Boating Safety is My Beat

Green Bay Warden Team experience led to big water

An article from WWA’s Words From The Wardens.

This article originally appeared in Wisconsin Waterfowl Association’s June, 2021 eNewsletter

By DNR Boating Law Administrator Lt. Darren Kuhn;

Hello to Wisconsin Waterfowl Association members, who likely share my enjoyment of waterfowl hunting on Wisconsin waters. I’ve recently accepted the position of DNR Boating Law Administrator.


If you’ve been in the northeast part of Wisconsin, you may have seen me. I started full-time with the department in 1998 when I joined the warden service and was assigned to Green Bay. This was my first experience with big water and my first experience with boats bigger than the 12-foot Sea Nymph powered by a 9.9 Mariner that I grew up with. In Green Bay, I quickly learned I had a hidden love for the water and marine law enforcement.

After working on the Green Bay team for about a decade, I transferred to the Marine Enforcement Unit, where I was fortunate to work most days on Green Bay and Lake Michigan.

Since 2018, I’ve been a DNR recreation warden and learned how much our partner law enforcement agencies rely on our wardens as the boating experts. I have had first-hand experience with the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) and the National Safe Boating Council (NSBC).

Wisconsin is consistently a boating leader in the country. In my new position, I vow to keep this outstanding record going.


One of my roles as the Boating Law Administrator is to keep everyone safe on Wisconsin’s waterways.

In the last couple of years, Wisconsin has seen a significant increase in boating traffic in all aspects — from paddle sports, sailing, yachting and fishing to dinner cruises on a summer evening.  With this increase in boat traffic, we all need to be responsible and respectful of others. We also need to acknowledge that not everyone on our waterways has the same interests.

Some might enjoy getting to their desired destination as fast as possible, while others might enjoy a daylong paddle with no destination in mind. Boating is no different than any other sport, and with sports come rules, responsibilities, and some good old-fashioned common sense.

Here are a few of my top tips:

  • Be respectful of your fellow boaters by being aware of other boats around you. That includes recognizing the wake your boat creates may be capable of capsizing other boats and damaging shorelines.
  • Keep a lookout, not just for other boaters but also in-the-water swimmers and other possibly hidden obstructions beneath the water line. Give yourself plenty of room to avoid these hazards safely.
  • Use your boat lights on the water between sunset and sunrise or in times of reduced visibility like overcast or foggy days.
  • Make sure you have the correct number and types of life jackets. Many of you might have taken your life jackets out of your boats and put them in your duck skiffs for hunting season. Or maybe you took them into your basement instead of a storage unit with the boat for the winter. Before you head out for the first boating voyage of the season, please check to make sure you have one wearable life jacket of the proper size for everyone in the boat and that they are readily accessible in case you need them in a hurry.
  • If your boat is 16 feet or greater, make sure you have at least one throwable flotation device, commonly known as a seat cushion (the square cushion with the straps on it) or ring buoy like you would see at the neighborhood pool.

Nationally, 80% of all boating-related fatalities are due to drowning and an extremely high number of these drownings resulted from not having life jackets or enough life jackets. These are tragedies that very well could have been prevented.

Boating is a great outdoors pastime enjoyed in many different forms by many different user groups. Please remember that Safe Boating Is No Accident as you enjoy Wisconsin’s waterways.

You can explore all boating information, including where to find a Wisconsin waterway, on the DNR’s website.


I’m incredibly humbled to be selected for this position as the Boating Law Administrator and look forward to working with all of you. Let’s work together to stay safe, enjoy our state’s remarkable water resources and return home with fun stories.


WWA MEMBER QUESTION: A WWA member recently asked: Why is there not active enforcement on blinds that are left after the allotted time on public properties?

We thank you for this question. There is enforcement of blinds left after allotted time on public properties. However, that’s not to say there may be one we’re not aware of. That’s where our strong partnership with our citizens comes into action. If anyone sees a blind left in violation, please contact our DNR Violation Hotline with the location. The dispatcher contacts the warden closest to that location to do the follow-up. 1-800-TIP-WDNR or 1-800-847-9367, or online here.

Please keep those questions coming!