What’s Killing U.S. Deer Hunters?

One deadly woodlands threat claims the lives of far more hunters each year than firearms discharges, tree stand accidents, drownings, or any other risk; can you name it?


| Headline Health – Hunter safety courses, which are now required of all new hunters in most if not all states,  place a heavy emphasis on firearms safety.

In these classes, new hunters are instructed to transport and carry their weapons securely, to positively identify their target before shooting, and to point their weapon only at something they intend to kill or destroy.

Emphasis on firearms safety has gone a long way to reducing hunting-related firearms deaths. While accidental shootings do still occur, they are much less frequent than in the past.

As reported by Thoughtco.com:

“According to the International Hunter Education Association, in an average year, fewer than 1,000 people in the U.S. and Canada are accidentally shot by hunters, and of these, fewer than 75 are fatalities.

“In many cases, these fatalities are self-inflicted by hunters who trip, fall, or have other accidents that cause them to shoot themselves with their own weapons. Most of the other fatalities come in hunting parties, where one hunter shoots another accidentally.”

However accidental discharge of a firearm and mistaken-for-game shootings are not the only risks hunters face in their quest for a trophy buck and meat for the table; they’re not even the biggest risks. Other risks to hunter safety include:

  • Motor vehicle accidents.  That drive to and from deer camp or game lands – whether alone or with hunting buddies – can be more dangerous than the hunt itself.

According to the The National Safety Council, 1 out of every 114 deaths in the U.S. is the result of a motor vehicle crash, while only 1 out of every 6,905 is an accidental firearms discharge – and a great many accidental deaths by firearms do not involve hunters.

Use extra caution when driving on unfamiliar backcountry roads, especially at night. Don’t let your inner drive to get that big buck turn into the last drive you ever make.

  • Tree Stands.  Accidents involving tree stands now surpass firearms accidents as a cause of hunting-related injuries and deaths in the U.S., the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

Recent estimates say that 6,000 hunters each year are injured in accidents involving falls from tree stands – six times as many as are wounded by firearms, says Thoughtco. Another study found that 55% of all hunting-related accidents in the state of Indiana are related to tree stands.

Major league baseball manager Ned Yost of the Kansas City Royals says he nearly died during the 2017 hunting season when he fell from a tree and shattered his pelvis. Thoughtco reports on Yost’s near-death experience:

“After the surgery, the trauma doctor came in and … said, ‘Look, you guys don’t know how lucky you are,'” Yost said. ‘We’ve seen these things before – this is a 25-30 percent mortality rate. You were crashing on the table. We couldn’t get the bleeding stopped. I thought we were going to lose you.'”

Tree stands can be very dangerous, but they still don’t cause as many fatalities as the #1 lethal threat that’s killing U.S. deer hunters, which we’ll get to in another moment.

  • Fire. A roaring fire may be a deer camp tradition, but use caution. Completely extinguish a campfire before heading to the field in the morning or retiring for the night. Check chimneys and flues for obstructions or built-up creosote before lighting a fire in your hunting cabin. Keep one or more fire extinguishers in your vehicle and/or camp.

Even an ordinary cooking fire can wreak havoc in a remote hunting camp:

“A fire blamed on a cooking mishap destroyed a large hunting camp in the town of Franklin (NY) Sunday afternoon. Fire Chief John Houghton said the club’s members had gone out hunting in the morning. They came back in the afternoon and were cooking when the fire broke out. They they went back into the kitchen and there was a fire,”  Houghton said. “They tried to extinguish it themselves. That was unsuccessful.” The hunting camp burned to the ground.

In Minnesota, the Twin Cities Pioneer Express reported:

BEMIDJI — The sheriff’s office identified two men found dead after a mobile home fire as brothers Scott Shoberg, 57, of Blaine, and Kurt Shoberg, 52, of Andover.

The sheriff’s office received a call about a structure fire at about 7 a.m. Saturday. Firefighters responded and found a trailer home fully engulfed in flames. After the fire was put out, two bodies were discovered inside. The two brothers used the trailer home as a hunting cabin.

  • Drowning. Yes, it’s entirely possible to drown while hunting. Crossing a fast-moving stream in heavy boots and a hunting jacket while carrying a firearm increases your risk. Hunting waterfowl or boating to an island or across a body of water also adds to your drowning risk. Just because boating is not the main purpose of your outing, do not overlook basic boating safety measures such as having life jackets onboard.

Tragic reports of hunting-related drownings include:

FORT ADAMS, Mississippi – A family hunting trip turned tragic when three people and a dog slipped below the surface of a frigid Mississippi river and never came back up. Authorities say the bodies of a man, his sister-in-law, her 6-year-old son and a pet were found in the Buffalo River after they drowned Sunday morning.

QUINLAN, TEXAS — A young Texas mother is mourning her husband and their 5-year-old son after the pair drowned while on the boy’s first duck hunting trip. Corey Saunders, 26, and his son Nathan left their home with their chocolate lab, Hunt, before 6 a.m., excited about their first duck hunting trip together. Corey Saunders’ body was found in the 8-foot water Tuesday morning, just feet from where his son was located. Search crews also found the capsized 10-foot boat the father and son had taken out on the lake.

