20 Safety Tips When Hunting and Fishing from a Boat

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Fishing and hunting are two of the most practiced hobbies in all the world. Both are fun, especially if you are doing them with other people. Plus, it is a good way to connect with nature. However, it is not all fun and games. Both hunting and fishing, especially from a boat, have associated dangers. Therefore, it makes sense to try your best to keep both activities as safe as possible. 

That’s why we bring you 20 tips to make your next fishing or hunting trip is as safe as it can be:

  • Always wear a protective flotation device
  • Don’t overload your boat 
  • Distribute the weight evenly
  • Keep your deck clean and organized
  • Don’t shoot or cast from a standing position
  • Dress according to the season
  • Keep a first aid and emergency kit at all times
  • Safe weapon handling: Finger off the trigger and safety on
  • Plan Your Trip
  • Remember to stay hydrated
  • Don’t push yourself 
  • Leave all drinks at the shore
  • Learn how to swim
  • Check your gear
  • Beware of other boats
  • Mind your surroundings
  • Watch your speed
  • Take boating lessons
  • Always have a plan B
  • Learn safety drills 

Let’s take some time to review each one of these 20 safety tips that every angler on hunter should follow to have the safest trip possible. 

Wear a Personal Flotation Device

You are inside the water. Thus, it makes perfect sense to wear something to keep you floating if you happen to fall from the boat. And that is what a personal floatation device does (PFD); keeps you floating. Even if you know how to swim, you should always wear one. In fact, wearing a PFD is mandatory in some waters. 

PFD is especially important if you are fishing or hunting during cold seasons. Because the water is cold, your body can enter in some sort of shock. Thus, your extremities are quite likely to get numb, making it hard for you to keep yourself above the water. So, a PFD could be the difference between life and death. 

Another thing that you should keep in mind is that swimming in cold water makes your body lose heat faster. Your heart starts pumping blood faster, and it gets cold as it passes through your body. As a consequence, you will lose more heat than staying still. In this case, the best thing that you can do is to stay close to the boat and wait for someone to help you. 

A good way to keep your body warm if you are inside the water is to get your knees as close to your chest as possible and grab them with your arms. This is known as the H.E.L.P position. 

Don’t Overload the Boat

Most people that fish or hunt from a boat use a small craft. Hence, space is something that you don’t have, which means that you have to make the most out of it. 

The first rule of fishing or hunting from a boat is not to overload it. Make sure to read how much weight the craft can handle, and try your best not to exceed it. If you choose to ignore it, the boat will eventually sink. 

Weight Distribution is Key

Boats, kayaks, and other small crafts are more unstable than large boats. Therefore, if you are fishing or hunting from one of these, you must make sure to distribute the weight as evenly as possible. What we try to say is not to put all your gear on one side of the boat. 

Avoid placing heavy things on the stern too. As the boat picks up the speed, this side will sit closer to the water, making the boat more likely to sink. 

Another handy advice is not to stack the gear. This will only move the center of gravity and place it above the boat, making it more unstable. So, the logical thing to do is to keep the stack height as low as possible. In other words, place everything as close to the boat floor as physically possible. This will keep the center of gravity close to the craft; thereby, making it more stable. 

Now, weight distribution also applies when loading and unloading a boat. The easiest and safest way to do it is from the inside of the craft. Tell someone to help you, or place everything on the dock and load the boat one thing at a time. 

Keep your deck clean and organized

It is a lot easier to safely handle your gun or rod if the deck is clear, and everything is where it is supposed to be. Keep the hooks inside the tackle box, arrows inside the quiver, and knives should remain sheathed at all times. 

You should have a clear path to stand up and get in and out of the boat without any problem. So, keep all the gear at either side of the craft and properly tied down. 

Make sure to wash away the slime each time you land a fish. And keep the deck as dry as possible. 

Don’t Cast or Shoot from a Standing Position  

Remember what we were talking about weight distribution and center of gravity? Well, this is the same thing. When you cast, you tend to use all of your body in a sudden, quick move. Thus, if you are standing, the center of gravity of the boat will sit higher. And you are quite likely to fall off-board if you cast from this unstable position. 

Yes, we know that it is a little hard to cast while you are sitting down. But it is safer this way, especially if you haven’t fish from a boat or kayak before. We only recommend casting from a standing position to those anglers that have been practicing canoe fishing or kayak fishing for a long time. 

The same applies if you are shooting. The weapon’s recoil could make you fall from the ship. Therefore, it is not a good idea to shoot from a standing position. Besides, you will have more accuracy if you shoot while you are sitting down. 

Now, reeling the fish to the boat is another, slightly dangerous activity. You will move while you muscle the fish, shifting the boat’s center of gravity. It is a good idea to use your body to countermeasure the fish movements. And stay as close to the center of the boat as possible. 

