Wisconsin’s Assembly unanimously passed that “hunter pink” bill. Now it goes to the state Senate for consideration.
After I wrote about pink camo last week, and made the assertion that hunting is probably safer than taking a shower, someone asked if I was making that up. And if I wasn’t, he wanted to know, which of my too-many hobbies was riskiest. He’s one of the people who relishes headlines about marathon runners dying six miles from the finish line.
The answer is obvious but dips into that murky area where statistics can lie eloquently.
My most dangerous bad behavior is riding a bicycle, sort of. According to the Centers for Disease Control, bicycling is the second most likely sporting-recreational activity to send an American to the hospital – right after basketball. Figure that one out.
But the bicycle stat should come with an asterisk. Nearly all the bicycle boo-boos happen to children who have limited experience with their little two-wheelers. Statistically, although I’m an aberration, adults rarely get hurt on their big two-wheelers, although they do more often than hunting hurts hunters.
About half a million people end up in hospital emergency departments every year because of bicycles. Only about 9,000 do because of hunting.
The surprise is that about three-quarters of those injuries result from falls, most of them from elevated stands, and only about an eighth of them are firearms-related. Older hunters, in particular, have been well schooled on firearms safety, wearing hunter orange (or pink) and other safety rules, but need a refresher on the comparatively new idea of hunting from trees.
The first rule is that some people just shouldn’t. If you’re old enough and smart enough that climbing trees to perch and high places makes you nervous, just don’t do it. If it doesn’t scare you, make sure you’re using a quality manufactured stand — climbers are safest — that you understand and inspect every time you use it. Always wear a full-body harness. And never try to sit atop a tree while tired or under the influence of medications or alcohol.
But I think the hunter risk statistic needs an asterisk, too.
At least as many hunters end up in emergency rooms, or worse, each fall because of something that doesn’t get included in the accident statistics. Or worse happens a lot — cardiologists warn that heart attacks are far more likely to be lethal than most gunshot wounds.
A famous 2007 study by Beaumont Hospital put heart monitors on hunters and sent them into the deer woods. The results scared the cardiologists. Most of the test subjects experienced wildly elevated heart rates and dangerous arrhythmias — some from hauling carcasses out of the woods, some from spotting the buck of a lifetime, and some from lifting their own out-of-shape butts out of the pickup.
So in answer to that marathon-running or hunting question, the 11 miles I ran Sunday morning before spending the afternoon bow hunting immunized me against the biggest risk facing most hunters my age.
The cardiologists in the Beaumont study suggested hunters get some exercise and get a physical before doing anything as crazy risky as looking a whitetail buck in the eye.
If you’re not in great shape already, it’s probably too late to turn things around for Nov. 15.
But you can get a checkup. It’s free and convenient if you’re going Up North for the firearms deer season.
The Department of Natural Resources, Jay’s Sporting Goods, Otsego Memorial Hospital and Blue Cross Blue Shield are offering free health screenings Tuesday, Nov. 10 in Gaylord. The screenings are first-come first served from 10 to 2 at the Gaylord Jay’s store. I don’t think they’ll wire hunters with heart monitors, but they’re offering basic blood pressure checks and cholesterol screening.
Hunting, I should admit, is not the safest sport. You’re half as likely to get hurt playing billiards.
Contact Michael Eckert at email@example.com, (810) 989-6264, on Facebook @michaeleckert or on Twitter @michaeleckert.