  • Exposure.  Falling into cold water can kill you, even if you don’t drown. Hypothermia can set in quickly from either immersion in cold water or extended exposure to biting winds without adequate shelter.

Before venturing near any body of water while hunting, consider the consequences of possibly falling in. If you’re a two-hour hike from shelter on a cold day, hunting along the river bank or lakeside or in wetlands may not be the best idea.

According to hunter-ed.com, some of the most common and dangerous risks to hunters result from exposure to extreme weather:

Hypothermia occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce it, causing your core body temperature to fall. Hypothermia is often induced by cold, wet conditions, such as rain, snow, sleet, or immersion in water. However, hypothermia can occur at temperatures as high as 50° Fahrenheit.

Dress properly for the worst weather conditions you expect to encounter. Moisture from perspiration, humidity, and dew or rain on bushes and trees also can soak your clothing over time, putting you at risk in cold weather. Wet or damp clothes will draw heat out of your body more rapidly than cold air.

Wind lowers your body temperature as it evaporates moisture from your body. Resting against cold surfaces also will draw heat from your body.

Prevention of Hypothermia

Hypothermia can be prevented by dressing properly, avoiding potentially dangerous weather conditions, and drying out as quickly as possible when you get wet.

High-calorie foods, such as chocolate, peanuts, or raisins, provide quick energy that helps your body produce heat.

Like all of the risks named above, every hunter should take precautions to avoid potentially fatal exposure to cold temperatures. But hypothermia is still far from the most dangerous killer faced by hunters.

  • Wildlife attacks. It’s rare that the prey or other wildlife becomes the predator, but it can happen. The most dangerous creature a hunter might encounter is actually the mosquito, which spreads diseases that kill millions worldwide each year. However, these infectious insects have typically died back during hunting season in most regions of the U.S.

Bear hunters and occasionally deer hunters have been attacked by their prey, but fatalities are rare.  

  • Alcohol consumption. All risks increase when alcohol is added to the mix. Any activity that includes both alcohol and firearms is probably not a good idea. If a night at deer camp is going to include drinking, it’s wise to unload all firearms and store them securely before popping open the first cold one.

And just because you’re getting away from it all or driving on lightly patrolled backwoods roads doesn’t mean it’s okay drink and drive. Don’t let alcohol turn your annual hunt into your last hunt; think before you drink.

The #1 danger that’s killing U.S. deer hunters

We’ve covered a handful of potentially deadly hazards that every hunter should consider before heading out to the fields, forests, and wetlands in search of a buck buck or other quarry.

But there is one still one killer in the woods that takes down more deer hunters every year any of these dangers. Do you know what it is?

This lethal force stalks hunters and strikes them down suddenly, painfully, and with little to no warning.

It can strike dead even the most cautious and experienced of hunters.

This #1 hunter killer is so common that it often makes fewer headlines than some of the more dramatic but equally fatal risks named above involving firearms, tree stands, fire, or motor vehicle – though it has been covered thoroughly by HeadlineHealth.com, the publisher of the manual you are now reading.

We’re talking about the risk that while going to, hunting in, or returning from the field, a hunter will experience a widow-maker – a fatal heart attack.

Heart disease causes 614,348 deaths per year, reports Medical News Today.

A surprisingly large number of those deaths occur while hunting.

Heart attacks are the cause of hunter fatalities most sportsmen think will never happen to them and their buddies.

Heart disease is America’s number #1 killer of all races and both genders.

It is the third leading killer of 35-44 year olds, second leading killer of 45-64 year olds, and the #1 killer of those over 65.

It’s also the leading killer of hunters. For more on heart attacks and hunting, we look to the globally respected health experts at Mayo Clinic.

Taking a few minutes to read through their suggestions could one day save your life or that of a loved on or hunting buddy …

Heart attacks can happen while hunting

Mayo Clinic News Network

It’s still dark outside; the weather is bitter and cold. It’s the perfect day to get together with good friends, reflect on life, walk the countryside, and bring home that trophy buck or prize pheasant.

You’re fully prepared this year; your scope is right on, you’ve scouted out the perfect spot for your stand, and you’ve been punching paper targets for months. But is your body ready?

Like any sport, hunting requires the participants to train, focus, and be mentally and physically fit for the activity required.

When hunters aren’t in shape, their trips can sometimes end in tragedy. Hunting may be the most demanding physical exertion some hunters experience all year.

Physically unfit hunters at risk of heart attack

Dragging a heavy deer through the snow or brush can be exceptionally stressful on the heart. Studies show that excitement of sighting a deer can send a hunter’s heart rate soaring.

This excitement, combined with strenuous hunting activity, can put a physically unfit hunter at risk of a heart attack.

Knowing the warning signs of a heart attack can help alleviate the severity of the attack. Many people fail to recognize a heart attack because the symptoms can be vague and easy to pass off as a less serious problem.

