The U.S. Coast Guard has issued a safety advisory to migratory bird hunters on the inland and coastal waters of the Northeast.
Nationally, the Coast Guard has rescued nearly 20 hunters in the last month. Five hunters died because they fell overboard or their boat capsized.
According to Al Johnson, recreational boating specialist for the First Coast Guard District, which has headquarters in Boston, “Here in the Northeast, we’ve had seven duck hunters capsize and fortunately all survived,” “With various hunting seasons open through mid-February, we want hunters to know, if you’re on the water, it is essential to be prepared. People don’t plan on drowning, but you can easily plan on not drowning.”
Be prepared for cold-water immersion. Wear a dry suit or a full-length wet suit, plus a Coast Guard-approved life jacket. Water that is 40 degrees or colder will immediately incapacitate most people.
Also have a signal kit readily available. That includes a mirror, flares, whistle, light, a VHF radio, cell phone and, most importantly, a float plan left with a responsible person who knows whom to call if you fail to return as scheduled.
Life jackets must be worn on Massachusetts and Connecticut waters through mid-May, and in Maine on the Saco River between the Hiram Dam and the ocean through the first of June. Life jackets are required for all boaters and paddlers in New York on all vessels shorter than 21 feet through the first of May.
A boater or paddler who hasn’t taken an approved boater education course can do that during the winter. Courses are available through the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, U.S. Power Squadrons or with state, private or Internet providers.