With waterfowl hunting season in full swing, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has another safety reminder for the state's bird hunters.
In a Thursday news release, the agency warns waterfowl hunters to always wear life jackets when boating, saying more die "year after year" from boat-related mishaps than from firearm accidents.
In fact, five Minnesota duck hunters – including two minors – have died from drowning, cold water shock, or hypothermia in the last five years. Two of those victims – who were not wearing life jackets – died last year, the DNR says.
“The importance of water safety and life jacket use needs to be impressed upon waterfowlers in the same manner as the tenets of firearm safety,” said Debbie Munson Badini, DNR boat and water safety education coordinator.
The warning comes as the hunting season wears on and temperatures across the state drop, turning many of Minnesota's waterways "dangerously" cold.
Splashing into a frigid pond or lake might not sound terribly threatening, but the DNR says falling overboard can strike "even the strongest swimmers" with cold-water shock and cause them to drown in "a matter of seconds" if they aren't wearing life jackets.
Other common causes of such fatalities are capsizing, and "swamping" – which happens when a boat is overloaded with passengers or equipment.
“Duck hunters are boaters, too," Munson Badini said in the release, reminding that the safety measures also watercraft operators are expected to take also apply to waterfowlers.
The DNR's boating safety guidelines can be found here.