keep the amount of gear, dogs, and people within your weight limits. Also, be sure the load is properly balanced and try to keep movements and weight shifts (dogs and people) to a minimum. Overloading, sudden shifts in weight, or excessive weather conditions are the most common causes of boats capsizing or swamping.
  • If your boat does capsize or swamp, stay with it. Even when filled with water it will provide some floatation and is easier to see by potential rescuers.
  • Firearms should be unloaded and properly secured in a case while being trans­ported in a boat. Floating gun cases earn their keep if one happens to go overboard.
  • Be extra careful when shooting from a boat. Small boats often have little room to swing a shotgun, so be aware of where dogs and other partners are, and only shoot when all is clear. Never stand in an unsecured boat to shoot.
  • Leave a float plan with a responsible person that includes the names of all persons in your party, type and registration number of your boat, time and location of your hunt, and when you expect to return.

Waterfowl hunting can be safer and more enjoyable if you plan ahead and make safe practices part of your water-based hunt. Safety is always the first and most important measure of a successful hunt.

Duck boat safety tips contributed by the Virginia Waterfowlers Association