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Banding Together for Waterfowl

Safety First: Live to Hunt Another Day

Waterfowl hunters must keep safety in mind as they pursue their pleasures
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Story at a Glance
  • When it comes to safety, the old adage is true: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
  • Hunters must temper their zeal for good shooting with safety and discretion.
  • When a shell misfires or doesn't sound right, hunters must stop shooting to learn what's wrong.
  • An inexpensive home extinguisher will provide an effective means of quelling flames that threaten a blind and its inhabitants.

Blind On Fire!

Gas and charcoal heaters present an obvious danger in duck blinds, which can be dry tinderboxes waiting for a spark. Blind fires can flare quickly out of control. Stories of hunters bailing out of flaming blinds are all too common.

For instance, four years ago Cody Quick of Samburg, Tennessee, was hunting with friends on Reelfoot Lake. The morning was chilly, and when they entered the blind, one of the hunters decided to light the propane heater. He opened the valve on the gas bottle, which was on the back of boat shed. The gas flowed through a hose to the heater in the front of the blind.
However, since its last use, the hose had ruptured, and propane gas was escaping at the break. When he struck a match, flames erupted around the hose. "It happened so fast," Quick recalls. "One second everything was normal, then the next second thick smoke was completely filling the blind."

One of the hunters had the presence of mind to dash through the door and close the valve on the gas bottle. "If he hadn't done that, the blind would have burned to the waterline," Quick continues. "We'd have probably gotten out, but we might have lost our guns and equipment. It was pretty scary."

Hunters should take the possibility of fire into account and equip their blind with a fire extinguisher. An inexpensive home extinguisher mounted on a back wall will provide an effective means of quelling flames that threaten a blind and its contents and inhabitants.

Every Hunter Has Stories to Tell

In my years of waterfowling, I've had several close calls. One afternoon, two friends and I became lost in a swamp where ducks were "filling it up." We didn't have a compass. The sky was overcast, so we had no directional clue from the setting sun. A hard rain was forecast to move in that night, followed by a rapid drop in temperature. We faced spending the night on a log, drenched and battling hypothermia.

Finally, we collected our wits, waded in a straight line by keeping the wind in our face, and found our way to dry land around 11 p.m. Our panicked wives had notified the local sheriff that we were lost, and he was organizing a rescue effort.

Another time when I was young and tough, I was hunting alone next to a creek, which was the only unfrozen water in the bottoms. I shot a mallard drake that fell in the middle of the creek and started drifting steadily with the current. After a couple of minutes puzzling over what to do, I stripped naked and hit the water like a well-trained Lab. (Yes, I know – stupid.) I swam to the duck, grabbed it by the neck, and turned for the bank. That's when an overpowering fatigue set in. I almost didn't make it back. Another five yards, and I wouldn't have.

One foggy morning, trying to get to my blind, I nearly ran my boat beneath a towboat. Another day my outboard quit while I was in the channel of the Ohio River. We couldn't get it started, and a towboat was bearing down on us from upstream. We had a paddle, and my partner and I took turns paddling madly to get out of the barge's way. The pilot blew his horn at us as he plowed by, too close for comfort.

Every hunter can tell similar tales. Maybe they aren't as dramatic as having a cap bill shot off or falling through ice on a major river. Still, the nature of the sport causes hunters to take chances. Most such incidents have happy endings, but every once in a while, one leads to disaster.

Truly, hunting wildfowl is wild, exciting and challenging. That's why we enjoy it. But it's not worth risking life and limb over. There will always be another day--and another season--for those who temper their passion for the sport with prudence for staying safe. In pursuing ducks and geese, hunters should allow commonsense to reign as the good times roll.

(Wade Bourne is the author of the new book, DU Guide to Hunting Dabblers. To learn more or to order a copy, log onto the Ducks Unlimited web site: www.ducks.org.)

by Wade Bourne

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