Take precautions to ensure a healthy hunt | SteamboatToday.com

Take precautions to ensure a healthy hunt

Christine Metz

Hunting in Colorado is relatively safe compared to other popular recreation activities in the state.

A study from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment showed that from 1996 to 1998, hunting had fewer fatalities than climbing and hiking, skiing, bicycling, swimming, canoeing, kayaking and rafting, boating and water skiing and horseback riding.

In the three-year time span, five people died from unintentional injuries while hunting.

Despite the numbers, officials advise hunters to take precautions while out in the woods.

Some of the most common concerns are heart attacks, altitude sickness, hypothermia and dehydration.

Beth Watson, a public health nurse at the Visiting Nurse Association, said those with chronic health conditions should discuss hunting plans, like any new sport, with their doctors before starting. For those who do not regularly exercise, Watson recommends doing so before hunting.

“They need to get their fitness level up before coming. If sedentary, they should start a program or at least start walking and doing some activity.”

Heart attacks are not unheard of during hunting trips. According to the American Red Cross, signs of a heart attack are persistent chest pains or discomfort, difficulty breathing, changes in pulse and pale or bluish skin color.

Watson recommends that hunters carry cell phones so if an emergency does happen, the hunting party can call 911. Another essential is a well-stocked first aid kit.

A concern for out-of-state hunters is altitude sickness. Elevation in Northwest Colorado ranges between 6,000 and 12,000 feet.

Acute mountain sickness is the most common form of altitude sickness and can occur as low as 6,500 square feet.

It is characterized by a headache, fatigue, nausea, shortness of breath, sleep disturbance and a rapid and forceful heartbeat. Unless dehydration or hyperventilation is severe, acute mountain sickness usually subsides within a few days.

Watson says if it occurs, hunters should slowly come down from the high altitude if possible and if severe, lay down in a warm place.

Watson recommends that hunters spend a night in Denver or Steamboat Springs to acclimate to the change in altitude before taking off into the backcountry. “It gives the body time for adjusting before stressing the lungs and the heart,” Watson said.

Recommendations are for taking two days from sea level to 8,000 feet and one day for every 2,000 feet above that.

Strenuous activity should also be avoided for several days before the ascent.

Out-of-state hunters also could be surprised by how much water they need to drink. Water loss is greatly increased by over breathing the dry air at altitude, and dehydration can worsen altitude sickness.

“Drink a lot of water. It helps altitude sickness and helps prevent hypothermia,” Watson.

Drinking alcohol could worsen dehydration and altitude sickness.

Another recommendation is to wear layered clothing and clothing that absorbs sweat, Watson said, which will help prevent hypothermia. n

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