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Hunters Reminded to be Safe While on the Water
November 23, 2010
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Harrisburg, PA – Hunters may not think of themselves as boaters, but with hunting season underway, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) is reminding them to wear their life jackets when they are on the water.

“Hunters using boats, canoes and kayaks must remember to wear the most important piece of equipment while on the water – a lifejacket,” says Ryan Walt, the Commission’s boating and watercraft safety manager. “People drown needlessly every year because they fail to wear their life jacket.

“If you are headed out on the water for a day of hunting, or running that winter trap line, following basic water safety tips will go a long way towards making sure your hunting trip is a safe one,” says Walt.

Basic water safety tips include:  

Wear a lifejacket or float coat.  Lifejackets are available in various price ranges and some are made specifically for hunters and allow room to shoulder a gun, but still offer protection from cold water.  A lifejacket can make a difference between life and death for a hunter or trapper who falls into coldwater.  Camouflage models are available as well as float coats that meet U.S. Coast Guard requirements.

Keep an eye on the weather.  Don’t let blue skies at the start of a hunting trip affect your judgment, and be sure to get an up-to-date weather forecast.

Don't overload the boat.  Overloading can result in swamping and capsizing.  Modern outboard boats have a capacity plate that indicates the maximum motor horsepower as well as the carrying capacity of the boat.  This is a good way to determine whether or not your boat is large enough for the gear you wish to transport. 

Stay near shore and avoid crossing large expanses of open water, especially in bad weather.  Hunting boats are typically small flat-bottom boats which are particularly unstable in rough water.  In addition, make sure you have enough fuel.  Decoys, traps, and dogs weigh more than fishing rods and tackle boxes, and will demand more power (and fuel) from your motor.

If your boat does capsize or swamp, stay with it.  Even when filled with water, it will provide some flotation and is easier to see by potential rescuers.  Since water conducts heat 25 times faster than air of the same temperature, it is important to keep as much of your body out of the water as possible.  If you unexpectedly enter cold water (any water less than 70˚ is considered cold), immediately attempt to re-enter the boat.  This will minimize the effects of hypothermia, and greatly increase your chance for survival.

Bring your cell phone along in a waterproof bag or case.

Have a Float Plan. Always tell someone where you are going and when to expect your return.

“Pennsylvania law requires a readily accessible U.S. Coast Guard approved lifejacket for every person on board a boat,” adds Walt.  “The life jacket must be wearable, of proper size, and type. In addition, for boats 16 feet and longer, there must be one U.S. Coast Guard approved Type IV throwable device available to throw to someone in distress.”

For more information about Pennsylvania boating regulations see the PA Boating Handbook at: http://fishandboat.com/bookboat.htm.  To help plan your next outdoor trip in Pennsylvania, visit www.visitpa.com and select “Outdoor Recreation” under Things To Do.

The mission of the Fish and Boat Commission is to protect, conserve, and enhance the Commonwealth’s aquatic resources and provide fishing and boating opportunities. For more information about fishing and boating in Pennsylvania, please visit our website at www.fishandboat.com.

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