82 million people in America regularly enjoy the ancient pastimes of hunting and fishing, and it’s hardly surprising! This is a great way to get out into nature and take time away from your hectic schedule. Hunting also gives you the opportunity to hone a new skill while you’re at it.
However, if you have been hunting for a while, you might want to explore new terrain and spice things up a little. Hunting from a boat allows you to explore hard-to-reach territories and enjoy a change of scene. Because of this, it is becoming increasingly popular in the US.
That said, when you are out on the water, things can change in an instant and there are plenty of risks that you should be aware of. Fortunately, there are loads of great ways to keep yourself safe while hunting from a boat.
Want to know more boat tips to keep in mind while you’re out on the water? Then read on to find out our top safety tips for hunting from a boat.
Make Sure That You Are Familiar With Your Boat
Before you head out for the day, it is important to familiarize yourself with the boat you’ll be using. You should take the time to test drive it before taking it out for the day and ensure that it has been properly maintained.
Handling a boat is a skill and you need to master this before you head out. Otherwise, you could end up crashing or stranding yourself on your shore with your prey!
If you aren’t confident about driving a boat then you may be able to get help from a local captain. Some boating companies have a team of captains working with them. These captains will come out with you for the day and can act as your guide.
This can be a little more expensive but it is a good option if you don’t feel confident driving a boat yourself.
Check Out the Terrain in Advance
As with a hunting trip on land, it is important to look at where you will be going before you head out. This helps you to plan your route for the day and will make the terrain more familiar.
It also alerts you to any hazards along your route. This is especially important if you are going to travel by boat.
Make sure that you familiarize yourself with boating warning signs before you head out. These can help you to avoid shallow water, rocks, and dangerous waterways.
Keep Your Boat’s Load as Light as Possible
A key part of boating safety involves keeping your boat balanced. What you load into your boat has a big impact on this.
Each boat should have a Capacity Information label near the steering wheel. Based on the boat’s size, this indicates the maximum load weight and how many people can safely travel on it. You should never exceed this limit, as you will increase your risk of sinking or capsizing the boat.
Ideally, only travel with the essential equipment. Your boat needs to contain certain safety equipment, and this has to take priority. This means planning exactly which rifles you want to use for the day, rather than bringing a selection.
You should also avoid making long overnight trips on small boats. Camping equipment can take up valuable space on your boat and will seriously weigh it down.
When loading your boat, it is also a good idea to distribute your equipment along the centerline. This reduces the risk of your capsizing.
Make Sure That You Anchor Your Boat Before Hunting
If you have experience hunting, then you’ll know that firing shots or arrows can result in quite a lot of kickback. On a boat, this sudden movement can be dangerous unless you are at a standstill.
This is why it is important to bring your boat to a stop and turn off the motor before preparing to take a hunting shot. You should also make sure that your boat is as secure as possible, ideally with the anchor down.
It is safest to take a shot from a seated position. This ensures that you don’t fall out of the boat after firing a shot. It can also help to keep you hidden from your prey.
Unload Your Firearms Until You’re Ready to Hunt
While you are out on the water, your equipment can move around quite a lot. Because of this, it is important to store your firearms properly to prevent them from going off by accident.
Before setting off, you should make sure that your firearms:
- Are unloaded
- Have the safety on
- Are stored in a secure gun case
You should also make sure that you have all of your firearm and hunting permits with you while on the water. If you leave them back onshore and can’t produce them when asked, your day’s hunting will come to an abrupt end!
Check Local Weather Conditions Regularly
Bad weather doesn’t just ruin a boat hunting trip; it can make it downright dangerous. Fog, rain, and mist can reduce your visibility on the water, and strong winds can capsize your boat.
Because of this, you should also check the local weather forecast before heading out on the water.
You should look at the forecast for the whole time that you are out hunting to ensure a sudden change won’t put you at risk. It’s also a good idea to ask residents in the area about any local weather patterns that could disrupt your trip.
If you are concerned about the weather while you’re out on the water, then you should head back to safety as soon as possible. You can always plan another trip, so it’s not worth risking your safety and staying out in a storm!
Avoid Boating During Certain Seasons
Because of the weather, some seasons are better for hunting from a boat than others. Most people agree that the boating season lasts from late April until early October.
