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Ask a Conservation Officer: Boating safety while duck hunting

Q: Do I need to carry the same boating safety equipment with me during waterfowl season that I do the rest of the year?

A: There are some differences in legal requirements of watercraft used during waterfowl season as opposed to the rest of the year when boating or fishing. Minnesota statute defines a watercraft used for duck hunting during duck season separately from other boats.

The primary difference is that a waterfowl boat during waterfowl season is not required to be registered with the state or to display any kind of registration numbers.

Waterfowl boats during duck season are also exempt from the navigation light requirements; it is still a very good idea to keep and display lights for alerting other boats of your location, but Minnesota Rule does not require navigation lights to be displayed at usual times.

Personal Flotation Devices (life jackets) are still required as normal on all waterfowl boats, including wearable PFD for every person on board and a Type IV throwable on any motorized craft 16 feet or longer. Duck season is a particularly important time of year to wear your life jacket at all times. Cold air and water temps add to the risk of drowning from hypothermia in the fall, and most fatal boating incidents during duck season involved victims who were not wearing life jackets.

If hunting on border waters or in other states, be sure to check local regulations for any differences from general Minnesota regulations.

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Matthew S. Miller is a Minnesota Conservation Officer with the Lake Superior Marine Unit.