What Safety Precaution Should You Take When Hunting From a Boat

what safety precaution should you take when hunting from a boat

Sure, you could always just hunt the way you usually do. But have you ever tried hunting from a boat? Taking the challenge up a notch, hunting from a boat can expand your horizons, bring you to new territory, and open doors to new game aside from the usual fish. Not to mention the fact that it feels mad cool.

But before you load up your boat with ammunition and firearms, there are some serious precautions you need to take. Hunting alone is already ripe with all sorts of dangers. Take those risks and throw them into a vessel moving over choppy waters, and it's easy to see why hunting on a boat can be extra dangerous. So what safety precaution should you take when hunting from a boat? Here's the low down.

Basic Safety Precautions for Hunting on a Boat

Boating and hunting have their own sets of unique dangers. But join the two together, and you get a combination of risks that makes boat hunting a little more precarious than the two activities that it brings together.

So to make sure you don't end up in an accident during your hunting trip, see to it that you observe these precautions:

Boating Safety Course

The most important safety precaution you can take is being educated. The best way to do this is by taking a Boating Safety, or boat ed, course Depending on the state you will be hunting in this course may be legally required. Even if you are not legally required to obtain the course, it will offer a solid foundation for your boating experience.

These courses will teach the new boater about rules of the road, required safety equipment, what to do in an emergency, how to properly load your boat, and even how to back your trailer properly. You will also learn regulations specific to the area you will be boating in, so even you are an experienced boater it is possible to learn something new.

Most states provide multiple options when it comes to obtaining these courses. If you travel a course from your home state is usually honored nationwide, just like your driver's license.

Wear Your Personal Flotation Device

At all times, if possible. And it doesn't even matter if you know how to swim - the PFD is necessary for safety. Your PFD can quite literally save your life especially in choppy water or dangerous weather.

It's also worth mentioning that not all PFD designs will be a match for hunters boat hunting. So make sure you read the fine print before you make a purchase.

The PFD should help you stay afloat just in case of capsizing or swamping, or in case you're tossed overboard. Anything can happen when you're face to face with mother nature. So it's important that you give yourself the best chance of survival in case push comes to shove.

Remain Seated When Shooting

With a moving target or an animal that's just out of sight, you might find yourself wanting to take your rump off of your boat so you can get a better vantage point. But the Boat Ed quizlet advises strongly against standing on your boat while you're shooting.

Why should that be a safety practice? Well, it's simple. When you shoot your gun, the recoil could push you back and cause you to fall overboard. Of course, you might be thinking that your gun isn't strong enough to kick you back. But if you're standing on a boat that's floating on water, movements and force tend to be exaggerated. So it isn't an unlikely outcome.

Make Sure Your Boat is Stopped

The sight of a target might have you pulling out your crossbow and aiming even while your boat drifts down the current. But shooting from a moving boat could warrant a trip to the emergency room if you're not careful. This is especially true for flat bottom boats that tend to be more unstable.

As you take out and fire your gun on a moving boat you put yourself at risk of misfiring especially if your vessel knocks into something in the water like a large fish.

If you're hunting in strong water currents or waves, then a sudden jolt in the flow could move your vessel, mess up your aim, and cause you to shoot your firearm away from the target.

Anything could go wrong on a moving boat. So to make sure you don't fire your weapon at the wrong target and to secure the safety of any hunter around, see to it that your boat is completely stopped before you pull out your gun or crossbow.


One of the most common safety hazards involving hunters is the overloading of their boat. An overloaded boat is not only prone to sinking, but also more difficult to maneuver in an emergency. How do you know if you have overloaded you boat?

First, check the capacity plate. Your capacity plate will list the following information:

  • Number of Passengers
  • Weight, passengers
  • Weight, passengers & gear
  • Maximum HP

If either the number of passengers, weight/passengers, or weight/passengers& gear is exceeded your boat is overloaded. If the water is above the normal water line the boat may be overloaded.

Second, examine the freeboard. Once your boat is fully loaded, and before you leave the dock, check the distance between the water and the top edge of the boat. The less distance between the water and top edge the greater the danger.

It is also important your boat is loaded properly. The weight should be distributed evenly front to back, with the heaviest items stowed in the middle of the boat and lower in the hull. This will lover the center of gravity and reduce the possibility of tipping.

Flat bottom boats offer an impressive size to weight capacity ratio. However, if you overload your boat it will be still be very hard to maneuver and more likely to capsize.

Save the Beer for Dry Land

You might have gotten used to cracking open a cold one whenever you go fishing. But because you're trying to take extra safety precaution to maintain the safety of your vessel and your hunting trip, you're going to want to save the booze until after your little excursion.