Things get easier if you are fishing or hunting with a friend in the same boat. He or she can move the boat and keep it balanced, so you don’t have to. Needless to say, both of you can’t cast, shoot, or fight a fish at the same time. It will only make things worse. 

If you are in a big craft, like a yacht or something similar, you don’t have to worry about these things. Nevertheless, most people fish or hunt from a small canoe, kayak, or boat. It is easier to navigate through narrow streams. Plus, it is more exciting. 

Dress According to the Season

Having the right clothes for the occasion is also quite important. If it is sunny outside, you should put on breathable clothes with light colors to reflect the sun. A pair of glasses are also a great idea to protect your eyes from the sun. We recommend using polarized shades.  

Alternatively, you should wear long, warm clothes during cold weather. Gloves, beanies, thick socks, waterproof jacket or poncho, and boots are all good choices for this kind of climate. 

You must be thinking; what clothes have to do with safety? Well, in the first place, they can protect you from severe sunburns. Plus, thick clothes will keep your body warm, preventing you from suffering from hypothermia. You might think that hypothermia is a little too much, right? You should know that you start suffering from hypothermia once your body temperature falls below 95 ºF (or 35 ºC). Of course, you won’t die if your body temperature falls to 95 ºF. Still, your fingers get numb after some time, making things harder. The symptoms will get worse as you lose heat. 

Wearing a decent pair of shoes with enough grip is a smart move when fishing or hunting from a boat. The boat’s deck is likely to get soaked with water. Therefore, a pair of shoes with an anti-slip sole could save you from some trouble. 

First Aid and Emergency Kits: Your New Best Friends

A first aid kit is a must for any kind of boating activity. Bandages, band-aids, emergency blankets, tourniquets, scissors, antiseptic, meds like acetaminophen and ibuprofen, and plastic gloves are essential items that any first aid kits should have. You should be able to take care of any minor wound with these items. 

Moreover, a flare gun, extra snacks, water, batteries, and emergency whistle are key items of any emergency kit

Safe Weapon Handling

A firearm is no toy. Many hunters die from gunshot wounds each year. Thus, you should try to handle your gun with the highest degree of care. The first thing that you should do is to keep the safety on while you are not shooting. 

The muzzle of the gun should be pointing down at all times, unless you have the intention of shooting it, of course. It should be needless to say, but you shouldn’t look down through the muzzle or point the gun at something without the intention of shooting. 

Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to take the shot. Some guns have such a sensible trigger that they could go off with the slightest touch. Plus, the boat movement increases this risk. Therefore, make sure to keep your finger away from the trigger until the moment arrives.

Make sure to know where your companions are before taking any shot. Additionally, don’t shoot if there is nothing behind your prey that can stop the bullet. Bullets can travel a couple of yards even after hitting your target. So, it is better not to fire your gun if you don’t know what lies behind it. It is also a good idea not to shoot a hard surface at point-blank. The bullet can ricochet and hit you. And believe us, this is something that you don’t know. 

Keeping the arrows inside the quiver at all times is the best safety advice for those old-school hunters. Take them out only if you are ready to shoot. 

Lastly, don’t leave the weapon down while you are not using it. You should use the shoulder tap or place the gun with the barrel looking up instead. And, unload the gun once you finish your hunting session.  

Plan Your Trip

Going on a boat trip requires some planning. First, you should get to know the waters. It is important to identify the possible hazards that you might encounter, such as underwater debris, strong currents, and aggressive animals. Bringing a radio, phone, stress beacon, and flashlights are also part of planning a safe fishing or hunting trip. 

You should always go with another person, if possible. It will be easier to get things done this way. Besides, you will have someone to help you if things go south. Additionally, you should tell someone about your trip, where he or she can contact you, and your ETA.

Still, we know that some people like to fish or hunt alone. Either way, you should tell someone about your plan. It is the only way to ensure that, if you get into trouble, someone will come and help you. 

If you are planning on fishing with a group, you must make sure to set a place and time where all of you can rendezvous. 

Fishing and hunting from a boat often mean drifting and seating in the water for hours. Thus, it is a good idea to keep track of where you are. You can use landmarks such as trees or rocks to do so. You should also bring a compass, GPS and a map. This way, you can find your way back if you ever get lost. If you don’t know how to read a map you should try to learn.

Last but not least, check the weather forecast before your fishing or hunting trip. It is better to stay inside if the weather is harsh. And learn to read the waters so you can notice if the tide is changing. 

Remember to stay hydrated

Keep water and protein-rich snacks on board in all your fishing and hunting trips. It is a good way to refuel your energy, which is something that you will need during the entire trip. And keep drinking water! Dehydration is very common among the inexperienced and is something that you want to avoid. 

Don’t push yourself 

There is no need to need to push yourself to your limits. Be smart about what you can and can’t do. Neither hunting nor fishing involves showing off. In other words, keep things simple, especially if you haven’t gone hunting or fishing from a boat before.