A heart attack does not always produce a giant, immobilizing pain or a sharp stabbing pain.

The body sends signals that the heart is starving for oxygen by these warning signals. Knowing the signs allows you to act fast:

  • An uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing or pain in the center of the chest for more than two minutes.
  • Chest pain that spreads to the shoulders, neck, or arms
  • Dizziness, fainting, sweating, nausea and shortness of breath may also occur.

Sometimes these signals may subside only to return later, possibly with greater discomfort and danger.

The American Heart Association recommends that anyone experiencing chest pain and discomfort for two minutes or more should call 911 or go to a hospital immediately.

Expect the person to deny the possibility of having a heart attack, but insist on prompt action. Do not ignore any warning signal, act immediately!

“Don’t worry about a false alarm,” says Dr. Woodward. “Just get to the hospital. Reacting quickly could save your life, as you have only a couple of hours to save that heart muscle.”

Dr. Woodward advises to take heed of any warning signal, and act immediately. He also recommends:

  • Find out which hospitals provide 24-hour service in the area you will be hunting before your trip. Save the location on your phone or GPS.
  • Select the nearest facility in advance, so there will be no delay in finding a hospital.
  • Inform your family and friends, so they know where to go in case of an emergency.

Smoking, family history, diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol all can cause a heart attack. Now is the best time to get a checkup from your doctor so you know if you’re ready and what you can do to prepare. In addition to giving you a heart risk assessment, physicians also can give advice on exercise programs to get you ready for dragging out a buck.

Being prepared is the best bet for a safe and successful hunting season. A quick and easy checkup can get you ready for the voyage and could save your life.


Heart Attacks, Hunting and Stress Tests

By Jeff Davis, Whitetails Unlimited

Whitetails Unlimited writer Jeff Davis suggests that all hunters over age 45 get a stress test in advance of hunting season. After all, says Davis pointedly, you can’t hunt if you’re dead.

Every deer season, news reports include the number of licenses sold, number of deer killed – and how many hunters died from heart attacks.

The medical establishment has defined a number of risk factors for heart disease and one of them – sooner or later – will apply to the vast majority of deer hunters.

Being a male over 45 years old.

That’s right, for the 88% of deer hunters that are male, just by living long enough to reach halfway through your fifth decade on earth you are automatically at risk for heart disease. Age may bring wisdom, but it also brings danger.

Your risk of heart disease, male or female, increases if you have additional risk factors such as a significant family history of heart disease, diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), if you are overweight, or if you smoke.

Many hunters who die each year from heart attacks didn’t even know they had heart disease. What often happens is that a hunter has deposits in his arteries, and outside of hunting season leads a generally sedentary lifestyle.

The exertion of hunting causes an increased heart rate. A piece of plaque breaks off in a blood vessel, or a clot forms in the bloodstream and travels to a narrow part of an artery in the heart. This blockage cuts off the blood supply to the heart, stressing the heart, and resulting in a heart attack.

And it isn’t just the exertion of hiking, climbing or dragging a deer through the woods that can cause an elevated heart rate. … Read more at https://www.whitetailsunlimited.com/media/archives/heartattacks.phtml/


Heart Attack: Danger In The Hunting Woods

Hunters should recognize this threat and learn how to survive

By Ray Jones, Georgia Outdoor News, October 18, 2017

My granddaddy’s name was William Howard Jones, and he was an avid fisherman and hunter.

He had several self-imposed nicknames, his favorite being “Wataski.” He frequently and playfully referred to himself as this distinguished nickname since the time he bagged a huge 10-point buck and then soon after caught a 10-lb. bass.

He was a superhero to me. We hunted, trapped and fished every critter in the state from the time I could tag along.

Thanksgiving morning, 1981, Wataski died on his deer stand from a heart attack.

I was devastated. Heart disease was such a mystery to me at the time, but I hated it with a passion for taking my granddaddy.

It’s no longer the mystery it once was, but be assured that my hate for heart disease has only grown.

Later in my life, I became a registered nurse, primarily working in the emergency room. Every fall, we would treat patients who suffered heart attacks while in the woods hunting.

My mind would flash back to the pain I felt when I lost my grandpa, and somehow I felt that Ol’ Wataski was saying to me, “Well, do something about it, boy!”

Heart attack victims have a disease process going on in their arteries that is very insidious and slow to develop, typically about 10 years.

Heart attacks are more likely to happen during strenuous physical activity, and this is exactly what happens when hunters take to the woods.

Many of us are not all that physically active most of the year, and when hunting season comes around, suddenly we are planting food plots, setting up stands, cutting shooting lanes and sometimes dragging a deer out of the woods if we are lucky.

This sudden burst of activity can precipitate a heart attack that would happen anyway at some point, but for it to happen deep in the woods, especially if you are alone, can greatly reduce your chance of a good outcome.

Read more at: www.gon.com/hunting/heart-attack-danger-in-the-hunting-woods. Ray Jones is Associate Director of Cardiovascular Services at Houston Heart Institute at Houston Healthcare in Warner Robins.