Decoys Save Duck Hunters’ Lives, Used as Floats


Many waterfowlers say that having proper decoys is a must, but for Kyle Kevelin and his hunting party, decoys may have saved their lives. According to KARE 11, Kevelin and his brother Mike Kevelin were hunting with four others when their boat capsized in Minnesota’s Ann Lake on Sunday. The hunters were just returning to shore when their vessel took on too much water and the men bailed. The water was freezing and the hunters became separated in the dark, not knowing which way to swim. Even worse, their heavy hunting gear threatened to pull them to the bottom of the lake.

“You really know you can’t do anything, that’s what it feels like,” said Tom Quinn, one of the hunters.

Numbed by the cold and running out of options, the men decided to seek out the decoys they had deployed on the lake earlier and use them as makeshift flotation devices.

“I just pretty much took them and stuck them up underneath my arm and just held on,” Kyle Kevelin told KARE 11.

The hunters held on for about 30 minutes before Kevelin’s father found the men floating out in the middle of the lake. The older man called authorities and launched a canoe into the lake so the hunters could have something more solid to hold on to. They were later rescued by local firefighters and came out of the experience none the worse for the wear, save some mild hypothermia. The capsized boat was also later recovered, but some of the hunters’ gear—including Kyle Kevelin’s shotgun—remains on the bottom of the lake.

Hunting in a duck boat can be more dangerous than some people will assume. Below are some tips from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources regarding duck boat safety:

  • Don’t wear hip boots or waders in the boat. If you fall into the water and try to pull your boots off, they often only come down part way. This binds your feet together so you can’t kick to stay afloat. However, if you immediately pull your knees up to your chest, it’s possible to float using the air trapped in the shin of the boots. Make sure you practice this I shallow, warm water before you really need to do it.
  • Wear a life jacket to and from the blind. Life vests are available for around $35 with mesh in the upper body that allow hunters to shoulder a gun but still offer protection from cold water.
  • Don’t overload the boat. It could result in a dangerous loss of freeboard, and too little freeboard is an invitation to the first large wave to swamp your boat.
  • Stay near shore and avoid crossing large expanses of open water, especially in bad weather.
  • If your boat does capsize or swamp, stay with it. Even when filled with water, it will provide some flotation and is easier to see by potential rescuers.
  • Bring your cell phone along in a waterproof, re-closable bag. You can use the phone without removing it from the bag.
  • Always tell someone where you are going and when to expect your return.
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