Be Honest With Yourself | By: Kevin Guillen

We are nearing deer season for many states and there’s an increasing occurrence of deer hunters suffering heart attacks in the field each season. Right up there with how many licenses are sold and deer killed is the growing number of hunters dying from heart attacks. It occurred to me that as an industry we rarely discuss this distressing statistic.

Man hunting deer with bow


Many of us live sedentary lives until hunting season rolls around, and then we’re suddenly hanging cameras, tree stands, scouting, and hopefully packing or dragging a buck out of the woods. This sudden burst of adrenaline and exertion can precipitate a heart attack for a number of reasons.

What it boils down to is poorly conditioned cardiovascular systems put under a tremendous amount of stress that one is not prepared for. In a study done at Slippery Rock University, a 123-pound fake deer was dragged a quarter mile by participants wearing heart monitors. In just 2.5 minutes, the hunter’s heart rates spiked to over 85% of their max.

Man hiking on the side of a mountain

Things happen fast during a hunt and a proper warm up to safely approach that level of intensity is usually out of the question. Couple that with a weak cardiovascular system and you have a recipe for a heart attack in what is often a very remote place.

Exhausted hunter leaning against poles Three factors that put a strain on our heart while hunting:

  • Hunting’s strenuous nature
  • The epinephrine (or “excitement”) response upon seeing game
  • Environmental stresses including cold weather and altitude.

The takeaway is this – the physical toll of a hunt should not be taken lightly or prepared for on the couch. Our health, performance, and success in the woods is a year-round endeavor which requires our ego’s to be left at home. Take care of your heart, stay physically active, and be honest with yourself. The rewards will greet you with many more mountains to climb and bucks to drag out.