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Hunting season is just around the corner and, for many deer hunters, preparations for the big hunt are well underway! Their food plots are set, their guns have been sighted and their blaze orange has been laid out. They’ve scoped out the woods and checked their trail cams, but few think about their health before heading out to the woods. 

Here are some tips for staying healthy and safe during this year’s hunt: 

Schedule a physical today 

Hunters walk long distances, climb trees, navigate rough terrain and drag their trophy bucks out of the woods. All of these activities can put strain on your heart and take a toll on your body. Be sure to schedule a physical with your primary care physician or provider before taking to the woods to ensure you are in good physical condition. Find a doctor near you.

Practice tree stand safety 

Tree stand mishaps are the No. 1 cause of death and injury during deer hunting. Be sure to wear a full body harness when you are in your tree stand. Stay connected from the time your feet leave the ground to the time they touch it, and encourage fellow hunters to practice these safety measures as well. 

Protect your hearing 

The shot of a rifle or shotgun is approximately 140 decibels, which is the equivalent of standing next to a jet engine. Sounds at this noise level can cause instant and permanent hearing loss. The only way to prevent hearing damage while hunting is to wear hearing protection. Custom-fit hearing protection  works best, as it is individually molded to each ear, providing a more effective barrier against rifle and shotgun sounds. Custom-fit hearing protection is available for both adults and children at Prevea Audiology locations near you. 

Proper conditioning 

If you have not conditioned properly before hitting the trail, then walking up and down steep hills and tramping through wet, slippery fields and wooded areas can put stress on the muscles and tendons in your back, hips, knees and feet. Make sure you train appropriately before the season to help prevent muscle, bone or joint injury. 

Wear blaze orange 

Remember your basic hunter’s safety rules and make sure you’re wearing your blaze orange. Wearing blaze orange makes you visible to others hunting in the area and a safer environment. 

Appropriate footwear

Many people do not realize that cross-training athletic shoes are not the best choice for extended hiking and hunting. Investment in top-quality hiking boots that are sturdy and well-constructed is recommended. Sturdy, well-insulated and moisture-proof boots with steel or graphite shanks (the supportive structure of a shoe that sits between the insole and outsole) offer excellent foot and ankle support and helps lessen stress and muscle fatigue to reduce injury risk. The presence of a supportive shank decreases strain on the arch by allowing the boot to distribute impact as the foot moves forward. Thus, generally avoid boots if it bends in the middle as you walk as that is a sign of a shank not in the shoe.

Suggested socks

In wet and cold weather, wearing the right socks can help prevent blisters, fungal infections and frostbite. It is recommended to wear synthetic socks as the first layer to keep the feet dry and reduce blister-causing friction. For the second layer, wool socks add warmth, absorb moisture away from the skin and help make the hiking boot more comfortable. Wool lets moisture evaporate more readily than cotton, leading to fewer blisters. 

Rest if needed 

Pain usually occurs in feet or ankles from overuse, even from just walking. If you are not accustomed to walking on sloped or uneven ground, your legs and feet will get tired and cause muscles and tendons to ache. To avoid a serious injury, such as a severe ankle sprain or an Achilles tendon rupture, rest for a bit if you start hurting. 

Firearm safety 

Be sure to follow the basic rules of firearm safety provided by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for a safe hunting season. 

With this type of preparation, it’s sure to be a safe and successful hunt. Good luck out there!