Here are a few life-saving and -improving components that should be considered for every hunter’s first-aid kit.
It’s not something we like to think about, but hunting—and just being in the outdoors—does come with certain risk and discomfort. Although we do our best to avoid injury, it’s better to be prepared for as many eventualities as we can. Here are a few suggestions you may find helpful when putting together your hunting first-aid kit.
Patching big, bloody holes
Hunters frequently handle guns, broadheads, and knives—all tools that, if used incorrectly, can leave us with extra orifices that can be lethal if not addressed quickly. Add a tourniquet to your first-aid kit for severe limb hemorrhages. We prefer a CAT-style tourniquet for its simplicity and field-tested effectiveness. Secure it high and tight on an arm or leg to stop blood from flowing to the wound. (Don’t worry about tissue damage to the limb from the tourniquet: Studies have found modern tourniquets seldom do lasting damage, but they have accounted for numerous saved lives.) Consider adding an occlusive chest seal in case of tension pneumothorax caused by chest penetration; hemostatic clotting agent; and an Israeli bandage (pressure dressing), which can also be used as a makeshift tourniquet or sling.
The itchies and ouchies
First-aid kits aren’t only about life-threatening injuries. For instance, even if you don’t regularly suffer from allergies, you may encounter stuff in the field that leaves you squirming in your sleeping bag late into the night. Antihistamines help tame bug bites or rashes caused by disagreeable flora. Minor burns from campfire coffee, blisters from ill-fitting boots, and even simple headaches can really drag down the fun factor of a hunt, so consider packing a small bottle of ibuprofen or acetaminophen, burn gel with pain-numbing lidocaine, and a few princess-themed Band-Aids for the tough guy who cuts his finger with a pocket knife. A bottle of lubricating eye-drops doesn’t take up much room, but it can be a godsend after spending days on the dusty plains. Toss in some gauze sponges and butterfly bandages just in case, and you’re covered for a number of non-lethal—but still plenty unpleasant—possibilities.
There are nearly 800,000 heart attacks in the U.S. every year. More than a few of them occur when hunters are afield, pushing their bodies to the extreme. To help protect yourself and your hunting party, keep a bottle of 325 mg aspirin in your first-aid kit. If you or one of your buddies starts exhibiting symptoms of cardiac arrest—extreme fatigue; chest pressure or tightness; pain in the shoulder, neck, jaw, or arms; or sudden shortness of breath for no apparent reason—have them chew on an aspirin while you call for medical help. It inhibits blood clots by stopping platelets from clotting and may buy the user time to get to a hospital.
Make it your own
First-aid kits can vary from something minimalist enough to fit in a pocket to a case that would give a mule back pain. If you have medical training or prefer to pack heavy, you may want to carry a more thorough kit than the one detailed above. You may also find that having just a few essentials is enough to give you peace of mind and that extra bit of comfort to improve your next hunt.