What Should You Do Before Firing A Shot From A Small Boat

While a boat is a vehicle more commonly associated with fishing, a smaller percentage of boat owners use their vessels to hunt waterfowl.

In fact, many boating examinations have questions pertaining to the process of firing a shot from a small boat for this very reason.

What Should You Do Before Firing A Shot From A Small Boat

A lot of preparation and forethought goes into firing a shot from a small boat, so we’re going to outline the steps you should take before doing so.

Read on for a comprehensive overview of what you need to know and what equipment you may need to set up before firing a shot from a small boat.

1. Check Local Legislation

As with any activity involving a firearm, it’s crucial to check your State’s local legislation regarding waterfowl hunting from a boat.

Laws surrounding hunting from boats encompass various facets of the sport, from the type of boat you can shoot from to the type of firearm you’re allowed to use.

Aside from local legislation, there are some U.S.-wide laws that you’ll need to abide by if you’re going to fire shots from a small boat.

For instance, only certain firearm makes and models are approved for use in this kind of situation: 10-gauge shotguns or smaller with a maximum capacity of 3 shells.

The shots you use will also need to be legally approved, which involves the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listing them as non-toxic. Shots that meet this criterion include:

  • Tungsten (nickel) iron shots
  • Tungsten polymer shots
  • Steel shots

Some legislations also require the use of certain pieces of safety equipment, which we’ll outline in further detail later (see ‘Invest in Safety Equipment’).

2. Obtain A Hunting Permit

Following the law regarding waterfowl hunting in your area doesn’t just involve purchasing the right shotgun and shots. Before you equip yourself with any of the above, you’ll need to make sure that you’re licensed to use a shotgun in this way.

Getting licensed to shoot waterfowl from a small boat will involve getting the correct type of hunting permit.

The type of hunting permit you need to fire shots from a small boat will vary depending on where you live, and the prerequisites may also differ, so you’ll need to do research into this well in advance of your hunting trip.

Even if you already have a hunting permit, it’s worth double-checking the expiry date to make sure that it’s still active.

3. Invest In Safety Equipment

Invest In Safety Equipment

Firing a shot from a small boat should not, in theory, be dangerous if you’re a licensed waterfowl hunter with enough knowledge of the sport.

However, it’s still important to be prepared for every eventuality, which is why it’s recommended that you invest in some safety equipment before you take your shotgun out on the water.

As with any activity involving open water, it’s important to have a high-quality life jacket. You should get one that has been approved by the U.S. Coast Guard since this is the best measurable standard for life jacket functionality.

A personal floatation device (PFD) should also be kept on board in case a passenger falls overboard and needs assistance getting back to the boat.

While we’re considering the potential risk of going overboard, it’s also prudent to invest in some thermal protective gear so that falling into the water won’t result in hypothermia.

You’ll also want to have oars and an anchor on board, as well as a water bailer in case your boat starts taking on water.

If your boat does start filling with water, or you run into another problem, you may need to make contact with somebody. You may be able to use a phone for this, but if you’re somewhere with a weak telephone signal, you might be better off bringing a VHF radio.

You should also never go out on a boat without a complete first aid kit and a tool kit in case you need to make any repairs on your trip.

Assuming that your boat is a flat-bottomed one, you might also need to purchase a pontoon. This is because boats with flat bottoms are easier to capsize and may need a little extra help staying stable (which is crucial if you’re going to be firing shots from your boat).

However, if purchasing a pontoon isn’t an option, there are other ways of keeping your boat as stable as possible, even if it has a flat-bottomed construction.

Just make sure that your gear (including safety equipment) is distributed evenly across your boat to prevent it from tilting one way or another. This also applies to any animals you may be bringing on board – especially dogs.

An overexcited dog who isn’t trained for waterfowl hunting can easily cause a flat-bottomed boat to capsize by running from one side to the other. Therefore, you will need to make sure that your dog’s center of gravity stays low and that they stay as still as possible.

Another very basic step you can take to ensure that your flat-bottomed boat does not capsize is to ensure that you never exceed the vessel’s capacity. Every boat has a maximum capacity, which should be stated clearly by the manufacturer in the owner manual.

Going overcapacity will, for obvious reasons, make your boat more likely to capsize or take on water because it won’t be able to maintain the necessary buoyancy, so this is something to avoid at all costs.

4. Check The Weather Forecast

Not all weather conditions are safe for waterfowl hunting, so before you head out, it’s very important to check the forecast and make sure that the conditions are suitable.

If winds in your area are particularly strong, or if waves are especially high, it might be better to leave your trip until a different day because you’ll struggle to maintain stability on your vessel.

While it’s always a good idea to stay close to the shore while waterfowl hunting, you will, of course, also need to check the tides to make sure that you time your trip effectively and don’t become stranded at either high or low tide.

5. Stop The Boat

This part is very important, both from a general safety and legal standpoint. Failing to complete this step will make firing a shot from a small boat very dangerous and could get you in trouble with your local authorities.

The first thing you’ll want to do before firing a shot once you’re out on the water is to kill your boat’s motor completely. Next, you’ll want to take your anchor (which you should have brought along with the rest of your safety gear) and anchor down the boat.

Your boat’s engine should be fully turned off and the vessel should have come to a total standstill before you start lining yourself up to take your shot. This is a question of stability and safety.

6. Adopt A Seated Position

Adopt A Seated Position

Finally, before you fire your shot, you’ll need to make sure that you’re in a comfortable, stable seated position.

Sitting down ensures that your center of gravity is low, enhancing your stability and improving the accuracy (and, therefore, the safety) of your shots.

It could actually be against the law to fire a shot from a small boat while standing or kneeling, depending on where you’re based. This is just another reason to thoroughly consult the legislation in your area before embarking on a waterfowl hunting trip.

With that being said, we would always recommend that you sit down before firing a shot from a small boat, regardless of whether this is legally enforceable in your state or not.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Should I Transport A shotgun In A Small Boat?

You should always store your shotgun at the front of your boat, with the muzzle pointing in a forward direction. You can store it with the action open or, if it’s safer to do so, break down the gun completely until you need to use it.

At no point should your gun be facing yourself or any other passengers in the boat. There should also never be a situation where the gun could potentially go off by accident, which is why it should be unloaded and cased when not actively in use.

How Should A Passenger Be Pulled Back To A Small Boat?

If somebody falls off your small boat while waterfowl hunting, you might need to pull them back towards the boat.

First, you should turn the boat around and carefully pull up next to the person in the water. You should approach into the current or downwind depending on which is strongest.

Having cut the engine, you should then throw the person a floatation device and reel them back in over the stern, taking care to balance the weight.

Final Thoughts

You will need to take several precautions before you fire a shot from a small boat.

Before you do anything else, you should make sure you have an in-date hunting permit for your area and familiarize yourself with local legislation on waterfowl hunting.

After checking the weather forecast and ensuring that you have all the right safety equipment, you can head to your chosen hunting spot.

Once you’ve arrived at your destination, shut down the motor, anchor your boat, and sit down in a stable, balanced position.

Lucas Jones