Duck boat safety tips

Selecting a life jacket for a child. This slideshow requires the latest version of Adobe Flash Player.

According to national statistics, more hunters die every year from cold water shock, hypothermia and drowning than firearms mishaps. There have been no duck hunter drownings in Minnesota during the last two waterfowl seasons.


  • Minnesota law requires a readily accessible U.S. Coast Guard approved life vest for every person on duck boats.
  • For boats 16 feet and longer, there must be one U.S. Coast Guard approved flotation seat cushion on board, to throw to someone in distress.
  • Seat cushions are no longer approved as primary flotation devices. Everyone on the boat needs a wearable life jacket of the proper size and type.
Three duck hunters wearing proper life jackets

Waterfowlers with several types of life jackets made for hunters.

Safety tips

  • Don't wear hip boots or waders in the boat. If you fall into the water and try to pull your boots off, they often only come down part way. This binds your feet together so you can't kick to stay afloat. However, if you immediately pull your knees up to your chest, it's possible to float using the air trapped in the shin of the boots. Make sure you practice this I shallow, warm water before you really need to do it.
  • Wear a life jacket to and from the blind. Life vests are available for around $35 with mesh in the upper body that allow hunters to shoulder a gun but still offer protection from cold water.
  • Don't overload the boat. It could result in a dangerous loss of freeboard, and too little freeboard is an invitation to the first large wave to swamp your boat.
  • Stay near shore and avoid crossing large expanses of open water, especially in bad weather.
  • 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.
  • Bring your cell phone along in a waterproof, re-closable bag. You can use the phone without removing it from the bag.
  • Always tell someone where you are going and when to expect your return.

Download Water Safety for Duck Hunters, a free publication about waterfowl hunting boat safety.