Editors Blog

Hunters Beware: Sitting Still Can Kill You

DDH Editor-in-Chief in Oregon

DDH Editor-in-Chief in Oregon

Quick: Name the most dangerous part of deer hunting.

The list of hazards adds up pretty quickly, doesn’t it? Most of you probably will mention things like hunting from tree stands; razor sharp broadheads or, heaven forbid, accidental firearm discharges.

By Daniel E. Schmidt

All can be deadly, no doubt, but not as deadly as what I just encountered last Friday.

The day started like any other here at Deer & Deer Hunting: Me at work, sitting at my desk and daydreaming about getting out to the tree stand. I was just a week removed from an incredible mule deer hunt in northeast Oregon, and my thoughts had shifted to the rut here in the Midwest, which had already shown signs of increased intensity.

One of my coworkers sent up the first red flag when he saw me in the hallway that morning.

“You’re moving kind of slow today, Dan.”

“Yeah, I guess,” I replied. “I must have pulled something in my calf muscle while hiking all of those peaks in Oregon last week. We put on 40-plus miles those four days.”

The morning wore on, and the pain in my calf got worse. It got so tight that I knew something wasn’t right, but I still hesitated to take any action. Then, at the urging of my wife, I called the clinic to make an appointment.

“You best get in here today,” the nurse said after hearing me describe my symptoms for less than a minute. “It could be a blood clot, and we don’t want to take any chances with that.”

It took the ultrasound technician fewer than 5 minutes to confirm my worst fears: blood clots. Yes, plural.

The technical term for the condition is deep vein thrombosis, and it can happen when the wall of a blood vessel is damaged. It can also happen when the blood clots more easily than normal, usually a genetic predisposition. I don’t know exactly how mine formed, but I do know that when it happened I was so stiff that I could barely walk.

I also know that afternoon in the hospital was a blur.

“How could that possibly happen?” I asked the doctor.

“It just happens,” he said. “Could be from a long plane flight. Could be from sitting in one spot without moving for too long. These just don’t happen to ‘old’ folks, you know.”

As he was talking, my mind was racing. Could it have happened on that cramped flight from Boise to Minneapolis? Or could it … Bingo, I had my answer. It had to have happened on Monday when I sat in a tree stand with my crossbow across my lap for four-plus hours.

It was cold that afternoon, and I immediately realized how awkward it was to sit in a tree stand while holding on to a crossbow. I really had no place to hang it, so I just held on to it. As that afternoon wore on, I was quite uncomfortable, but I rationalized “no pain, no gain.” After all, should a deer show up, I didn’t want to be sitting there without my crossbow at the ready.

Blood clots. Scary stuff, right? Well, something else the doctor said was far scarier: “Good thing you brought yourself in. There’s only one of three ways those clots will go once they break up: to your lungs; to your heart; or to your brain.”

I later learned that somewhere between 60,000 to 100,000 people die in the United States every year from untreated DVTs, usually in the form of a heart attack, stroke or pulmonary embolism.

I went home that evening with two prescriptions for blood thinners — warfarin (Coumadin) which is pill form; and Enoxaparin (Lovenox), which comes in needles that require self-injection in the side of the belly.

There is no quick fix. I will have to jab myself twice a day for maybe a month, plus take the oral blood thinners for six months. The thinners will help keep me alive should a clot break free, or another one form in the short term.

The outpouring of support of my friends in the hunting community has helped ease my fears. In fact, two of my high-profile industry friends have told me they have undergone the exact same thing in recent years. Both spend an enormous amount of time hunting from tree stands each fall.

Their best advice: Stay positive and listen to the doctors. I’ll definitely be doing that, and I’m not about to let this throw a wet blanket on my deer hunting plans. I’ve just got to take it slow and realize that there are a lot more important things in life than killing myself trying to stay still in a tree stand.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information on the health threats of blood clots and DVTs, check out these resources from Cleveland Clinic.

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7 thoughts on “Hunters Beware: Sitting Still Can Kill You

  1. toylady

    Scary story indeed; glad everything worked out fine. Deer and Deer Hunting needs you as its editor! Best wishes from a former KP friend!

  2. CW4SF

    Thank you for telling your story and informing hunters about a condition that happens all too often. My wife developed post surgical blood clots a few years back and thus began an expedited education in deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Fortunately, my wife’s oldest brother happened to be the head of radiology for Boston University. Aside from the standard warfarin/coumadin and lovenox injections, he told us about surgical intervention for blood clots. The term used was vascular interventional radiology. Surgeons have several tools at their disposal, namely the angiojet and trellis catheters. In simple terms imagine the following: a catheter is inserted into the vein; balloons are inflated above and below the clot to isolate it; a small wire that spins at high speed in conjunction with \lytics\ are injected to help dissolve the clot; and it is then aspirated from the body. My wife had multiple clots from just above her knee up into her lower abdomen. As such, procedures were performed on her over two days in the hospital. In the end she no longer has to take blood thinners like warfarin and has been able to return to a normal diet. The bottom line for all is to get up and periodically stretch/move around, whether on stand, long plane flights, or sitting at desk behind a computer all day. Know also that there are surgical procedures that can remove the clots. Good hunting to all.

  3. badtoys

    sorry dan glad your ok,i posted this 2 years ago on deer and deer hunting forum guess no one read it

  4. badtoys

    i had the same thing happen 2 years ago from sitting in tree stand except mine was so bad i was hospitalized for a weekend had to take these shots for 6 months (Lovenox), which comes in needles that require self-injection in the side of the belly.now i have double tree stands so i can move around and if i get uncomfortable i stand up and move around don’t want this to happen again screw the deer if i have to move i move if i can’t see a deer it more than likely can’t see me is the way i look at it now we both of us dan’s are lucky it did’nt go any farther than legs so if your uncomfortable get up and move around we are warning you it’s not worth it.

  5. poper08

    The solution, as hard as it is in a tree stand, is movement. Every 30-45min you need to do the hokey-pokey; stand up and turn yourself around. 🙂 The next best thing, if you happen to be surrounded by deer and can’t make that much movement, would be to consciously contract and relax your leg muscles for a few minutes. Try to concentrate and get each major one for a while; calves, quads, and buttocks. This muscle contraction acts to “pump” the sedentary blood out of the legs and back into the loop to the heart.

  6. Ciswewld

    Great info on this unspoken problem….. But it seems the story stopped short of offering solutions to prevent this other than don’t sit in your tree stand. I spend many hours in the stand and this is down right scary… Thanks..

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