Hunting can be a relaxing and enjoyable activity helping you unplug while taking in the great outdoors, but it can also be dangerous. Inherently there’s risk to these activities considering the use of weapons, the rough terrain, and the cold weather.
Take the following hunting safety and overall health tips into consideration when planning your next outing.
Even the most prepared hunters can still experience accidents.
- Tree Stand Safety – Many hunting accidents are due to complications relating to tree stands; the majority of accidental deaths are due to falls rather than the presumed firearm injury. To avoid broken bones, concussions, paralysis, or death, follow the Tree Stand Safety Awareness Foundation’s ABCs:
- Always inspect your equipment before use.
- Buckle your harness securely.
- Connect before you leave the ground.
- Hearing Protection – In addition to taking safety classes and having correct licenses, responsible hunters take care of their ears. Decibels (dB) are the unit of measure for how loud sounds typically are. Your hearing may become damaged by anything louder than 85 dB and gunshots are all the way at 140-150 decibels. Also, the louder the sound, the shorter the amount of time it takes for the noise to cause hearing damage. You can wear foam plugs or earmuffs to help prevent permanent hearing loss.
- Emergency Preparation – It is good practice to go through your hunting pack before each hunt to be sure you’re stocked up on staple safety and first aid items. The weather can change unpredictably so keep an eye on the forecast in the days and hours leading up to your hunting trip. Dress in warm layers and avoid cotton clothing, which can retain moisture, and wear a water-repelling outer layer and supportive shoes. Camouflage is great to keep you hidden from game but be sure to wear your orange as required so that other hunters can see you. Be sure someone is aware of the details of your hunt – where you’ll be, when you plan to return, and how to reach you if possible.
Overall Health and Hunting
Are you fit for the field? Below are a few reminders to ensure you’re physically prepared:
- Talk to Your Provider – Seeing your provider for your annual visit is a great place to start. You should be seeing your provider annually anyway and this visit can help you establish a wellness baseline. At this visit, your provider will perform a general physical, check your blood pressure, screen your eyes and hearing, and discuss your family history and lifestyle to help evaluate your health risks. Based on your risk, your provider can make recommendation to help you get the most out of your next season.
- Get in Shape – Hunting is physically demanding, so you’ll want to keep in shape between the seasons. You don’t have to be able to bench press like a linebacker or run a marathon, but you should be able to carry your equipment and walk or hike a few miles without getting short of breath. Listen to your body and know your physical limits. The better shape you’re in, the less you’ll stress your body which reduces your risk for a health emergency.
- Eat Right – While grabbing a donut and a coffee may seem convenient on your way into your blind, you should start your day with a nutritious breakfast like oatmeal and fruit. If you’re going to be out all day, pack a healthy lunch and plenty of snacks. Consider fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and even a little dairy or protein. Try to avoid anything processed or high in sodium.
- Hydrate – More than half of the body’s weight is water. It’s important to keep a proper level of fluid in the body to support the body’s functions such as maintaining proper body temperature, removing waste through our digestive and urinary systems, and lubricating joints. The easiest way to prevent dehydration is to drink plenty of water each day. A popular rule of thumb for adults is the “8 x 8” rule: eight, 8 oz. cups of water daily. Liquids other than water, such as tea and coffee, count toward daily intake, but because they have caffeine, they are also diuretics, which cause the body to lose fluid. Therefore, it’s best to get most of your fluid intake from non-caffeinated beverages, and consume tea, coffee, and soda in moderation.
Enjoy and Good Luck
No matter what type of hunting you do, prepare for this season. Take the necessary steps to ensure everything will run as smoothly as possible. Hunting has many health benefits, both physically and mentally. With a little preparation and prevention in mind, you’ll ensure you’re making good memories that will last a lifetime.
Michael J. Weisner, MD, FAAFP is a primary care physician with UPMC and sees patients at 900 Plaza Drive, Suite A, Montoursville. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Weisner, call 570-368-3321. For more information, visit UPMC.com/PrimaryCareNCPA.