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News Healthy Hunting: Preparing for a successful season

Healthy Hunting: Preparing for a successful season

Rose Aldag-McVey
11/3/2015
​​Dr. Richard Griffin, emergency room physicianMt. Vernon, IL (November 3, 2015)  As the air grows crisp and winter takes hold, the urge to head out for the hunt comes to the front of any outdoorsperson’s mind. This year, before heading out into the field or up onto your tree stand, SSM Health Good Hospital Emergency Department​ physician Richard Griffin, MD has some tips on staying healthy and injury free during hunting season.

Listen To Your Body

“Hunting can be very stressful and difficult on your body if you aren’t in good shape to go out and try to drag a deer in,” says Dr. Griffin.  “Be aware of heart attack warning signs.  Hunting can be physically difficult and cause a significant increase in heart rate. Anyone who is not used to rigorous physical activity, such as hiking over rough terrain, should take several breaks and rest. Hunters should be trained in basic first aid so they can help anyone who may have a heart attack.”​

Tell People Your Location

Hunters should also inform their families about their plans and carry a cell phone, two-way radios or whistles in case they need to call for help.  Griffin advocates following basic firearm safety rules - always point the muzzle of a gun in a safe direction; be sure of the target and what's beyond it; and keep fingers outside the trigger guard until ready to shoot.  

Prepping Gear

Dr. Griffin suggests packing up your gear, pulling on your boots and heading out for a hike on local trails and hills to get your body back into hunting shape. This will not only help your body acclimate to the movements and strain of being out in the field, but it can also help you identify areas that may need extra attention.  “You need to be realistic about your expectations,” says Dr. Griffin. 

“If you have an arthritic condition, a ground blind is a better choice than a tree stand.”  Dr. Griffin says a ground blind can be much safer because arthritis can lead to problems with proprioception, where you lose your body’s ability to identify where your joint is in space. This can cause a loss of balance, which makes climbing into a tree stand a much riskier activity.

Pay Attention

“Pay attention at all times.  Hunting injuries are often caused by falls. The average fall from a tree stand is about 15 feet.  By staying alert and aware of what is going on around them, hunters can avoid being startled and reduce their risk of falling, which can lead to broken bones, paralysis and even death,” says Griffin. 

If you do use a tree stand, remember to use proper safety precautions both when placing the stand and when hunting from the stand. 

Some smart safety measures for tree stands include:

  • Avoid permanent tree stands, which are more likely to deteriorate over time.
  • Place your tree stand securely. It should be solid and tied to the tree with ratchet straps.
  • Tree stands with railings are extremely helpful in preventing falls.
  • Use a quality harness. Put the harness on and attach it to the stand as soon as you climb into the stand.
  • Always use a haul line to raise and lower equipment, including unloaded firearms.
  • Never place your tree stand higher than 20 feet off the ground.

Be Prepared For Weather Changes

Once your body is ready and you’ve chosen the right cover for your hunting trip, Dr. Griffin also reminds hunters to be prepared for the weather and weather changes.  “Hypothermia can be a big danger because you are often sitting and not moving,” says Dr. Griffin. “Do not drink alcohol.  Hunters who have been drinking are more likely to hurt themselves or develop frostbite or hypothermia.”  Dr. Griffin recommends using hand and toe warmers as an inexpensive way of keeping your extremities warm while out on the hunt. These warmers easily tuck into gloves and boots to provide some warmth and work well in combination with quality hunting gear.

By taking these extra steps to prepare your body and protect against injury, you’ll be more likely to head out more often and hunt for the full season.