Connecticut Migratory Bird Hunting Guide

Waterfowl Hunter Water Survival Tips

Why do some waterfowl hunters lose their lives by drowning? Drownings occur because the victim made the wrong decision; did not realize the dangers of boating in rough, cold water; was not properly prepared; had the wrong equipment; or failed to wear a life jacket, also known as a personal floatation device (PFD).

Victims of small boat accidents often did not realize that small watercraft can be extremely unstable. Once a waterfowl hunter falls overboard into cold, rough water, the chances for survival are slim. Cold water kills – even those in excellent condition who know how to swim.

The vast majority of those who die in boating accidents were not wearing a PFD. A PFD could save a person's life, but it will be of little use if it is not worn and does not fit properly. Connecticut boating law states that anyone on board a manually propelled craft between October 1 and May 31 must wear a life jacket at all times. The life jacket must be a Type I, II, III, or V-Hybird. DEEP recommends all persons boating on cold waters wear a life jacket.

Important information waterfowl hunters need to read through and keep in mind if they plan to use a boat to hunt:

Boating Safety Checklist
  • Always leave a FLOAT PLAN with someone ashore. Be specific about where you are going and when you expect to be back. Make sure you report in when you return.
  • Know the weather forecast, particularly wind and wave conditions.
  • One PFD for each occupant of the boat.
  • Throwable ring bouy or floatation device
  • Emergency gear-flares, whistle, and air horn
  • Extra anchor
  • Oars
  • Bailing bucket
  • First aid kit
  • Tool kit
  • Extra propeller
  • Extra clothes in a waterproof bag
  • VHF radio or cellphone that is waterproof
  • Compass
  • Do NOT drink alcohol.
Loading the Boat and Under Power
  • ALWAYS wear your PFD.
  • Hand equipment, decoys, etc., to someone already in the boat.
  • Do not board boat with hands occupied with gear.
  • Make sure weight is evenly distributed throughout the boat, this includes you and your dog!
  • Keep center of gravity in boat low. Do not stack equipment high as this can lead to instability.
  • Stow and tie down all loose anchor lines and bow lines to avoid tripping and to keep the lines from getting caught in the propeller.
  • Keep track of your dog.
  • Keep navigation lights on.
Kayaking/Canoeing and Hunting
  • ALWAYS wear your PFD (required by state law from October 1 through May 31).
  • Be aware of weather conditions and know your limitations.
  • Always steer into boat wakes or waves in a perpendicular manner.
  • Never stand in a kayak or canoe.
  • Do not overload your kayak or canoe with gear.
  • All manually propelled vessels must have a noise-producing device (e.g., whistle) on-board.
Cold Water Boating
  • ALWAYS wear your PFD.  
    •  88% of boating deaths are from drowning.
    •  90% of these are from people not wearing a PFD.
  • Dress in layers.
  • Wear synthetic fabrics or wool.
  • Wear a hat; over 50% of heat loss is through the head.
  • If shooting from the boat, stay seated.
  • Keep lower unit of motor in water to keep it from freezing.
  • Mind your dog and make sure it remains still and does not create added instability.
If You Fall in the Water
  • Do not panic! After the initial shock, take a deep breath and think – assess the situation.
  • Unless you are close to shore or in a safe spot, do not swim as you will waste valuable heat and energy.
  • If you are in waders, float on your back and keep your feet elevated.

Those who operate boats in Connecticut that are required to be registered, documented, or numbered must obtain a Safe Boating Certificate. In order to meet the requirements for a certificate, an individual must have successfully completed an approved basic boating course or received a passing grade on an equivalency examination administered by DEEP. The Connecticut Boater's Guide is a handbook of boating laws and regulations, registration information, and guidelines for safe boat operation. Printed guides can be obtained from DEEP and Department of Motor Vehicle offices, marinas, and town halls.

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Content last reviewed in May 2024.