Your cold weather safety briefing and outdoor report
By Ben Gruber
I took a walk through the woods today, no camo and no gun, just a nice afternoon walk spent taking in the smells of the fall woods. The scrapes and rubs are showing up all over our woods right now, indicating the deer rut is upon us or darn close. Now is a great time to sit in your tree stand for the whole day as the bucks are starting to cruise all day looking for romance.
Squirrels are busy all day right now gathering their winter’s worth of food. A lot of the corn is off the fields, and what is left might stay on the field for a good chunk of the winter. I have not heard any duck migration reports for central Wisconsin, but friends have been having good success on the Mississippi.
Now, here comes the lecture. I will preface it with this: My “real” job is in prehospital medicine. I have been a paramedic for 10 years, so I have a pretty good view of when things go wrong.
More and more we have been seeing injuries caused by portable propane heaters. As more hunters have gone to the big-box style blinds, heaters have become more popular. They are light, inexpensive, and portable, and they do a fantastic job of keeping you toasty, but they are not without hazards.
Some of them will continue to put out propane if the flame goes out, and some will have a safety valve that stops the flow. An increasingly common occurrence seems to be a gust of wind blows out the flame, and when relighting, a flash fire ignites the unburned propane that has accumulated in your blind or ice shack.
If you find your heater is out, make sure to ventilate well before attempting to relight.
The other common hazard is carbon monoxide. The same odorless, tasteless gas that can be a killer in homes can haunt your blind or shack as well if you are using any kind of heater that operates off of combustion.
I highly recommend spending the $20 to install a carbon monoxide alarm in any permanent shack or blind. Most of the portable blinds will have enough air flow through to not let carbon monoxide accumulate, but you could certainly have the alarm there too if you wish. Make sure to have fun out there, but be safe, and come home to your family.
Tree stand falls continue to be a large contributor to hunting injuries. Wear a harness.
I still use a basic style strap harness that was supplied with my tree stand, but there are some offerings out there that are very user friendly. They are lightweight; easy on, easy off; and leave us with no excuses not to wear one.
The rest of the old rules still apply today. Make sure someone knows where you are going and when to expect you back. Do not rely too heavily on your cell phone as signal in some hunting spots can be spotty. Know how to make a survival shelter, and if you really get lost, usually the best thing to do is to stop, sit down, and think. When panic starts to creep in, the worst thing is to get more lost deeper into the wilderness. It sounds silly, but we have some awfully big chunks of roadless property here in central Wisconsin with some of the large tracts of county forest and marshes.
When the water starts to freeze over, remember there is no such thing as “safe” ice. Carry ice picks, watch out for areas over moving water and springs, and keep your trucks and ATVs on dry land until the ice is good and thick. If in doubt, stay off it.
Get outside, and stay safe.
We have a MarshPoint Chapter of Kids And Mentors Outdoors meeting on Nov. 1 at 7 p.m. at the Mead Wildlife Area Visitors Center. I have a list of kids needing a mentor, so if you are interested, come on out or contact me.
Ben Gruber can be reached at [email protected].