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Make sure you are physically ready to hunt

Mike Bleech Outdoors Columnist

Typical Pennsylvania hunters do absolutely nothing to get ready physically for the hunting seasons. This is not so different from playing a football game after doing little other than getting fatter for the past 35 years since a typical hunter is more than 50 years old. While it is accidental shooting incidents that get the most attention, especially in the news media, many more hunters will fall victim to heart attacks, sprains, broken bones, falls from trees, automobile accidents than to anything involving firearms. Then add to that the threat of disease from bug bites.

All outdoor activities have become increasingly dangerous due to things such as Lyme Disease, which is caused by a bite from a deer tick, or West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis, which are caused by the bite of a mosquito. These are far from the only diseases spread by ticks and mosquitos. All hunters should protect themselves.

Most of the better-known DEET-based insect repellents provide protection from mosquitos. Those repellents with at least 30% DEET work best and may provide protection from ticks. Mosquitos will disappear from cold weather sooner than ticks. If ticks are the main concern, I have been using a Permethrin based insect repellent that should be applied to clothing and gear but not on the skin. This type of repellent will remain effective on clothing through several washings.

Does Permethrin really repel or kill ticks?

Last fall during the early part of hunting season, just as I sat in my truck I watched a tick scramble down my shirt sleeve, over my pants to my bent knee, then jump out of the truck. I do not think it stopped until after cresting the next hill, then it dropped dead.

While all of these things can happen to hunters of any age, it is older hunters who have the greatest risks for physical issues. Our balance is lessened, bones break easier, ankles twist easier and overexertion can kill us. We get light-headed, have heart attacks and strokes. And we get stubborn and insist that these things only happen to someone else. Get real. Get professional help.

The first thing older hunters should do in physical preparation for hunting seasons is to see their physician. Older hunters should ask how much physical activity they can handle, and ask for advice on getting into the proper physical condition. You probably can not do many of the exercises of youth. A physician may recommend specific exercises.

Not all kinds of hunting are as stressful as other kinds. Older hunters who hunt with younger hunters might be able to pass the task of dragging a deer to a hunting partner. Any worth their salt would be proud to do it. Sitting in a heated stand does not take as much stamina as walking all day. Some physical conditions allow hunting in a motor vehicle.

Warren Senior Center has physical fitness programs that are low stress. Currently, they have Healthy Steps for Older Adults and a walking group. Walking obviously is one of the keys to hunting. In the past, they have had a yoga class. There is an exercise room with some equipment. It does not get a lot of use, but a few older hunters who plan to survive a long hunting season could easily change that.

Warren YMCA has special exercise programs for older people. These, at least some, are intended for a higher level of physical fitness than exercise programs at senior centers.

An advantage of organized physical fitness programs is that they can be done year-round. By remaining physically fit older people can lead much more rewarding lives than those who let themselves go. There is an old saying that goes “Use it or lose it”. If you let it go too long you may never get it back.

If going to the ‘Y’ or the Senior Center are not your style, so long as you get the ok from your physician you can do all of the walkings you need free and on your own.

I have trouble sticking with any walking program if it is just walking for walking sake. So my excuse for walking in any season is birding. To make it look good and feel right, carry binoculars, a birding field guide, and a pencil and small note pad to list the birds you identify.

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