BUFFALO, Minn. - Three duck hunters owe a debt of gratitude to a DNR Conservation Officer and a Wright County homeowner who very likely saved them from drowning.
Conservation Officer Rick Reller of Buffalo was on routine patrol checking waterfowl hunters on Swartout Lake on Sunday, Nov. 3, when he stopped to check on some hunters.
"I observed with my binoculars three duck hunters picking up their decoys getting ready to leave the small island on Swartout Lake they were hunting," Reller said. "I decided to wait on shore to do a license and game check when they came ashore."
Reller was waiting for the men and soon realized it was taking a long time for them to get to shore. He went to check and found they were in trouble.
"Once again I used my binoculars to look out on to the lake and observed the three hunters now in the water and out of their swamped Jon boat holding onto three filled decoy bags," he said. "The wind was blowing at over 20 miles per hour and with the cold water temps I knew they were in life threatening situation."
Reller rushed to the residence of Barry Farber, a lakeshore owner he knew would have a boat on shore. With Farber's assistance Reller was able to get thethree hunters in the boat before they drowned.
"They were very cold and they couldn't help themselves in to the boat at all," recalled Reller. "Two of them had chest waders on that were full of water and none of them had a life jacket on. I contacted state patrol dispatch to have an ambulance meet us back on shore."
The three men went to Faber's heated garage, had their wet clothes removed, and were given warm blankets. A crew from Maple Lake Fire and Ambulance monitored the men until they were released. The men's boat and hunting gear were later recovered from the lake.
"It's very apparent that this event would have turned tragic if Officer Reller and Mr. Faber had not been there," said Capt. Greg Salo, DNR enforcement central region manager. "I can guarantee you that there are three waterfowl hunters who have not stopped talking or thinking about their actions since this happened."
The DNR recommends these safety tips for late season boaters:
- Wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket; even good swimmers need to wear one.
- Don't go boating alone; boating safety increases with numbers.
- Keep an eye on the weather and go to shore if the wind picks up.
- If a boat becomes swamped or capsizes, try to re-board and stay with the craft if possible and await rescue.
For more information, go to files.dnr.state.mn.us.
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