Get Started
Get Started

Health & Exercise Forum

Health and Safety Tips for Hunters: Part 1 of 2

, , ,
Nov 30, 2009

Dr. Mackarey's Health & Exercise ForumToday is the first day of buck hunting season (with firearms) in Pennsylvania. In NEPA it is almost national holiday status for many men and WOMEN. In fact, in our office, Kelly Tratthen, former Lakeland High School and University of Scranton Women’s Basketball standout, requested the day off two months ago. As a non hunter and vegetarian, I was surprised because hunting was the last thing on my mind. Well, suffice it to say, Kelly will be missed by our patients today, she is hunting in Wayne County with her entire family; mom, dad, two brothers, grandfather and boyfriend. This column is dedicated to Kelly and all hunters of NEPA. Good luck. Be healthy and safe!

While I am not a hunter, I am an avid outdoors person with great passion for mountain biking, kayaking, whitewater rafting, hiking and mountain climbing in our state and national parks. I offer hunter safety tips based on the knowledge of experts in the field and offer health safety associated with outdoor activity based on my expertise as a health care provider.

Hunting Safety Tips

  • Take a hunting safety course (mandatory since 1982 for all first time hunters)
  • Make sure someone is aware of where you will be hunting.
  • Avoid hunting alone. If you go alone, be extra careful and hunt in familiar areas. Tell someone where you are hunting and when you expect to be home if you are hunting alone. Carrying a cell phone is a good safety precaution, especially if you are hunting alone.
  • Dress properly and be prepared for the worst possible conditions to prevent hypothermia. It is easier to remove layers than to be without extra clothing.
  • Check the weather forecast before going into the woods.
  • Check hunting equipment before and after each outing, and maintain it properly. Familiarize yourself with its operation before using it in the field.
  • Remember, hunting and the consumption of alcohol do not mix. There is a high incidence of accidents when the two are combined
  • Tree-stand safety –
    • Be wary of permanent treestands made from plywood and pine 2x4s. Thoroughly inspect their integrity beforehand. Falling limbs, wind and moisture weaken these treestands over time and can make them unsafe.
    • Always wear a safety harness when hunting from a treestand. Every year, hunters get injured when they fall asleep and fall from their treestands, or slip and fall when climbing in or out of the tree.
  • Wear hunter florescent orange. A hat and vest (or coat) that covers the chest and back area in solid orange is required by law. Hunter orange must also be worn by anyone accompanying a hunter.
  • Identify your target before you put your finger on the trigger. Most fatalities are the result of mistaken-for-game accidents.
  • Do not trespass. Get permission and know your property boundary.
  • Never cross a fence, ride a 4-wheeler or climb a tree with a loaded rifle. Use a tow rope to pull your rifle up and down from your treestand.
  • Never carry a loaded rifle in your truck or car, and be sure to unload your rifle when you get back to camp or when you stop hunting for the day. Assume that every rifle in camp is loaded unless the action is open and you can see that it's safe to handle.
  • Be careful when dragging out your deer. Each year, hunters die from heart attacks as a result of overexertion. Get help if you can't handle the chore by yourself. Go slow and take your time.


  • Art Lander, Jr., Outdoor journalist for the Herald-Leader in Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky

Read Part 2 on health and safety for hunters.

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email:

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an affiliated faculty member at the University of Scranton, PT Dept.