paddling with hunters

It’s hunting season in Southeast Michigan so many local paddling spots are now shared by hunters…often with decoys and camo boats.

Two weeks ago when paddling on a local lake with a buddy in solo canoes, we passed a hunter and maybe 15 minutes later heard two loud sharp shots (must be magnum or 10 gage) and a split second later we heard and saw 2 patterns of buckshot hit the water about 15 yards to our side…the hunter was maybe 75 or 100 yards away. I couldn’t believe it!

I though I should call the police on my cell phone but my buddy said they would not do anything if they didn’t see him do it. My take is that the hunter was not using good judgement and we could have just as esily have been hit. What’s the right thing to do in this case? (I’m leaning towards - buy a gun and shoot back).

Also - I’ve found myself paddling around corners on lakes and suddenly being right in a hunter’s target zone (within 20 yards) half a dozen times already this year. I wear a blaze orange hat and the dog wears a blaze orange collar and I will hit my gunnels with my paddle a lot to make noise and I talk a lot to the dog - all to try to make sure they see and hear me (especially at dawn or dusk). Any other advice for staying safe when sharing the water with hunters? Short blasts on an air horn occasionally? Different hobby during hunting season? (can’t be mountain biking - I’d be even more worried about hunters).

If you’re out there making noise…
…you’re not only pissing off hunters, you’re likely violating anti-harassment laws. I don’t blame the hunters for being angry, though I would never condone shooting at or near anyone. Do everyone involved a favor and either find waters that aren’t used by hunters or stay off the water during the waterfowl season. You have unfettered access to the water for most of the year, so why not let someone else enjoy their chosen pastime on it for a brief period, without your intrusion?

Well, acouple things…
First off it is “hunting season” all over MI. Second, If they were duck hunters (which I percieved from your description), you wouldn’t have seen “patterns of buckshot”. It would’ve been patterns of “shot” (multiple bb’s). Also, they wouldn’t have been patterns, duck hunters shoot upward, and the pattern dissapates as it “falls” back to earth & becomes just a scatter of bb’s.

To top this off I can also say (from KNOWLEDGE & EXPERIENCE) that if you would’ve gotten hit by (what is known as a “wasted load”) it would’nt have done any damage to you. It would’ve felt like having a handful of pebbles thrown at you. Sure, it would’ve hurt, but nothing more than that…

Now as far as your biking fear… I don’t blame you, them downstate hunters are a bunch of trigger happy idiots with a gun that have know idea what “sight picture” or “backstop” are! They also DO NOT identify their targets before they shoot either. That is why they are HATED up here. They cause accidents (some resulting in death)!!! Which, in turn, gives hunting & hunters a bad name.

BUT down there you are safe since it is ILLEAGLE to hunt with anything other than a shotgun below M-55. SHotguns only have an effective penetration range of about 75 yrds! So as long as you are atleast 1/2 a cornfield away from an orange asshole with a shotgun, you are safe!

Move up here, we are educated in firearms & safety, you wouldn’t have to worry! Look at the stats over the last 10-15 years. ALL hunting related deaths/injuries were caused by a “downstater” and all the fatalities/injured were “downstaters”

Paddle easy,


Good sense!
You show good sense in wearing hunter orange! Sharing the outdoors with everyone is our goal. Waterfowl loads (# 6 steel shot usually) raining down posses no threat unless you are looking up and get one in your eye … like hail as was already said. I paddle on a State Park lake and as such hunting on the surrounding grounds is legal. I teach Hunter Trapper Education for the PA Game Commission and hope I am doing a good job graduating responsible hunters. Based on your comment I will be adding a bit about boater safety to my course outline! Bob

If you’re making noise in the intent to scare away the game, yes, you’re violating anti-harassement laws. BUT, if you’re making noise to avoid getting shot, I would think you’re fine. If you see a hunter, and are within earshot, maybe ask him where other hunters in the area are (they usually know), give him an indication of your planned travel, and clear out of his area quickly and quietly now that he knows you’re there.

