The safety rules are promoted for a reason, as a group of hunters found out recently while duck hunting on North Long Lake near Brainerd. When the weather turned windy they had to abandon their boat. In a news release from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Crow Wing Conservation Officer Eric Sullivan said, "This story easily could have had a different and tragic ending. They wore their lifejackets and had a safety plan to deal with the extreme conditions."

Twenty-five mile-per-hour winds kicked in while Alec Stark, Brooke Waldorf, Cody Lisson, and Raymond Rohl were hunting. They stayed close to the shore, but the waves still crashed over the bow of their boat.

MN DNR

Ultimately, they had to jump into the water as the 16-foot vessel took on water. Sullivan said, "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."

Stark, 24 years old, said, "Without the lifejackets, 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. The shock of the cold water - you can't even think. You're just trying to breathe."

All four hunters were taken to the hospital after showing signs of hypothermia. All have recovered.

The DNR reports that nine people have died so far this year in boating accidents, which is the lowest number in about a decade. Most boating mishaps occur during the summer, but a higher percentage of fatalities happen when the water is cold. The DNR offers safety tips for the cold-water season.