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What Should You Do Before Firing a Shot From a Small Boat?

Fact checked by William Hart

what should you do before firing a shot from a small boat

Boats, dogs, and guns bring great fun, but also a great responsibility. Before firing a shot from a small boat, you should turn off the engine and secure the boat with one to two anchors.

But many other elements can affect your shots. For example, strong wind and waves can rock and drift your vessel, causing you to shoot unintended targets. When you shoot from a boat, the recoil is much larger than that on land.

Below, we’ll explain “What should you do before firing a shot from a small boat?” and provide six essential tips from experienced hunters.

Table of Contents

Things You Should Do Before Firing a Shot From a Small Boat


Firstly, you must turn off the engine and secure the boat with one to two anchors. The anchor will prevent wind or current from drifting your boat and stabilize your shot. You should select a well-protected area with plenty of room, adequate water depth, and a sandy or muddy bottom.

Secondly, sit down to aim before firing. Sitting reduces recoil and makes the shot accurate. Remember that on water, recoil is greater.

Finally, plant your feet firmly on the ground, sit with your legs apart or cross, wrap your arm around your knee, and rest the forestock on the muscles of your bent arm.

Six More Essential Rules


Throughout the years, we’ve gathered six rules you should always stick to.

Rule 1: Know your state’s hunting laws and regulations

Shooting from a small boat can be dangerous. For the safety of you and others, you have to know the local rules and abide by them. A basic understanding of legal hunting will keep you away from trouble.

You must possess a valid license, tags, and permits for what you are hunting. There are many types of hunting permits; they vary in cost and complexity to obtain.

Hunting is only allowed in open hunting seasons (find the start and end date on the state’s website). It is illegal to destroy birds’ nests or eggs. Each state has its regulations on hunting on water. For example, you cannot pursue, catch, kill, or harvest wild animals and birds on Sundays in Maine.

Rule 2: Know the firearms and shots you can use

The laws restrict some types of firearms for waterfowl hunters. They prohibit the use of semi-automatic rifles with pistol grips to hunt migratory birds. You can only use 10-gauge or smaller shotguns that hold less than three shells. What you use must be approved by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, including:

  • Steel shots
  • Tungsten-polymer shots
  • Tungsten-nickel iron shots
  • Tungsten iron shots

Yet never carry loaded firearms on your vessel. There are strict laws regarding the transportation of firearms in a boat. When transporting, all firearms must be unloaded with the safety on and secured in a gun case.

Rule 3: Wear appropriate safety equipment

When you get used to hunting on water, you tend to neglect the protective gear. But any experienced hunter will tell you the necessity of the equipment as things can go sideways on the water. These pieces will save you from hypothermia, drowning, and other hazards:

  • Life jacket approved by the US Coast Guard
  • First aid kit
  • Hunting survival kit
  • Waterproof lights
  • Water bailer

Other than that, you should have one to two anchors, paddles or oars, waterproof storage for guns and ammo, a compass, a VHF radio, GPS, and other useful apps. Many hunters wear camouflage clothing to blend into the surroundings and get closer to their prey.

If you are boating in a group, have reliable means of communication. Make sure that every group member knows where others are.

Rule 4: Take action to avoid boat swamping or capsizing

Small boats are more prone to swamping and capsizing, especially those with a flat bottom and shallow shaft. You should distribute your gear and other items evenly and only carry the essentials on a hunting trip to avoid exceeding the manufacturer’s weight limit.

Also, never bring an untrained dog on board. It can jump around when seeing waterfowl and tip your boat to one side, which might cause a capsize. Dogs also tend to dispatch ducks and interrupt your shots. So, train your retrievers well before taking them out on the field. Set the rules clear before the hunt and make sure they will obey.

Prepare yourself for the worst scenarios and learn appropriate safety precautions. If the boat capsizes, keep your head above water and stay away from the line of your boat so you won’t get tangled in it.

Refer to this video for thorough explanations of boat stability and how to prevent capsizing:

Rule 5: Carry under the manufacturer’s weight capacity

The manufacturer’s weight capacity is the maximum weight that your boat can carry. You can find this information in the capacity attachment near the driver’s seat. You should never exceed this limit. Again, keep the weight low and distribute gear evenly in your vessel.

Heavy load slows down vessels and can cause them to sink. On top of that, the weather can change in minutes. If there is a sudden downpour, your boat should be able to get back to the shore quickly.

Rule 6: Go where the birds are

Ducks and geese change their locations according to food and water conditions. Try to find an area of high waterfowl concentration before anchoring your boat. If possible, ask experienced hunters to join you as only they will know how to come up with the ideal hunting spot. This will keep you from coming home empty-handed.

On days of low bird concentration, do the calling method. Some days, ducks and geese respond to loud, aggressive calling. Other days, they prefer more quiet, subtle calling. You should try different tones and styles to see what works best.


To sum up this article on what should you do before firing a shot from a small boat, before firing a shot from a small boat, you should stop, secure the vessel, turn off the engine, and sit down properly. Pay attention to the state’s hunting laws and regulations, legal firearms, safety equipment, boat stability, weight capacity, and bird concentration areas.

With the new seasons about to begin, we are so excited to get back on the field. We wish you the best hunting experiences and the safest trips!

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