I don’t agree with the statements of stay off the water during hunting season, but do use caution–blaze orange, whistle to yourself, etc. But do be respectful of the hunter. But DO NOT SHOOT BACK!!! BAD BAD IDEA!! The hunter probably has more ammunition than you can carry in your boat, probably has a more accurate gun, and has the advantage of cover on the shoreline. You don’t want to get into a shootout with them. You will lose.

If you do feel you’re about to take a blast head on at short range, dump. Water should slow the shot considerably, lessening your chances of injury. Above 50 yards or so, cover your eyes/cheeks with your hands and hope for the best. Shot likely won’t penetrate thicker skin at those ranges, but your eyes and cheeks (lots of nerves there) are relatively vulnerable.

My guess from your description is you were not in any immediate danger. Shot leaves the muzzle of a shotgun at over the speed of sound, so the fact that you heard the shots, then a pause, then the shot raining down around you tells me the shot had travelled a considerable distance before reaching you, and had slowed down way past it’s effective velocity.

another thing to consider–
If you find yourself among the decoys, remember this–the decoys bring bird in to an area, and the hunters shoot at them in flight, so while thier line of fire might be directly towards you, the angle of fire SHOULD be way over your head.

If the shot pattern was still in a fairly tight group, that would indicate he was possibly shooting at you. That he missed may mean he was firing warning shots. Either way, if he was shooting that low he wasn’t shooting at any waterfowl. In your case, I would have likely gotten the heck out of the area and called authorites. I believe they have to investigate all complaints, and I can guarantee they would not have taken lightly to his sitting there with a loaded gun and open beer. Could be a stern talking-to, could be a ride downtown and confiscation of his gun.

And, a point of information for all you non-hunters. Most, if not all, states require that when you’re duck/goose hunting you install a plug in your shotgun to limit total capacity to no more than three shells.

paddling with hunters in Colorado
The entire winter I paddle South Platte River since it the only open water in northern Colorado. It means that I need to share a rather small river with duck and goose hunters. I don’t really enjoy it but so far I haven’t not been a shooting target.

2004 S. Platte paddling:

and video clip from the goose hunting season on S. Platte:

As someone who both paddles and hunts I will say this: Do your best to stay out of the way and they will respect that. There are jerk hunters who will pepper you with shot just as there are those out there who will purposefully sabotage a hunt. Perhapse go out a little later in the day. Duck hunters are normally early risers and often off the blind by noon- perhapse not where you are though. You rarely need to worry about a responsible hunter shooting you as you round a bend in a canoe-but you do not know if he is responsible or not. My advice is to find unhuntable water like parks. I like to hunt various woodland birds but stay out of the woods during deer gun season because they get a week to get a deer and do not like it when people interfear with doing so. Do not shoot back-they will win.

Risky Business

Got to weigh in here since I used to be a very avid waterfowler. It sounds like you are doing things right with wearing the orange colors, maybe a hat would be good too as sometimes the head is seen above vegetation (as in coming around a point with low shrubs or grass cover.) I’ve done considerable hunting in public land situations where the orange is required and often a hat can be seen first, even though it is smaller than a vest. I think making extra noise is not a good idea as it is likely to antagonize. You are already trying to avoid being in their space it sounds like, so I’d say keep doing what you are doing and accept the risk of encoutering sloppy or hot headed hunters or even just an honest accident.

Was there a visual break between you and the hunters that fired the shots? If not they should have been aware of your location and not fired at any low flying birds in that direction, thus the comments about the shot not being very hazardous coming down from above would be right. I doubt they fired at you on purpose out of frustration. You just don’t know what you can encounter, though. Hunters Ed. classes are usually outstanding but not everyone here takes them and many folks don’t really practice the good safety skills they’ve learned. I’ve seen lots of poor safety practiced and been nearby when guns have accidentally discharged.

Good luck and be careful.

Here in PA
There is no hunting on Sundays. So, if I’m think about hiking or boating during hunting season, in a gamelands area, I’ll go on Sunday.

Stay safe.


Have to agree.
If the shot was raining down , you were in no immediate danger. 100 yrds is way out of effective range of shot. The sharp gunshots is the fact you wern’t expecting it. Yes the hunter should have waited till ya got further away , but I get pellets rained on me occasionally . Too many hunters, not enough good hunting area.

