Nothing takes the enjoyment out of hunting trips faster than an injury. To avoid that, seasoned hunters practice safe handling of their firearms and knives, and learn about the animal’s habits and habitats in order to stay safe. However, one of the most common threats to your safety – dehydration – is also one of the most preventable.
Dehydration can Happen Regardless of Temperature
When you think of dehydration, you think of being in high heat or out in a desert somewhere. While high heat does increase the likelihood of dehydration, you can become dehydrated in most any climate.
What is Dehydration?
Dehydration is simply your body using more water than it’s taking in. Improper hydration can cause muscle cramps, dizziness, decreases in strength and endurance, fainting and even more serious conditions like heat exhaustion or heat stroke. None of those contribute to an enjoyable hunting trip.
Even in cooler climates, you can become dehydrated if you’re physically active, such as when tracking game, hiking to your camp, or maybe dragging game back after a successful hunting trip. Your clothing can also contribute to dehydration. The heavier clothing you’re comfortable with while you are sitting in a tree stand may now be too warm to you while dragging your trophy back to the camp.
Warning Signs of Dehydration
The first warning sign that you’ll likely experience is the simplest one. If you feel thirsty, drink some water. The best approach is to drink on a regular basis, whether you feel thirsty or not. The fact of the matter is that if you feel thirsty, you’re already beginning to dehydrate. Throw the old wisdom that “you should drink 8-10 glasses of water a day” out the window. That is fine for a sedentary person sitting indoors. An active person should be consuming about a gallon to a gallon and a half of water a day. You lose about 4 cups of water per hour during exercise in a moderate climate.
Other common signs include fatigue, irritability, dry mouth, headache and strong smelling, dark colored urine.
Popular sports drinks may replace electrolytes better than water, but plain water is still king when it comes to staying hydrated. If your periods of heightened physical activity are less than 1 hour at a time, skip the sports drink and stick with water. As a side note, beer (and other alcoholic beverages) will not “quench your thirst.” Alcohol is a diuretic and it eventually makes dehydration more likely.
If you find yourself exhibiting signs of heat injuries, start with cool or room temperature water. The stomach handles that better than ice cold water. Some sports drinks are ok but fruit juices or sodas with more than 8% carbohydrates are not recommended because it is not absorbed as rapidly by the body.
The professionals at R&K Hunting Company can give you more tips to make your hunting trips enjoyable, safe and successful.