As hunting season starts in Pennsylvania, you will no doubt be hearing about
hunting-related accidents. But did you know that hunting is actually safer than bowling
and golf? It’s estimated that hunting injuries occur in just 0.05 percent per
100 participants. But despite the relative safety of hunting, there are ways
to further ensure a good hunt and that everyone in your hunting party returns
For me, safety can be broken down into four categories: personal
health, gun safety, environmental dangers and first aid preparedness. We'll take a closer look at each of these topics in separate posts this week. Today, let's discuss personal health.
Hunting involves more than just sitting in the woods. It can be
physically demanding so I strongly encourage anyone considering hunting to
engage in some sort of physical training program months prior to the season. This
gives hunters a chance to test their physiology and to also improve their cardiovascular
fitness levels. A 2007 article published
in the American Journal of Cardiology found that most middle-aged hunters
fitted with heart-rate monitors during a hunt exceeded their maximum heart rate
they had previously achieved on a treadmill test. Dragging big game produced
the most elevated of heart rates but several of the hunters entered the "red
zone" simply by visualizing their target.
This puts a decent strain on the heart and can act like nature’s own
stress test. There are no known national
statistics on the number of acute coronary syndromes (ACS) directly attributable to
hunting but it does set up the perfect scenario of physical strain, sympathetic
excitation and environmental stress. One
of the study authors also noted that many hunters in the study group exhibited
life-threatening heart-rhythm irregularities that had not been apparent on electrocardiogram, or EKG, readouts during laboratory stress testing.
Think about this the next time you strap on 10 pounds of insulating
clothing, a 13 pound rifle, various other hunting accoutrements and a
wilderness destination that requires a hike into the area. In addition, if you do make a kill you will
be carrying around 50 pounds of meat out of the location along with your other
To minimize your risk of ACS, see your doctor regularly. If you have medical comorbidities or a heart
condition, I strongly advise getting evaluated by your physician annually. This may be something as simple as an office
visit or as extensive as provocative testing of your heart. Either way, this is a good strategy to
minimize your chances of having a cardiovascular event while in the field and
far from medical intervention.
Also, become familiar with the warning signs of ACS. The classic teaching of substernal chest
pressure, left arm numbness/tingling, and/or jaw pain can all be warning signs
of an impending heart attack. Sometimes
it can be more subtle. For instance, a
feeling of nausea, fatigue, shoulder pain and right arm pain can all be signs of
ACS as well.
Some hunting advocates endorse buying a heart-rate monitor and
setting audible alarms for when you are approaching your theorized maximum
heart rate. Generically this is
calculated by taking 220 and subtracting your age. If you are a trained athlete you can add 10 to
this value. As an example, a 40-year-old
would have a theoretical maximum heart rate of 220-40=180. If they were a trained athlete the maximum
would bump up to 190. It may seem high,
but you would be surprised what your heart rate reaches when walking up a
mountain carrying 80 pounds of gear.
That’s why I believe getting some endurance training prior to heading into the
field is important. It allows you to get
a feel for how your body responds to elevated heart rates, and teaches you how
Overall, maintaining a decent physical state, ensuring adequate
hydration and nutrition and being well rested come opening day will all help
improve your chances for a successful, safe and rewarding hunt.
How do you prepare for a hunt? Let us know in the comments below. And join us back here this week as we explore the following topics: