Shooting ducks from dinghies and other boats can be a dangerous pastime — and with the new season about to start hunters are reminded to wear lifejackets and take communication devices with them on the water.

"New Zealand lakes and rivers can be remote and treacherous, and duck hunters have lost their lives because they are not properly prepared," says Kenny Crawford, the General Manager of Maritime Compliance for Maritime NZ.

The Coroner recently ruled that a 60-year-old Auckland duck hunter drowned when his over-loaded dinghy capsized on Waikato River. He had told his three friends on-board that he was not wearing his lifejacket because it hampered his ability to steer.

"Duck hunters should put safety first during this busy time. A lifejacket and a distress beacon are essential kit. Beacons start at $350 and your local outdoors shop should stock a selection — a small price compared with the cost of a life."

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Fortunately, he helped his mates survive by requiring them, as skipper, to put on their lifejackets. One of them also took a cellphone in a waterproof bag and was able to call for help, while clinging to swamp trees on an island in the middle of the river.

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Meanwhile two duck hunters on the West Coast forgot to pack their lifejackets when they went out on a remote lake with no cellphone or VHF radio coverage a few seasons ago.

One of them didn't make it home, after the wind got up and capsized their Canadian canoe. He was not a strong swimmer and did not remain calm, as the pair kicked out, while holding on to flotation devices, for the more inhabited shoreline.

Mr Crawford says life jackets, communication devices such as a rescue beacon, and warm clothes are essential for duck-hunters to take out with them for the May 6 start of the season.

"Duck hunters should put safety first during this busy time. A lifejacket and a distress beacon are essential kit. Beacons start at $350 and your local outdoors shop should stock a selection — a small price compared with the cost of a life.

"Hiring is an option if you only need a beacon for a short period of time. If you activate it, you'll still receive the same quick response the Rescue Coordination Centre NZ provides to all beacons alerts."

A list of beacon retailers and hire outlets is available www.beacons.org.nz/PurchaseorHire.aspx

Kenny has a final reminder — register your beacon!

Registration is free and your emergency contact details are needed to help find out additional information — such as the intended route, the number in the group, and how well equipped the party is.