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Area doctor offers hunting safety tips

As November rolls on and into December, more and more hunters will be entering the woods in hopes of downing that perfect trophy kill.
But with the excitement and thrill of the hunt and the picturesque beauty of the outdoors come some serious dangers that area medical personnel say can be prevented with simple preparation and good ‘ol common sense.
“The injuries we see most often in hunters are related to poor preparation and deconditioning,” said Dr. Thomas M. Mextorf, DO, FAAFP, family physician and president of Blair Medical Associates. “They range from sprains and strains of ankles and backs to more serious injuries from falls and heart attacks.
“Hunting can be a perilous sport for those with heart disease or a level of fitness that does not suit climbing hills and moving through fields and forests.”
According to Mextorf, proper preparation is one of the most important preventative measures hunters can take to avert injuries.
He said warmer weather calls for different preparation that cold-weather hunts. Dehydration is common in hunter when the weather is warm. His suggestion is to stay well hydrated and carry a supply of liquid.
“On the other hand, cold weather demands multiple layers of clothing, including gortex and cotton garments to allow for keeping the heat in while leaving the moisture in,” said Mextorf. “Expect to expend a greater degree of energy in cold weather to overcome the elements, stay warm and carry the extra weight of clothing.”
Because most of hunting season falls in the colder months, he said the diet of hunters is key to sustaining a healthy body while hunting. He said foods containing both carbohydrates and proteins make good meals to meet hunters needs.
Examples of these food items include pancakes, potatoes and breads, which provide early energy. Eggs and meats provide the necessary, longer-lasting energies needed as the hunt wears on. He also said to carry snacks, such as Power Bars, Nutri-Grain bars or other easily portable items to supplement calorie needs.
“Hunting is a sport that burns off more calories than anticipated at times, which can lead to premature fatigue and the inability to complete the mission,” said Mextorf. “During cold weather, your body will burn off many more calories in a shorter time interval just from the task of generating body heat.”
Mextorf also claims physical exams are a “very good” idea for anyone with a history of diabetes, hypertension, coronary artery disease, asthma or other such problems. Stress testing is preferable for those with a history of existing coronary artery disease, or for those who have strong family histories of the same, along with a personal history of hypertension diabetes or hyperlipidemia.
Another important item to carry into the woods is a simple first aid kit. Mextorf said this kit should contain a good utility knife, several 4-by-4 gauze pads, a roll of kling wrap, a 4-inch ACE bandage, several Band-Aids, Tylenol or Ibuprofen, Benadryl, an EpiPen for those with severe allergic reactions to stings, Neosporin, four baby aspirin and nitrostat for those with any coronary artery disease history, and a meter dose inhaler for any hunter with a history of asthma.
Once hunters are in the woods, injury prevention can be easy if the hunter pays attention. Keep both eyes on the ground in front of you and make sure your footing is secure before taking that next step. Also, wear the proper hunting gear, including the colorful clothing that other hunters can identify as a human coat and not the fur coat of a trophy buck.
If you hunt alone, Mextorf said the most important thing a single hunter can do in the case of an emergency is remain calm.
“Panic uses up precious energy that leads to further disorientation and injury,” said Mextorf. “Always have a means to be in contact with someone who knows that you are out in a specified region. Carry a cellular phone or a 2-way radio at all times. If calling or signaling for help, it is important to remain in one place to assist in your location and timely rescue.”
How about when you bring your fresh kill home? The best tip is to cook the meat properly.
“Many animals have the ability to harbor parasites and bacteria that can lead to serious illness in those that would consume the contaminated meat,” said Mextorf. “This is true of wild game, as well, and that which is raised for slaughter.”
Dr. Mextorf has one sentence of advice: Always be prepared for the unexpected.
“Use good common sense at all times,” he said. “Follow all measures of safety first and remember that no game is worth risking your life for. With this in mind, you will always have the opportunity to go back to the thrill of the hunt again.”