DNR Says Smart Safety Choices May Have Saved Brainerd Area Duck Hunters’ Lives
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reports that smart safety choices may have saved the lives of four duck hunters when their boat capsized on a Brainerd area lake earlier in October.
After spending the early-morning hours in a duck blind, Brooke Waldorf, Cody Lisson, Alec Stark, and Raymond Rohl packed up their 16-foot boat and headed towards the access on North Long Lake when their boat started taking on water caused by high winds. The four hunters decided that the boat would not be able to make it shore and jumped in the water. All four hunters were wearing life jackets, which the DNR says may have saved their lives.
“Without the life jackets, we wouldn’t have been able to swim back. And had we not already been wearing them, there wouldn’t have been time to put them on,” said Stark, 24. “The shock of the cold water – you can’t even think. You’re just trying to breathe.”
As soon as the hunters made it to shallow water, Stark used his cellphone to call 911. All four hunters exhibited signs of hypothermia and were transported to the hospital by North Memorial Ambulance. The Crow Wing County Recreational Division and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer Eric Sullivan also assisted at the scene.
“This story easily could have had a different and tragic ending,” Sullivan said. “Their preparation on the front end likely saved their lives. They wore their life jackets and had a safety plan to deal with the extreme conditions. And when it became necessary to put their plan into action, they executed it by leaving most of their equipment behind and using their duck decoys for additional flotation.”
According to the DNR, nine people have died so far this year in boating accidents, which is the fewest since 2010. While most boating-related incidents occur during the summer months, a higher percentage of those that occur during the cold-water season are fatal. DNR safety officials say anyone who boats during the cold-water season should wear a life jacket (foam is better than inflatable), file a float plan, carry a communications device to call for help, and be prepared to deal with an unforeseen incident.