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Duck Hunting Tips to Keep You Safe BY GREG FONZENO

Waterfowl hunting season, usually referred to as duck hunting season, is here. While all hunting needs to be done safely, and with care, hunting on the water comes with its own special dangers. While many typically think of boating accidents and deaths on the water as summer issues, one-third of all deaths on the water occur while hunting or fishing. Hunters statistically are more likely to die from drowning than accidental gunshot wounds. Many boating accidents happen in small open motorboats, 16 feet or less in length. Most hunters who die in boating accidents (70%) fall overboard as a result of either an improperly loaded boat, moving around unsafely in a small boat, or having a hunting dog repeatedly move around, changing the center of gravity in a small boat. As much as it’s emphasized that wearing a life jacket is the No. 1 safety practice for all boaters, 86% of hunters who died in boating accidents were not wearing a life jacket. In fact, 47% did not even have a life jacket on board. Such drownings easily are preventable. Modern inflatable life jackets and float coats are easy and comfortable to wear while hunting, even with warm clothing in cold weather. These safety practices will help keep your hunting experience safe and fun, instead of potentially tragic: • Do not exceed your boat’s weight capacity. Check carefully not only the passenger weight, but also that of all your equipment, dog (if with you), food, guns, ammunition, etc. • Leave a float plan with a relative or friend. Include the time you plan to leave, time you plan to return, where you plan to go on the water, a description of the boat, and when and who to call if you are overdue. • Load the boat safely. Keep the weight centered on the boat and balance it throughout. Do not overload. What appears to be balanced when stopped may not be balanced when underway. Don’t allow hunting dogs to move around freely while underway.

• Wear a life jacket or float coat. Be sure it is Coast Guardapproved and fits properly. Modern life jackets and float coats are comfortable and come in hunting styles, including camouflage. • Dress warmly. Cold water immersion and hypothermia are dangerous and can cause death. If your small boat capsizes, get as much of your body out of the water as possible, and stay with the boat to be as visible as possible. Small flat-bottom boats are prone to capsizing more easily. • Use well-trained dogs that are used to working from a boat. • Keep away from alcohol and drugs. Alcohol and drugs have no business being mixed with guns, or boating, anytime or anywhere! • Do not shoot from a moving boat. Establish shooting zones before you start shooting if you have others in the boat. Never shoot outside your assigned zone — NO EXCEPTIONS. • Keep all firearms UNLOADED while the boat is moving.

Treat every firearm as if it were loaded, and always point the muzzle in a safe direction.

• Download the free mobile Coast Guard app to your phone. The Coast Guard app can be downloaded to both iPhone

and Android. It contains all the safety information and boating laws for every state in the U.S. • Take a boating safety class. The local Coast Guard Auxiliary offers a safe-boating class once a month from February through September. Information about taking a boating education class can be requested by emailing the Lake Allatoona Coast Guard Auxiliary at flotilla22pe@gmail.com.


Greg Fonzeno is the public education officer and vice commander of the local U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Unit (Flotilla 22) at Allatoona Lake.

• Pre-K4 through 8th grade • 66 Years of Catholic education

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AROUND ACWORTH | December 2019

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