Doctors warn hunters of hidden health hazards before season opener

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EAU CLAIRE, Wisc. (WEAU) - With the gun deer hunting opener approaching, doctors warned hunters about hazards that may be overlooked.

Deputies said a hunter in Oconto County died from an apparent heart attack Thursday and fell from his tree stand.

John Sackett of Eau Claire said he's been deer hunting for 35 years, but knows he can't quite do everything the way he used to.

"I let the male ego go and say, 'I need help. If I shoot a deer, I'm going to come get you guys. I'm going to ask you to help me to drag that deer out to a point where we can put it on a 4-wheeler or drag it too are site,'" Sackett said.

Cardiologist Dr. Fearghas O'Cochlain with Mayo Clinic Health System said there are several health risks when it comes to hunting, especially for those who get little exercise outside of deer season.

"It's really important to be honest with yourself as to whether you're able or healthy enough to be outdoors or to do much more than normal," O'Cochlain said. "When that big buck comes, there's a lot of stress and anxiety around ... Dragging out the deer may be a lot more work than people are used to."

He suggested doing activities in a safe environment before hunting, to get exercise and learn limitations.

"If one can do it easily at home, then it's a good reassurance to be able to do that on the day," he said.

"You need to be conscious of what it takes to do hunting, you need to do it safely and need to be reminded of that and think about that every time you hunt, no matter how many years you've been in the field," Sackett said.

Another concern is falling from tree stands. Sackett suggested practicing putting one up before going out and always using a harness.