With the upcoming 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.
Most hunting and angling take place on boats less than 16-feet long. Small boats are known for their instability. Recreational boating data from the U.S. Coast Guard and the Boating Program shows 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 always required to wear life jackets on boats shorter than 19 feet. However, the Boating Program advises everyone, regardless of age, to wear a life jacket. More hunters die each year from drowning and cold-water immersion than from gunshot wounds. 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.
Additional precautions hunters can take are as follows:
- Never overload the boat with too many people or too much gear.
- Always distribute weight evenly.
- Lean carefully when setting decoys.
- Keep a sharp lookout.
- Understand the risk of wearing waders if a boat capsizes.
- Wear several layers of synthetic materials to avoid hypothermia.
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 obtain a 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 Wash. Boater Education Card.