Hunting Season Is Here!

Stay healthy and safe

November 30, 2015

Hunting season is upon us. It’s already started for many and is getting pretty serious for others.

Staying healthy during your days in the woods is something that starts long before hunting season ever begins. However, there are things that you can be aware of and do to make sure you don’t need one of the Emergency Departments at Penn Highlands Brookville, Penn Highlands Clearfield, Penn Highlands DuBois or Penn Highlands Elk or a Q-care clinic.

Fall is a season that for many living in central Pennsylvania, goes hand in hand with hunting season,” Lori Rancik, RN and case manager of The Women’s Health Center of Penn Highlands Healthcare. She also oversees HeartCaring, a program that stresses the important of heart health to everyone in our communities.

“While hunter safety is always a priority, it can be equally as important to be approach the season with one’s health in mind.   Hunting is a sport that demands physical activity and exercise, however, because of the exertion required, it can often be more strenuous than some hunters’ typical daily activities,” she said.

“Injuries and even life-threatening situations can arise if one does not understand their personal health risks and prepare or condition before the season.”

What can a person do to be safe even if you didn’t get into shape for the past year? A lot!

Here are some HeartCaring tips:
•Don’t over exert yourself. Pace yourself and take frequent breaks.
•Don’t smoke during the hunt. Smoking speeds up your heart rate and reduces oxygen flow to the body. Besides, deer will smell you.
•Try to go out with a group. There is safety in numbers. If something happens, you can have help. Know the health conditions of everyone in your group. 
•Ask for help for bringing in your game to avoid exhaustion.
•Know the symptoms of a heart attack. If you or a fellow hunter has chest pain or dizziness, do not ignore it. Signs of a heart attack may be severe or subtle. One may experience a crushing or squeezing pain in their chest or it may be described as pressure or tightness. This pain may radiate down the arms. Shortness of breath, weakness, jaw pain, discomfort between the shoulder blades and upper back, nausea and sweatiness may also occur. Regardless, do not ignore any of these symptoms and immediately seek medical attention!
•Devise a plan for emergencies should one arise. Know where you are and where the nearest hospital is located. 
•Carry a cell phone. 9-1-1 may be the most important call you make. 
•Limit alcohol to after hunting and in moderation. Be responsible.  And while you may have heard that a glass of red wine is good for the heart, alcohol in excess is not good for heart health. 

There are also other good safety habits:
•Stretch. Being limber keeps muscles and bones from getting stiff, especially after sitting or standing for long periods of time. 
•Check your first aid kit for updated supplies and be sure to brush up on your first aid skills. Someone may not have a heart attack, but they may get cut or sprain an ankle.
•Use a safety harness in a tree stand. 
•Be sure your tetanus shot is up to date.
•After hunting, inspect for ticks and remove them promptly.
•Make sure you are staying hydrated with water. And, remember to pack a healthy snack such as an apple, a snack bag of almonds or a granola bar to sustain your energy through the day.

Let this season be the start of good health in the future. “A wise way to approach for the physical demands during hunting season is to not wait until the last month.  Practicing good health habits throughout the year will not only reduce the risk for injury or harm during the season but also will lead to improved overall wellness throughout the year,” Rancik said. 

“If you want to increase your luck for a safe and successful hunt, consider conditioning before your adventure,” Rancik said. “Beginners and experienced athletes benefit on conditioning. Walk daily year-round and practice movements and lifting.”

“Your heart is a muscle. It needs to work in order to stay in shape. Strength training can help build balance and increase stability. Strong muscles perform better under stress and can help reduce and prevent lower back pain while in the woods.”

“When one is healthy and active, it may even become motivation to take on another outdoor sport in a different season,” she said. After all, there’s always snowmobiling, skiing and ice-fishing season right around the corner.