Dr. Jacqueline Gerhart: Staying Safe During Deer Hunting

UW Health Family Medicine physician Dr. Jacqueline GerhartMadison, Wisconsin - UW Health Family Medicine physician Jacqueline Gerhart writes a column that usually appears weekly on madison.com and in the Wisconsin State Journal. Columns are re-published here with permission.


Dear Readers: Thanksgiving is upon us, and so is the season for deer hunting. While bow hunting has been going on for awhile, gun hunting for deer started on Nov. 23 and goes until Dec. 1.


Whether you are a hunter or not, you will likely be affected by deer this season. Here are some facts and tips on staying healthy this hunting season:


Driving safety: I know it's deer season when my mom perpetually ends our conversations with, "OK honey, and remember, drive safely and watch for deer." Since I was a small child, I can remember going to my grandfather's farm in Wausau for Thanksgiving - passing numerous fields peppered with orange-clad hunters. I also remember seeing numerous deer on the side of the road - both alive and dead. The state Department of Natural Resources does a great job of trying to control the deer population. In fact, Wisconsin ranks first in the country for "quantity of deer harvested" per year. In order to make sure that your car is not part of the harvest, be sure to do the following: First, slow down when on country roads or in wooded areas. Also, if you are driving on back roads or your own property, try to use high beams if no other cars are around.


Next, decrease distractions: Don't use a cellphone, keep the radio low and ask someone else to navigate.


Also, keep blankets, a shovel and a flat tire kit in your car. No, the blankets and shovel aren't for the deer. They are for you and your family in case your car needs to be shoveled out of snow, or you need to bundle up while awaiting help.


And finally, in your attempt to avoid hitting a deer, do not try to perform dangerous swerving maneuvers that could result in a rollover - especially in winter weather conditions. Hitting the deer might be your best option.


Hunting safety: According to the DNR, 375,622 deer licenses were sold in Wisconsin in 2012 and 368,314 deer were killed during the hunting season. This year, 383,537 licenses were sold as of Nov. 18. The majority of these are gun licenses. This means a large number of rifles, tree stands and butchering. While you know that guns have obvious risks, it is also important to know the true risk of tree stands. If you are a seasoned hunter, you likely have seen the DNR website, read through the safety rules and regulations, and hopefully chosen to build or purchase a tree stand that is safe.


According to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 9.5 million of the 11 million deer hunters in the U.S. use a tree stand. And, about 2.5 million hunters report having fallen from a tree stand, causing 105,000 injuries per year. Tree stands are responsible for about one third of the reported hunting related injuries.


To put that in perspective, there are about 1,000 people who have gunshot injuries per hunting season, with fewer than 100 of these being fatal. So before you step up into the stand, do yourself a favor and check that it hasn't been recalled, that its parts are sturdy, and that you have a harness or appropriate gear to use it.


Eating safety: Finally, as goes with all food preparation, please be sure that you prepare your meat correctly. With all the hands in the kitchen over the holidays, be sure to wash your hands between handling venison and touching other surfaces or foods. And remember, if you are butchering it yourself, make sure your knives are sharp and cut away from yourself (and your fingers)!


Happy Thanksgiving!


This column provides general health information and is not specific advice intended for any particular individual(s). It is not a professional medical opinion or a diagnosis. Always consult your personal health care provider about your concerns. No ongoing relationship of any sort (including but not limited to any form of professional relationship) is implied or offered by Dr. Gerhart to people submitting questions.

Date Published: 11/27/2013

News tag(s):  jacqueline l gerhart

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