Don’t paddle too long and learn when to let go. For example, some fishes are stronger than others. Thus, they are harder to land and could even drag you and your boat. In this case, when you are overwhelmed by the strength of nature, it is better to cut the line and leave the fight to another day. Plus, if you manage to land a massive beast, it is quite likely that you won’t have any strength left to paddle back to the shore. 

The same applies if you are hunting. Don’t paddle after your prey for too long, and get back if the waters start to get dangerous. 

Some fish species or animals are more active at night. However, not all people can navigate during the night. Thus, avoid it if you aren’t a seasoned skipper.

Leave All Drinks at the Shore

If drinking and driving is not alright, so does drinking and paddling. Thus, it is better to leave them at the shore, especially if you are hunting. 

We know that it will be quite hard not to pop a beer while you are sitting waiting for a bite. Thus, try your best not to drink too much. Remember that alcohol dulls the senses, and you need them to fish, hunt, and prevent an accident.

The same applies for drugs. Don’t use them. 

Learn how to swim

Even though you are wearing a PFD, and it is better to stay near the boat if it happens to sink, you still should learn how to swim. Sometimes you might need to swim back to shore or the nearest rock. Besides, you are fishing or hunting from the water. Therefore, it makes sense to learn how to swim just in case. 

Check Your Gear

You should check all your gear each time you go fishing or hunting. Make sure that each piece is in top condition, especially your boat or kayak. Look out any holes in the hull or sides. Test the paddle and change it if necessary. 

If your boat has an engine, see if it is working properly and check the fuel lines for signs of leakage, replace them if needed. Keep a set of paddles always on board in the case of engine failure. This way, you will have the means to get back to the shore.

Inspect the barrel of your gun and search for any obstruction. Disassemble it and check that the insides are properly oiled. By doing this, you will reduce the risk of malfunctioning. 

Beware of Other Boats 

Hunting or fishing during peak seasons means that you are likely to encounter other people during your trips. There should be nothing to worry about as long as you and the other person follow some sailing safety tips. 

For example, stick to your right if you see another boat approaching, stay clear from bigger vessels, and warm the other Capitan before overtaking his or her vessel are simple sailing rules that everyone must follow. 

If you are fishing or hunting in a small craft, make sure to keep an eye out for incoming boats. Their wakes are dangerous and can flip your kayak or canoe.

Mind Your Surroundings 

It is quite easy to get so immersed in the experience that you just don’t pay attention to what’s around you. Needless to say, this is a big mistake, especially if you are on your own. 

So, the best thing that you can do is to look around from time to time. Pay attention to the winds, clouds, and tides as each one changes over time. It is also a good idea to check if there are any dangerous animals along the shore or trees; don’t disturb them. 

If you are fishing with another person, make sure to know where she or he is before you cast. The same applies before firing your gun or bow

Watch Your Speed

Make sure to follow all regulations regarding the speed limit, especially near docks or piers. You will put other people at risk if you choose to ignore them. Besides, it is quite likely that you will get a huge fine for your transgression. 

Take Boating Lessons 

Hunting and angling take a lot of practice to master. And it takes a lot much more if you are planning to do it from a boat. The first step is to take boating lessons. Learn how to paddle, stir, and control the engine, provided that your boat has one. 

It also pays to get acquaintance with current sailing rules. Know what you can or can’t do. Keep in mind that this could change depending on where you are fishing. 

Always Have a Plan B

Things could go wrong even if you take all the necessary precautions. That is why you should have a plan B. For example, set a secondary reunion point, know where you can go if you need medical attention, and have all the emergency numbers at hand. 

Remember to keep calm above all else. Panicking is the worst thing that you can do in an emergency. Take all the time you need to decide what you should do next. 

Learn Safety Drills 

Knowing what to do before an accident is crucial. It is the only way to prevent the situation from scaling. If you are hunting, you should know how to apply a tourniquet and how to bandage a wound. 

Stay close to the boat before a capsize. Get into the H.E.L.P position, if you are alone and the water is cold. Practice how you can flip the kayak and how to swim while grabbing an unconscious person.

Learning CPR could prove to be useful. Hopefully, you won’t need to use it. 

Be Smart, Keep Your Trips Safe

Hunting and fishing are dangerous activities on their own. For instance, you can get hooked if you don’t manage the fish with care. Or cut yourself with an arrow. Thus, you should handle your gear with the highest degree of care possible. 

As you should expect, fishing or hunting from a boat is even more dangerous. But there are many things that you can do to make your trip as safe as it can be. The first thing is to wear a personal flotation device. It also pays to learn how to swim, manage the boat, inspect your gear before use, and keep up to date with the latest regulations.

Keeping an emergency and first aid kit inside the boat at all times is one of the smartest things you can do. Take all the time you need to carefully plan your fishing and hunting trip. Tell someone where you are going and how much time you will be out. There is no such thing as exaggerating when it comes to safety.

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