Physical Therapy Tips for Hunters

Six things to consider when hunting this year

To avoid injury, strains and staying healthy

Updated: November 2nd, 2022. Originally posted November 2nd, 2020.

As the leaves change and the temperature drops, those of us who hunt head off into the woods, duck blinds, or grasslands and sloughs in search of deer, waterfowl, pheasants, grouse, and other upland game. Most importantly, however, are the traditions kept and relived year after year, and the memories yet to be made. Whether you are a meat hunter or after that elusive trophy, there are a few things to keep in mind as you prepare for hunting season.

The first thing to keep in mind is to not be a member of the ‘over-use’ or ‘overdoing it’ group. Let us not forget what we have done for the 11 months prior to hunting season. If you are a sedentary person or have seen your activity level drop this year in comparison to previous years, do not expect your body to respond well when you put on an extra 10-15 lbs. of gear and try to head through the woods, swamps, or grasslands for what could be miles at a time. Even more insane is the thought of trying to drag that 150 lb. plus deer out of the woods all by yourself or lugging bags full of decoys through a muddy stubble field. We often see muscle strains and sprains in physical therapy as a result of overuse, but each year many hunters also suffer more serious issues such as heart attacks while trying to overdo it. Be smart if you plan to do a fair amount of walking/hiking during the hunting season and seriously consider beginning a progressive walking and/or general exercise routine at least two to three months before you venture out on opening day. Spend as much time preparing physically for the hunt as you do organizing and planning for the hunt. Also, do not try to be a hero! If you happen to get that deer or other large game, ask for help and do not try to drag it out of the woods by yourself.

The second thing to consider is safety, especially if you hunt out of a tree stand. A lot can change over the course of a year, so always inspect your tree stand prior to the hunting season to make sure that it is secure and functioning as it should. Also, inspect the tree itself prior to the leaves falling off to make sure that it is alive and healthy, and without a bunch of dead limbs. Most often we walk to and from our stands in the dark, or in low light conditions, so make sure that you have a safe way to get there utilizing the appropriate gear to keep you safe and wear a harness when in the stand. These are simple things that can save your life and prevent serious injury as several thousand hunters fall from tree stands every year nationwide, often leading to severe injuries and even death. Consider this, your chances of sustaining a gunshot wound while hunting is roughly 90% lower than your chances of falling from a tree stand.

Here is a short list of some items to consider to help make your hunting experience safer and more enjoyable:

  1. Prepare physically
  2. Deer drag harness or cart
  3. Proper footwear and clothing
  4. Headlamp and tree stand harness
  5. Proper nutrition and hydration
    1. Jerky and beer alone do not count
  6. Don’t hunt alone
    1. Hunt with family or friends
    2. Bring along those younger generations

These are just a few simple ideas to help make your hunting trips safer and more enjoyable.

Immerse yourself in the outdoor experience. It will cleanse your soul and make you a better person.” – Fred Bear

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