By Howard Meyerson
WYOMING, MI — Michigan’s 10-week bow hunting season opens Oct. 1, and deer hunters all over the state have been getting ready.
There are bows to tune and tree stands to inspect. Shooting lanes have been identified. It’s an exciting time.
But experienced hunters also know it is a time for caution and wise choices. Climbing up into a tree or an elevated blind has its risks, as does dragging a dead deer out of the woods.
Dr. Matthew Sevensma, a specialist in cardiovascular medicine and the clinical operations director for Metro Health Hospital, in Wyoming, recently advised two deer hunters not to go out this year. They were among 45 hunters who attended a free Hunter Health Screening offered by the hospital. Electrocardiograms for both men showed cardiovascular issues that presented a serious risk.
“The first was a patient who had undergone stenting to an artery in his neck and not followed up consistently with his doctors,” Sevensma said.
“The second … had very little recent medical care. He had an abnormal EKG that suggested a prior heart attack, and the patient was not aware of this.”
All kinds of risks
Several of the participants indicated on the screening form that health care was not affordable. The free screening, it turned out, gave them crucial information they otherwise wouldn’t have had.
“We saw quite a bit of obesity, uncontrolled blood pressure and cholesterol issues in many of the men,” Sevensma said. “There was a high rate of tobacco use, which significantly increases their cardiovascular risk.”
Men are not the only ones at risk.
“Women (hunters) often have many of the same health issues as men,” Sevensma said. “In fact, women are more likely to ignore symptoms of low blood flow to the heart, and are at risk for worse outcomes related to heart attack. Part of this is related to women having more atypical symptoms, like shortness of breath, nausea, abdominal pain or sweating, instead of classic symptoms of chest discomfort.
“Pulling a deer out of the woods is hard work. Weekend warriors injure their knees for the same reasons that hunters die suddenly in the woods. Their bodies are not used to the physical stress they are placing on it.”
Incidents are down
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources also is reminding hunters to be careful. There were nine reported hunting accidents in 2013, including one self-inflicted fatality and three where hunters shot others.
Nine is the least number of incidents in quite some time, and that decline is good to see. There were 32 hunting “incidents” and two fatalities in 2007, by comparison.
Two of last year’s incidents occurred during the archery season, according to the DNR’s 2013 Hunting Incident Report. Each involved a crossbow and self-inflicted injuries.
One was an Emmet County hunter who attempted to remove the bolt from his crossbow with the safety off. He shot himself in the leg.
The other was a Hillsdale hunter who fell asleep with the crossbow between his legs. His finger was in the trigger guard. He shot himself in the foot.
Tree stands also continue to be a source of danger. Hunters regularly fall out of them or injure themselves while climbing up to or down from them, sometimes ending up paralyzed for life.
What goes up …
Falls, unfortunately, are not tracked by the DNR unless someone dies, but the agency is well aware of the national trends and problems.
“Hunting from a tree stand is a popular way for hunters to enjoy their season, but nearly every year a Michigan hunter is seriously injured or killed falling out of a tree stand,” a DNR news release sent out this month said.
“DNR conservation officers responding to tree-stand falls see the same mistakes over and over — not using a harness or a haul line,” said Sgt. Tom Wanless, supervisor of the DNR hunter education program. “Nationally, 82 percent of hunters who fall from a tree stand are wearing a harness, but it’s not connected. And 86 percent of tree-stand falls take place during the climb up or down.”
All of this is leads to one bit of advice: Be careful out there.
Michigan’s deer hunting seasons are about to go into full swing. If you don’t have a safety harness, get one and learn how to use it. If you suspect serious health issues, get them checked out.
Michigan’s deer hunting seasons run for the next three months. That’s plenty of time to figure out how to safely enjoy your hunting experience.
This story appears on MLive Outdoors