Alcohol can easily mess up with your senses and affect your judgement. With a gun in your hand, that can be a potentially dangerous situation that could put you and any other hunters in the area at risk of accidents and injury.

It's a must to avoid alcohol whenever you hunt from a boat to keep your judgement and perception as sharp as they can be.

Check the Weather

You already know this one. Anytime you step out for a boating trip, the first thing you must do is check the weather. Your safety will rely heavily on the conditions around you, and strong winds and rain come together to create the perfect conditions for an accident.

Weather is a primary concern for any hunter. Evidence has made it clear that animal activities are tied to weather patterns. But when boating the weather is a bigger concern. Changes in the weather can make being on the water extremely dangerous very quickly.

The first step is understanding how the weather will affect your boat. Hunters utilize smaller, often flat bottom or paddle craft. These designs are great for fishing and hunting , but far less stable in high winds or swift current. Remember to practice operating your boat as you will be running it when hunting – all your gear packed as it will be. This will allow you to learn how it handles under normal conditions and better prepare you for when things get worse.

Next, you need to know what the predicted weather for your hunting area is. After all, how can you tell if anything unusual is occurring if you do not know what is normal?

As you always would, make sure you listen to the weather news before you head out as a primary precaution. But don't just rely on forecasts. Always tick to your gut and monitor the situation while you're out on the waves. At the first signs of a storm, see to it that you head out of there to avoid safety risks.

Lighting, thunder, extremely dark clouds, and incoming cold fronts are all signs of decreasing weather conditions. If you witness any of these conditions, it is time to head to shore.

Be Prepared

Being prepared is about more than having an overabundance of gear or knowledge. It is also about your mental state. Evidence strongly supports the theory that having the right mental attitude can make a major difference in surviving traumatic situations.

It is important to know your limitation and avoid getting into situations you are unprepared to handle. Know the laws for your area, wear your PFD and know how to use your equipment and you will be more likely to enjoy your hunting trip.

Knowing that you have the knowledge to handle your boat, even in a less-than-ideal situation, is important. If something does happen it is vital that you keep your head, remain calm, and allow yourself to use the knowledge and gear you have available to survive. You are not only a hunter, you are now a boater as well.

What are the Laws for Hunting from a Boat?

Boating safety is a big deal for parks and wildlife areas that allow hunting, not only for the benefit of the animals, but for the hunters as well. So aside from the standard list of safety precaution and practices, there are going to be regulations and rules in place to make sure that the space is kept safe and orderly for everyone who's there to visit.

The laws for hunting from a boat aren't always the same and change from place to place, so it's a must that you get informed before you get started. Some laws protect certain types of wildlife that might be protected against hunting. Other laws prohibit hunting in specific areas of the property.

Whatever the case, make sure you have all of your legal requirements at the ready. This includes your boating license, hunting license, tags, and permit. Other documents to keep within reach include boat and gun permits, and your personal identification.

Is It Important to Know How to Swim?

Drowning is no laughing matter. While boats might seem stable, safe, and dry, there are a number of factors that could cause your vessel to capsize. And even if your vessel stays upright, there are countless other factors that could toss you overboard.

It doesn't really matter if you're fishing or hunting in shallow water, or if you think it's not likely to fall into the waves. Anyone can drown in just a few inches of water under the right conditions. So it's vital that you at least know how to float and how to wade your way to safety.

And because it's always recommended that you take someone with you if you're hunting from a boat, it's a must that they also know how to swim. But remember - even if you swim as good as an Olympic athlete, the life jacket is something you should never overlook. Wear your personal flotation device at all times to minimize the risk of drowning.

The Importance of a Float Plan

Anytime you take your boat out - whether for hunting or fishing - you must prepare a float plan. This document details all of the specifics of your trip, including your destination and route, the time frame and schedule of your activities, your passengers, descriptions of your boat to identify it versus other boats, and any important items and possessions you might have on board.

When you prepare your float plan, it's important that you leave a copy behind with a trusted friend or family member. You can also leave a copy with the park management if they allow you to. The purpose of the float plan is to let others know your exact plan so they can alert the authorities in case you don't return when you intend to.

The float plan is perhaps one of the most important safety precautions you should take when hunting from a boat because it gives rescuers a clear idea of where to look for you in case you don't return at the intended time. Just make sure that you stick to the schedule on your plan so as not to trigger a false alarm.

How to Transport Firearms on a Boat

What safety precaution should you take when hunting from a boat with firearms in tow?

Hunters can't just load all of their hunting gear on your boat and go on their way. Firearms are dangerous enough just as they are. But toss them into boats (that comes with their own unique dangers) and you could be cooking up a recipe for disaster. So to minimize the risks in favor of boat safety, you need to make sure you're transporting your firearms the right way.

