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Into the Outdoors: It's October

Is this for real? Is it really October? I keep hoping that I will wake up and it will still be June, although I know that won’t happen.

With various types of deer hunting action just around the corner, and some small game hunting already in, it’s probably a good time to take our annual look at hunting safety. We are, however, going to focus on something a bit different from that to which we are accustomed. Of course, firearms handling safety, along with making sure of your target and backstop are of vital importance. There are, though, some other considerations, which are sometimes overlooked, and they will be the focus of this month’s column.

One of the dangers seldom thought of at this time of year is poison ivy. Although usually thought of as a summer problem, the stalks and dead leaves still contain urushiol, the substance which causes the violent skin reaction in susceptible individuals. Now, there’s an additional problem. The old adage “leaflets three, let it be,” is no longer very helpful. You can’t readily see the plant. Just to be on the safe side, I always shower with Fels Naphtha soap after hunting, unless I’m absolutely sure that the plant doesn’t exist in an area I’m hunting. So far, this has worked for me, and I’m really susceptible to the poison and its harmful effects.

If, like me, you frequently hunt alone, any number of unpleasant things could happen, and they are compounded by the fact that nobody is with you. You could very easily fall and become incapacitated. Also, there is always the risk of a heart attack or some other medical crisis. For that matter, you could throw your back out and be unable to move. For these reasons, it is vital that you make sure someone knows where you’re hunting. Let’s elaborate a bit on some of the nasty falls hunters can take. One of the worst occurs when you step lengthwise on a wet log that is covered with leaves. Down you go, right on your tailbone. Often, if you’re careful, you can spot the logs ahead of time, but you’re almost certain to miss spotting one from time to time. It’s also possible to hit your head on a rock or log, causing serious injury, including prolonged unconsciousness. Broken bones can also occur and, if you’re a long way from help, can be a serious matter. Once again, this illustrates the necessity of making sure that someone knows where you are hunting.

Still another potential problem is eye injury. When you’re absorbed in what you are doing, it’s easy to get poked in the eye with a branch. Here’s yet another case where a bit of caution can go a long way toward preventing a problem, but we all let our guard down once in awhile.

It’s also extremely important to know your physical limitations and to stay within them. If you are out of shape, and seldom exercise, the rigors of just walking, climbing hills, dragging out a big game animal, etc. can be too much for you. If it’s been a while since you have been active, this should send up a warning flag.

When you come right down to it, hunting is a really safe sport. When you look at how many participate in it in Pennsylvania, compared to the number of injuries and illnesses that result, this is clearly illustrated. Most of the time a bit of common sense is all it takes to stay safe.

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