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Do you hunt waterfowl or hunt in and around lakes, streams, rivers or ponds?

Do you use a boat or a blind near your favorite spot on the water? If you do, don’t forget to be water wise!

Waterfowl hunters seldom think of themselves as boaters, but in fact they are and need to follow the same safety precautions and laws as boaters every time they head out on the water.

Montana law requires a readily accessible U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket for every person in a boat. For boats 16 feet and longer, there must also be one U.S. Coast Guard-approved throwable device on board and be immediately available for use.

Hunting safety only takes a little bit of planning and preparation. A life jacket can save a waterfowl hunter’s life if they find themselves in the water. Life jacket designs have come a long way over the years and now come in a wide variety of styles and colors, including inflatables and foam-filled camouflage life jackets that keep you afloat and add extra insulation.

Here are some other simple things waterfowl hunters can do to stay safe on the water:

•Don’t overload your boat.

•Be extra cautious on cold days when wet clothes can instantly freeze and limit your mobility and increase your susceptibility to hypothermia.

•Weather can change at any moment. Always assume you might experience a sudden storm and be ready for dramatic weather changes. Strong winds and waves could capsize a craft or send a boater overboard.

•Make sure the boat has enough fuel. Being able to control the boat and motor into shore could save your life.

•Carry a cell phone, VHF radio or personal locator beacon for emergency communication. Keep in mind you may not have cellular service in remote areas. Three blasts on a whistle can also be used for emergency signaling.

•Leave a hunt/float plan with a family member or friend letting them know where you are going and when you plan on returning.

•Take a boater safety course and receive a boater education certificate

If you have any questions, please contact Sara Smith, boating education coordinator for FWP’s Recreational Boating Safety Program, at 406-444-5280 or sarsmith@mt.gov.

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