Of course, it is possible to take a boat out outside of these months. However, you will need to winterize your boat and face a greater risk of hitting bad weather.
So if you don’t have a lot of experience boating, it’s best to stick to hunting from a boat in late spring and summer!
Never Use Drugs or Alcohol While Boat Hunting
Any experienced hunter knows that you should never use drugs or alcohol when handling firearms or arrows. This is also true while you are out on the water.
In fact, even once you have finished hunting for the day, you should wait until you are back on dry land before you crack open a beer.
Drinking while driving a boat is not just dangerous, it is also illegal in all 50 states. Even if you do not get caught, this increases your risk of getting lost or drowning if you fall overboard.
Make Sure You Are Wearing the Right Clothing
Being out on the water can leave you very exposed, so you may feel colder than you normally would on land. Because of this, it is a good idea to wear several layers of clothing, including:
- A thermal base layer (on your top and bottom)
- Warm trousers that are easy to move in
- A t-shirt
- A long-sleeved fleece
- A windproof and waterproof layer for on top
- Thick socks
- A pair of gloves (in case the temperature drops)
Some people prefer to wear survival suits, which hold in the heat and keep water out. However, in the summer months, you might find these too warm.
You should also bring at least one spare set of clothes in case you do capsize or fall overboard. Even during the summer, the temperature of the water can be freezing and a person can quickly develop hypothermia. So it is essential that you have a set of clothes on hand that are stored in a dry bag for safety.
In the summer, the sun can reflect off the water. This means that even on a cool day, you can run the risk of getting sunburnt. So it is a good idea to bring a hat with a protective neckpiece and plenty of sunscreen.
Always Wear a Personal Flotation Device
Even the most experienced sailor should wear a personal flotation device (PFD) while out on deck. These help to keep you afloat if the boat capsizes or you fall overboard.
You should wear your PFD even if you are a confident swimmer. Strong currents can be a challenge for any swimmer, or you could be knocked unconscious if you fall overboard.
Some advanced PFDs even contain tracking devices. This makes it easy to find people who are in the water as quickly as possible.
Never Go Hunting Alone
If you are planning a hunting trip on the water, you should never go alone. Having another person with you ensures that you have an extra pair of hands if something does go wrong. If you are hurt, they will be able to alert the authorities.
It is a good idea to take someone with you who has a similar level of hunting experience. That way, you will both have a good day out.
Alternatively, if you would prefer to hunt alone, you should rent a boat that comes with a captain. They will not get in the way of your hunting trip, but they will help to keep you safe while you are out on the water.
Before you head out on the water, you should also tell someone on land about your trip. You should inform them about:
- Where you are planning to go
- Who you are going with
- What time you are setting off
- When you should be back by
When you do arrive back on land, you should let them know right away. If they do not hear from you or you are delayed, then they will be able to alert the authorities.
Keep Yourself Well-Fed and Rested
When you are out in the wilderness, you are often a long way from immediate help. This means that you want to avoid emergencies as much as possible, and looking after yourself properly is key to this.
You should make sure that you get plenty of rest before you head out on a boat hunting trip. If you feel too tired or are unwell before your trip, then you should postpone it until you feel up to the task.
You will need plenty of energy while you are out for the day and won’t be able to stop for snacks. So make sure you eat an energy-filled breakfast and take plenty of provisions, including water, with you.
You should ration these throughout the day to make sure that they last properly and keep an emergency stash to one side. That way you know that you will have plenty of food to keep you going until you get back to land.
It is also a good idea to stay away from caffeinated drinks while you are out hunting. These can give you a temporary boost of energy but you usually crash shortly afterward. They can also make you need the restroom more, so they are best avoided on a boat!
Instead, make sure that you drink plenty of water throughout the day and have plenty reserved for an emergency.
Enjoy a Great Day Out Hunting From a Boat
Hunting from a boat allows to you explore new terrain and find prey that might live off the beaten track. It’s also a great option if you’re looking to try out a different style of hunting!
However, it is important that you keep these hunting safety tips in mind before taking a boat out. They will ensure that you stay safe while on the water.
Want to learn more about ways to hunt from the water? Then check out our ultimate guide on learning to fish now!