by Naomi k. Shapiro
Most people who don't hunt think hunting is a "walk-along-sport" where you sit a great deal, and, in off-hours drink beer a great deal. Well, perhaps those two observations are correct -- but only to a point.
Hunting can often be an arduous task -- especially for the novice who doesn't know about hiking miles in rugged terrain, enduring cold -- and heat, wind, snow and rain. And then of course there are the aching ankles, the twisted back, dragging a deer through the forest, carrying supplies in and out, the bugs and mosquitoes... and all combined can make for a daunting experience at the very least.
So what to do? First -- forget the idea of going through a military boot camp. That isn't necessary. But what is necessary is recognizing the need for some preparation. That can translate into something as simple as being able to walk some distance, using good footwear and clothing. Then there's the need for at least some endurance being able to stay outside in whatever weather may hit you; or knowing when to hydrate yourself; or rest. Frankly, not many hunters are really into aerobics, regular workouts, or physical training. And if you're not, then don't delude yourself into thinking you'll be able to emulate a Navy SEAL in crossing water, doing well under adverse conditions, or long-term lack of food or water. You won't.
What you must do is make sure you are physically "fit" to endure what we've described. It's a good idea to have yourself checked out by a physician measure your vital signs. See how your blood pressure is. How is your breathing and pulse? Simple things that will tell you whether you should be out hunting. And, sadly, there are deaths every year in hunting season from heart attacks, slips-and-falls, and strokes, to name a few.
Don't be ashamed to ever tell your friends or family that you're just not into the needed proper shape to go out hunting. There's no embarrassment in saying that -- indeed, it might save your life. And don't fool yourself -- you can't get yourself in proper shape in a couple of days. Becoming physically-fit months before you go out hunting is what is needed. You don't want to? OK -- then don't go. Don't "cheat" your friends or family out of a good hunting experience because you can't keep up, or help field dress or drag out that big buck that was taken. And if you try to fool yourself, you could end up being shipped off to an emergency room for any number of reasons. And yes, physical conditioning often plays a role in things as simple as a misstep, slip, fall whatever. The better shape you're in, the less likely it's going to be that you'll suffer some type of injury.
So what's the bottom-line? If you don't pass the doctor's muster, and you yourself KNOW you're not "good to go" physically, then don't. There's always next year, and if you don't say that and do go out hunting when
you're not in proper shape, you may not have a next year!
Naomi K. Shapiro, OWAA, SPJ, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org