Don’t Overlook Your Health


by John Hanna, PA-C / Family Medicine / UPMC Susquehanna - September 29, 2020

Most hunters are preppers. Before the opening of the season they make sure the guns are sighted in, the clothes are scent-free, and the vacation days are planned well in advance for those upcoming opening days. However, one thing many often overlook is their physical fitness.

Hunting can be a relaxing and enjoyable activity helping you disconnect while taking in the great outdoors, but it can also be dangerous. Inherently there’s risk to these activities considering the use of weapons, the rough terrain, and the cold weather, but one of the biggest dangers that many hunters overlook is the physical stress on the body.

Nobody wants to keel over from a heart attack in the woods, but every year it happens. A 2014 study by Slippery Rock University pointed out that hunters are more likely to die in the woods from a heart attack than from a stray bullet or from falling out of a tree stand. Therefore, it’s important for hunters to take their health into consideration.

Tips for Preparing for Opening Day

Archery season here in Pennsylvania is right around the corner and the other seasons will be here before you know it. Below are a few reminders to ensure you’re prepared appropriately and field fit:

  • Talk to Your Provider – Seeing your provider for your annual visit is a great place to start. You should be seeing your provider annually anyway and this visit can help you establish a wellness baseline. At this visit, your provider will perform a general physical, check your blood pressure, screen your eyes and hearing, and discuss your family history and lifestyle to help evaluate your health risks. Based on your risk, your provider can make recommendation to help you get the most out of your next season.
  • Get in Shape – Hunting is physically demanding, so you’ll want to keep in shape between the seasons. You don’t have to be able to bench press like a linebacker or run a marathon, but you should be able to carry your equipment and walk or hike a few miles without getting short of breath. Listen to your body and know your physical limits. The better shape you’re in, the less you’ll stress your body which reduces your risk for a health emergency.
  • Eat Right – While grabbing a donut and a coffee may seem convenient on your way into your blind, you should start your day with a nutritious breakfast like oatmeal and fruit. If you’re going to be out all day, pack a healthy lunch and plenty of snacks. Consider fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and even a little dairy or protein. Try to avoid anything processed or high in sodium.
  • Hydrate – More than half of the body’s weight is water. It’s important to keep a proper level of fluid in the body to support the body’s functions such as maintaining proper body temperature, removing waste through our digestive and urinary systems, and lubricating joints. The easiest way to prevent dehydration is to drink plenty of water each day. A popular rule of thumb for adults is the “8 x 8” rule: eight, 8 oz. cups of water daily. Liquids other than water, such as tea and coffee, count toward daily intake, but because they have caffeine, they are also diuretics, which cause the body to lose fluid. Therefore, it’s best to get most of your fluid intake from non-caffeinated beverages, and consume tea, coffee, and soda in moderation.
  • Prepare for the Worst – Emergency preparation is key, and it is good practice to go through your hunting pack before each hunt to be sure we’re stocked upon staple safety and first aid items. The weather can change unpredictably so keep an eye on the forecast in the days and hours leading up to your hunting trip. Dress in warm layers and avoid cotton clothing, which can retain moisture, and wear a water-repelling outer layer and supportive shoes. Camouflage is great to keep you hidden from game but be sure to wear your orange as required so that other hunters can see you. Accidents happen and anyone can get lost, be sure someone is aware of the details of your hunt – where you’ll be, when you plan to return, and how to reach you if possible.

    Enjoy and Good Luck

    No matter what type of hunting you do, prepare for this season. Take the necessary steps to ensure everything will run as smoothly as possible. Hunting has many health benefits, both physically and mentally. With a little preparation and prevention in mind, you’ll ensure you’re making good memories that will last a lifetime.

    John Hanna is a physician assistant specializing in Family Medicine and sees patients at UPMC Outpatient Center, 1 Outlet Ln., Suite 400, Lock Haven. To schedule an appointment, call (570) 769-1300. To learn more about Family Medicine services at UPMC in the Susquehanna Region, visit


Writing: John Hanna, PA-C / Family Medicine / UPMC Susquehanna


Funded by UPMC

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