Cold Water Dangers to Hunters, Anglers in Idaho

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Water does not have to be near freezing to kill, it only has to be colder than a person to cause potentially fatal hypothermia.

With the waterfowl seasons about to open, waterfowl hunters who hunt from boats are urged to wear life jackets and take necessary safety precautions when on the water.

Nationwide last year, 15 hunters lost their lives in boating accidents. Eleven victims drowned because they were not wearing life jackets, the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation reports. Overloaded boats and failure to wear life jackets are leading reasons Idaho typically loses a couple of waterfowl hunters every year.

Cold water wicks body heat 25 times faster than air at that same temperature. Anyone who falls in has only a few minutes before the cold renders them numb and unable to swim.

Most boats float even when capsized or swamped, so get in or on the boat to get as far out of the water as possible. Wearing a life vest is a must. It will help preserve body heat and keeps even an unconscious person stay afloat. Get to shelter, change into dry clothing and warm up slowly.

Here are some tips to remember when using open boats during cold weather:

Life jackets only work if they are worn. Most drowning victims could have survived if they had worn theirs. Idaho law requires a life jacket on board for every passenger, and a throw-able personal floatation device is required in boats more than 16 feet long.
Stay within the load limits shown on the boat's capacity plate. All vessels under 20 feet in length and built after November 1, 1972, must have a capacity plate permanently attached and clearly visible. For boats that don't have a capacity plate, use this formula: boat length times width divided by 15 gives the number of passengers of about 150 pounds each. Distribute the load evenly and keep it low.
In a canoe, each person should paddle on the opposite side at all times to maintain balance.
Stay seated. Standing to shoot is not worth the risk of parting company with the boat. Sitting on the sides can also capsize the boat.
If the boat capsizes on a large lake, it is better to sit on top of the boat than to swim more than 100 feet with a life jacket, or 50 feet without a life jacket. By swimming or treading water, a person will cool 35 percent faster than if remaining still.
Do not swim unless there is absolutely no chance of rescue.
Leave the booze at home. Alcohol makes a person more susceptible to hypothermia, interferes with their ability to swim and to make quick decisions in an accident.
Do not be afraid to cancel the trip if the weather turns bad.


Retired2hunt's picture

  The wife and I canoe many


The wife and I canoe many reservoir waters within the state of Colorado.  Many of those waters never get above about 65 degrees farenheit.  That means falling into these waters can be deadly.  We were in the waters of 11 mile reservoir early this year.  Both of us were wearing out life vests.  The winds kicked up and it quickly became unsafe.  We paddled our way in safely.  There were others that did so as well.  Unfortunately there was a person who waded out to get a boat that had came unloose and that boat owner drowned trying to save his boat due to the very cold water that is prevelant in this reservoir.  Bottom line - always wear your life vest and if found in the water swim to your floating canoe or boat ASAP and if that is not in the area then swim towards the nearby shoreline ASAP.


GooseHunter Jr's picture

It is always amazing how we

It is always amazing how we forget about the cold water and what it can do toy and then how to take care of yourself if he do fall in.  I fell thru then ice years ago while ice fishing and I lucky enough to have my little brother right there who was able to help pull be back out of the water.  I have never been that cold in my life again and I hope to never be in a situation like that again.  We went back to where Dada was and told him and I have never seen us pack up so quickly.  I basically rode in the back of the truck naked all the way home(did not bring a change of clothes).  Got home and finally after being home for hours I finally stopped shirvering.  lets all be safe out there and get home to our familes after all our outdoor adventures.