Let’s keep it that way!
There has been some talk about trying to change that … and I am always pushing to keep it that way. This discussion is giving me more fuel to use in my defense of keeping Sundays a NO SHOOT day in PA! Thanks … Bob

Kinda sounds like you encountered a…
jerk with a shotgun, not a “hunter” or “sportsman”.

There was a case down here several months ago where a jerk with a shotgun shot a round “over the bow” of Gary Klein’s boat during a BassPro tourney when he ignored wake warnings. Charges were initially filed and then dropped against the shooter. IMO, calling authorities will likely be a waste of time but it could be worthwhile if this guy is often found in the same blind acting in a similar manner. A video camera tells a tale that’s hard to argue with.

I’m an avid duck hunter. I don’t mind too much when people occassionaly move through my area. If it happened with regularity I’d find a new spot. When it does happen it sometimes benefits me when they scare up ducks that have settled somewhere nearby and I get a chance to call them in. Sometimes I make it a point to be the last in my area to leave the blind so that I have a chance at ducks spooked up by others as they depart.

Not all of our shots are a high angles. It’s not uncommon for us (in the marsh) to have ducks come zooming in on us flying just over the marsh grass or 2’ over the water. I’m not excusing the behavior of the guy you encountered. HE has the responsiblity of acting responsibily.

Other thing… down here it’s legal to hunt deer, duck etc… (nearly anything except raccoons) from a boat that’s not under motor or sail power.

An orange hat is a good idea. Any attempt to give me a wide berth is appreciated. I wouldn’t personally be bothered by you bumping your paddle against your boat a few times to give me an audible warning. A boombox would tick me off. A short bump on an air horn would be OK IMO too.

My biggest problem is most often a rude guy with a gun who insists on setting up too close to me when hunting on a management area. It’s first come, first served but some guys insist on hunting the same spot they’ve hunted from for x number of years regardless of the fact that someone beat them to the area and set up a mere fifty yards away. I’ve spent a 2-3 mornings in the past 25+ years ruining someone’s hunt when they’ve opted for such a level of rudeness.

Am I being long-winded again?

It’s the same thing

– Last Updated: Nov-03-04 5:26 PM EST –

Whether you're making noise to harass a hunter or merely to make your presence known, the net effect is the same, a spoiled hunt and pissed off hunters. Your intent is irrelevent, since you're not going to get the chance to explain your actions. You're not going to make any friends that way and you could make some rather dangerous enemies.

thanks everyone!
I think I got it…stay visible with blaze orange and lights, avoid dawn, stay mostly quiet, leave as much room as possible, and consider moving north a bit or east to Pennsylvania.

I appreciate the lead on the boat light from Cabelas.

And thanks Yak-a-lou for confirming that maybe a gentle bump on the rails (pretty quiet with a carbon paddle shaft hitting wood rails) isn’t the worst thing. We rented a cabin on a local chain of lakes recently and the hunters with the camo tents on their boats really do get about invisible at early dawn and late dusk so I was honestly not sure of best thing to do when suddenly (and almost silently and almost invisibly in a black Bell boat) in front of one.

And the guy that took the two shots near us did get a goose, which just adds a bit to the theory that he might not have been too aware of what was behind the goose (people). But he always goes to the same lake so we’ll just avoid that lake.

Great Responses
I’m very happy to be part of this group.

I’m a avid hunter & beginning kayaker. All of your responses were well stated & thought out. Some boards I belong to don’t beleive in sharing their areas if there is any conflict of interest.

I thought for sure there would be at least one person blasting the hunter for being there & doing what he has a legal right to do.As in anything there will be people that are slobs & others that aren’t, unfortunately when it comes to hunting you usually only hear about the slobs.

second your conclusion
Don’t know anything to aded specific but this was way cool discussion. Was reading about how seamanship disputes are settled and the main deal is how both parties bear huge responsibilities to what they call reasonably forsee and avoid problems. This often does not seem to be the case when enthusiats meet on shared turf. Might be a good idea to hold everyone to the clear ideas of seamanship, better for everyone respecting everyone.