BEAR CREEK TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Safety is the name of the game when it comes to deer hunting. That safety isn’t limited to wearing fluorescent orange and responsible shooting.
Hunting can be quite a workout between carrying gear, the long walk in the woods and dragging a deer when you bag a buck. For some hunters, it’s all too much for their heart.
It’s the week orange-clad deer hunters have been waiting for. While they’re focused on spotting antlers, they need to be focused even more on their heart health. “I had real bad (clutching chest) hard to breathe. It was very difficult to breathe,” said Bill Barlow of Weatherly.
What he experienced about six years ago deer hunting was a serious cardiac scare that landed him in the hospital. “They operated on me like two days later. Open heart.”
This one-time avid hunter needed a quintuple bypass after doctors discovered five artery blockages which the strain of hunting exposed. Bill is actually one of the lucky ones. Studies show that you are three times more likely to die of a heart attack hunting than by a stray bullet.
The sudden burst of activity — especially if you have a sedentary lifestyle — can put a hunter’s life in peril. Bill’s doctor, Geisinger Cardiologist Bryan Martin, MD said, “They’re doing it with a rapid rise in the heart rate, rapid rise in the blood pressure and that puts a demand on the heart.”
Something Bill does regularly now is what Dr. Martin recommends — exercise to help you build up to handle that hunting workout. But before heading into the woods, the physician says get a physical and work on reducing your risk factors. “Things to think about as risk factors smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, family history,” said Dr. Martin.
Now 76-years-old, Bill no longer hunts but that day in the woods of Weatherly serves as a cautionary tale for hunters, today. “Someone to wait around all year and not do anything, they have a desk job or something like that, they go into the woods and the heart don’t (sic) like it,” said Bill.
Something else to consider when hunting is never hunt alone, carry a cell phone and leave it on for possible GPS tracking and have an exit plan. You might also consider not going so deep into the woods to help reduce the strain on your heart.