To maintain safety, see to it that you follow these safety precautions if you're boat hunting with one other person:

  • Keep your firearm unloaded and with the safety on
  • Stow the first firearm towards the bow with the muzzle facing the forward
  • Let the owner of the firearm enter the boat and sit towards the bow
  • Stow the second firearm towards the stern with the muzzle facing backward
  • The owner should then step in last and take their place towards the stern

Exiting the hunting boat follows the same steps, with one owner exiting first and taking his firearm, and then the second exiting next and taking his firearm. Following these steps should help keep every hunter safe when hunting from a boat.

Tips for Hunting with More Than One Person

What safety precaution should you take when hunting from a boat with another person? It's enough work to figure out how to keep your boat safe when hunting alone, but what precautions should you take when hunting from a boat with a partner? Here are some tips.

  • Sit back to back with each hunter facing opposite directions
  • Decide on the scope of your hunting range. The best would be 180° in front of each hunter 
  • Be conscious of your partner's movements while you hunt. Some hunters come up with a system of gestures to let the other person know when you spot a target or when you intend to shoot
  • As an extra safety precaution, hunters should avoid shooting in the same direction at the same time. The recoil of your shot could push your boat back and cause instability enough to take on water or to capsize your vessel in certain conditions
  • The owner should then step in last and take their place towards the stern

Tips to Avoid Capsizing and to Keep Your Boat Stable

One of the problems with boat hunting is that the strength of your gun's recoil and the exaggerated movement of the water surface make for a highly unstable situation. So to avoid capsizing when you take a shot, consider these safety precautions from expert hunters:

  • Don't overload your boat especially flat bottom boats. The more your boat's weight, the deeper it sits in the water, and the more you risk taking on water with each wave
  • Properly distribute weight to keep the boat level on the surface of the water
  • If you're taking a hunting dog, make sure it's trained to lay still and have the hunting dog lie down at the center of the boat. Remember they will react to the shot as well. Make sure you have a place from which they can easily, and safely, enter or exit the water. The easiest way to accomplish this is a dog platform/ladder. See more tips on boating with dogs.
  • Never fire your weapon in moving water
  • Avoid areas of water with lots of fish activity

What to Pack When Hunting From a Boat

It's easy to overload your boat with gear and other items when you're not used to packing light. Everything might seem like an essential when you're on dry land. But it's important that you keep your hunting boat as light weight as possible to prevent accidents.

There are two types of safety equipment you need to make sure you have on any boating trip- that which is required by laws of your state and that which is optional but may save you when things go wrong. Let's look at both and what hunters pack in more detail.

Required Safety Equipment

These are items that state or federal boating regulations require each boater to have onboard. Failure to do so may result in a fine if your boat is inspected by authorities. Of course, they are also items you may need in an emergency. Below is a list of the most commonly required items, although it may change slightly depending on where you are boating.

  • Personal Floatation Device (life jackets or PFDs)
  • Sound Producing Device
  • Navigation Lights
  • Fire Extinguisher
  • Flares
  • First Aid kit

Optional Safety Equipment & Hunting Gear

These items may not be required by law, but they can be vital in an emergency. The below list can be customized based on where and when you will be hunting.

  • Change of clothes, including a waterproof jacket
  • VFH radio
  • Smartphone in a waterproof case
  • Small waterproof flashlight
  • Anchor and line
  • Emergency food & water (easy to eat snacks like granola bars)
  • GPS, chart & compass
  • Manual pump or bucket (to bale with)
  • Tool kit for minor repairs
  • Weapons
  • Ammunition

Remember to check your local regulations. Some jurisdictions have additional legal requirements for safety equipment. Some states also require additional precautions during cold water periods.

What You Should Wear

Your outfit for fishing and hunting from a boat would be pretty much the same. Even if you try to avoid falling into cold water, splashes can get you wet. So you're going to want to wear thick layers of clothing to protect you. Aside from quick dry long sleeve shirts, you can layer with a padded waterproof jacket and then finally your life jacket.

A pair of thick socks inside your hunting boots can keep your feet nice and toasty even when they get wet with cold water. And then of course, you should make it a point to pack some clean, dry clothes to wear under your waterproof jacket in case you get too wet for comfort.

What Safety Precautions Should You Take When Hunting From a Boat

So what safety precaution should you take when hunting from a boat? There are quite a handful. But sticking to these guidelines and safety precautions can help prevent major accidents while you hunt that could even go as far as costing your or a fellow hunter their life. These hunting and boat safety practices won't only spare you from injury, but should also keep the park safe for everyone who wants to enjoy it.

The next time you find yourself planning a boat hunting excursion, make sure you check back on these rules. Wear the right clothes, prepare and wear your life jackets, be careful with your gear, and stay vigilant of the weather and your surroundings to curb the risk of accidents and injury.

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