BRIGANTINE — The air is crisp, the days are getting shorter and hunting season will soon be here once again! Water temperatures are dropping quickly in the back bays. Capsizing and falling overboard into cold water are major hazards for hunters. During hunting season, waters in the bays are cold enough to pose a serious hypothermia threat. Nationwide, 70 percent of all boating fatalities are the result of drowning. Almost 90 percent of the victims were not wearing life jackets.

Responsible hunters need to be aware of the dangers and follow a few simple rules to make hunting on the water safer and more enjoyable: Leave a float plan with someone at home, describing where you are going, who you are with and when you expect to return. Transport firearms to the boat unloaded, cased, muzzle first, with the action open. Always wear an approved and properly fitted life jacket when in a boat. Carry a throwable flotation device in case someone falls overboard. Stow visual distress signals on board.

Know the weather forecast for the area. High winds can be dangerous. Cancel your trip if water conditions aren’t safe. Keep an AM radio handy for the latest updates. Better yet, buy a VHF-FM marine radio with NOAA weather channels. Never overload your boat. Load gear low in the boat and distribute the weight evenly. If an accident occurs, stay with the boat and use distress signals. Unless clothing is creating a hazard, do not remove extra clothing. It can help prevent hypothermia. To retain body heat, pull your knees to your chest and keep your elbows to your sides.

When overboard without a lifejacket: Trapping air in chest waders by bending your knees and raising your feet then lying back in the water can help you stay afloat. An oar under the knees and another behind the back and shoulders can be used to keep you floating. Trapping air in hip boots by bending your knees and lying on your back can help you remain afloat. Decoys stuffed inside your jacket will provide additional buoyancy. By following these few simple rules, your survival chances are greatly improved.

The United States Coast Guard Auxiliary is the uniformed volunteer component of the United States Coast Guard created by an act of Congress in 1939. The Auxiliary, America's Volunteer Guardians, supports the Coast Guard in nearly all of the service's missions. If you are interested in becoming part of USCG Auxiliary, Brigantine Flotilla 85 welcomes new members. Meetings are held the third Tuesday of every month (except December) at the Brigantine Community Center at 6:45 p.m. Come join us at our next meeting, Tuesday, Nov. 19 and see what the Auxiliary is all about. For more information, leave a message at 609-926-7607 or email boatsafely@comcast.net. Visit us on the web at USCGAux-Brigantine-NJ.org.

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