With the recent opening of waterfowl and upland game hunting seasons, Washington State Parks’ Boating Program wants people who hunt from boats to be safe and know the boating laws before they head out on the water.
“Hunting can be an extreme activity,” said Wade Alonzo, Boating Program manager. “Hunters who use boats are often doing so in conditions where disaster can strike quickly, especially in the cold weather. It’s important that hunters prepare for the possibility of changing weather, cold water shock and hypothermia.”
Most hunting and angling takes place on boats less than 16-feet long. Small boats are known for their instability. Recreational boating data from the U.S. Coast Guard an Washington state’s Boating Program show that most drowning victims were using vessels less than 21 feet in length. In addition, the primary causes of boating fatalities are capsizing, falling overboard and swamping.
Safe boating includes having enough life jackets for every person on board. Children age 12 and under are required to wear life jackets at all times on boats shorter than 19 feet. However, the Boating Program advises that everyone, regardless of age, wear a life jacket. Boaters are encouraged to carry communications equipment such as a cell phone in a waterproof container, a VHF radio and/or personal locator beacon that can be activated in case of an emergency.
Legal boating means displaying current registration decals and numbers and having appropriate navigation lights—in addition to carrying enough life jackets for everyone on board.
Hunters are strongly encouraged to get their Washington Boater Education Card. The course offers helpful tips for hunters and provides key information about safety, right-of-way, legal operation and personal responsibility when operating a boat. Anyone between the ages of 12 and 60 and operating a vessel with a 15-horsepower (or greater) motor is required by law to carry a Washington Boater Education Card.
Additional resources for hunters who wish to learn more about boating and hunting safety tips:
“Below Zero: Duck hunting safety,” (U.S. Coast Guard)
“Hunting & Fishing: Why Boating Education for Hunters and Anglers is so Important” (Boat U.S. Foundation)
“Waterfowl Hunting: Hunting Big Water, Moving Water and Marine Areas” (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.)
Hunters must possess a valid hunter education certificate and hunting license, tags and permits for whatever they are hunting. For more information about boating prepared, visit www.boatprepared.com.
About the Washington State Boating Program: Washington State Parks administers the state’s Boating Program, which provides leadership in boating safety and environmental education and outreach. The goal of the program is to reduce accidents and fatalities, increase stewardship of Washington waterways, and keep recreational boating a safe, accessible and enjoyable pastime. For more information on the Boating Program, visit: www.washingtonstateparks.us/Boating
About Washington State Parks: The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission manages more than 100 state parks and properties totaling approximately 120,000 acres. State Parks’ statewide programs include long-distance trails, boating safety and winter recreation. http://parks.state.wa.us/
– Washington State Parks