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October 29, 2008

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Chad Love: Hunters with Hangovers?

November is here, which means that deer hunters all across the nation are preparing for that big pre-opening day keg party, after which they will wander aimlessly into the woods nursing a massive hangover. At some point, if they can manage to spot a deer through the alcoholic haze clouding their eyes, the ensuing adrenaline rush will cause a massive heart attack. And if that doesn't kill them, the exertion of trying to drag their deer out of the woods will.

At least that's how this CNN story sees it...

From the story:

Heart attacks are three times more likely to take a hunter's life than a gunshot injury ...

Pre-hunt partying, adrenaline rush and hauling kill out of woods all raise heart risk ...

Expert recommends people not hunt alone, carry cell phone, have an exit plan ...

"I think it's a very significant problem," said Dr. Eric Good, a cardiologist at the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor.
The biggest danger that some hunters face isn't getting hit by a stray bullet or falling out of a tree stand, Good said. It's heart disease ...

... Good's final concern has to do with hunters who start celebrating even before they head into the woods.

"There's a tendency before the big day to sort of party it up," Good said. "Certainly, overexertion during the day compounded with the fact that you had one too many drinks and didn't have enough sleep adds to the stress. All of this together can put you over the edge and at risk for heart problems."

Is this guy talking about hunting or getting married? Maybe I'm in the minority here, but I've never "partied it up" the night before opening day, unless he considers sitting around a campfire drinking a beer and telling fart jokes a wild night of debauchery.

This is lazy reporting. I don't know where the reporter or the doctor got the "three times more likely" figure, but any reporter worth his or her salt would have sourced it. Without a verifiable source and some comparative data for other demographic groups as well as baseline figures for the general population it's just some guy spouting numbers.

What's even more irritating is the angle the reporter used, which is the presumably counter-intuitive notion that heart attacks kill more hunters than stray bullets. The reporter tweaks the cultural stereotype of hunters blasting each other, when of course reality tells a different story. National and state data on hunting accidents are readily available. All the reporter had to do was take collated national figures on hunting accidents involving firearms, compare that to the total numbers of hunters and then you'd have a very clear statistical picture of the dangers of hunting.

But of course, that would take real reporting, which is something fewer and fewer journalists engage in these days. However, some readers did appreciate the story  

I will say this: At least PETA's leaps of logic aren't disguised as journalism...



I agree it's lazy reporting, Chad. But it also brings up the interesting topic of the relative health of hunters and other sportsmen/athletes.

Just a fer instance...I go to my favorite local sporting goods store to buy a golf shirt, I take an L. Bicycle jersey, I take an XL or even XXL if it's a Euro cut. But hunting garb? I'm a Medium.

In Larry Benoit's old classic book, he wrote he ran 5 miles d day and did calisthenics to stay in top shape for deer season. Of course, Benoit hunted harder than 99% of the guys in the woods. But when I think about it unscientifically (pay me a buck a word and I'll do unlazy reporting), I'd say the hunters I know, on average, are decidedly not in the shape my cycling and running friends are.

Chad Love

I'll concede that point. I don't try to make the case that hunters are paragons of good health and I believe that heart attacks actually do kill more hunters than gunshot wounds.
But my argument is the comparison itself is meaningless because in reality so few hunters die from gunshot wounds.
It's a bogus statistic that's dependent upon the bogus cultural meme of the deadly hail of bullets hunters allegedly rain down upon each other every fall.
Now if the reporter had framed the story on the simple question of how much more likely hunters are to die from heart attacks than the general population, then the reader could draw some valid conclusions. There's actually some context there.
But when she parrots the "three times more likely to die" line without then asking the question of "well, how many hunters actually die from gunshot wounds" then it's a meaningless number.



I agree with your premise thet the 'reporter' took a lazy way out. I agree that stereotyping hunters as drunken yahoos who blast away; through alcohol-fogged eyes, at the slightest rustle of leaves is preposterous!

That said, Dr. Good made a few valid suggestions including not hunting alone and carrying a means of communication. Not exactly sure what they mean by having an exit plan though - I bet they heard it in some political rhetoric and thought it sounded good! Knowing your limitations would be another good peice of advice even if we do push ourselves a bit past them sometimes.


I really liked the second link, and all the comments on that article. It's a shame that there are people in this country who think of us hunters that way. But hey, they don't want to eat meat, I guess that's just more for me.

Mike Diehl

Hmm. Despite the composition, the main claims -- that heart attacks are the chief risk for hunters -- and that some hunters add to their risk by stressful behavior like drinking seems well-supported.

Probably few do binge drink before a hunt (I don't drink at all when hunting), but I've encountered hunters, usually road hunting (which is illegal but probably not as challenging on their circulation) who were so "binged" that you could smell the whiskey from ten feet away.


While I think the author took a bit of creative license in his story, there is quite a bit of truth to it as well.

Many of the guys I know who hunt do drink a bit before opening day (okay quite a bit). It's a party for many of them, a chance to get away and let loose a bit.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of them are over 50, overweight, out of shape, many of them smoke and the thought of any of these couch spuds climbing 20 feet into the air and/or dragging a deer out is a recipe for disaster.



Meant to add that I also believe that hunters ARE more likely to die of heart attacks than hunting accidents of any sort. There have been several well run studies which back that claim. I can't cite statistics from any particular study but all three hunters whom I have personally known of dying while hunting died from heart attacks.


Oh dear, how I love PETA - they're quite efficient at producing a good laugh now and then.


I do agree that heart attacks are a risk for hunters, but no more a risk than any other activity that requires physical exertion.

How many people die of a heart attack while shoveling snow in the winter?

I'm in school right now

Every day a new study comes out saying that the way everyday people have been living their lives is wrong. Well here's a newsflash: this is stupid. I don't know where this study is conducted but my dad hunts with about 13 other people and they only down one beer at the most every night. I've never seen anyone with a hangover nor have i heard a story of hunter dying of a beer-induced heart attack. There's alot of other things to talk about like gas down to the low 2 dollars (YES!!!).
P.S. Chad- great view on this subject.



Its CNN. Based on their biased election coverage I don't think you can count on them to be fair and balanced as any good journalist should be on any story they cover.


Im kind of suprised you went to the peta web site.... But some of those comments... wow

rural mom

So ridiculous...my husband would never consider consuming alcohol before going hunting. A, it's always "safety first" with him. B, he's modeling appropriate hunting behavior for our two sons.

And the PETA-CNN thing is just silly. The most virile, masculine men I know are the ones who can confidently provide meat for their families without having to drive to Wal-Mart to do so. They are also the ones we women find most attractive. Isn't there some saying about pointing out supposed deficiencies in others to hide your own insecurities and, in this case, "shortcomings"? Hmmm...sounds like PETA to me...


Party it up? Maybe if that means having a drink with dinner or chips before early lights out.

Speaking from the personal experience of having a heart attack, I'd feel blessed to expel my last breath in the woods. Just feel for the people that would have to haul me out. Maybe I should write a little will & testament before dragging out a deer, maybe before even gutting it. Put it with the tag, just in case, to let them know what to do with it ... and me. Think my buddies can get away with cremating my body the old-fashioned Viking way? Put me in a wooden boat with a bunch of kindling and firewood, light it on fire, and push me out into the water. They better pick a deep spot.

By the way - picked up one of those rolled up plastic deer sleds. It's a cheap lifesaver ... no joke.


I always thought that alcohol thinned the blood, therefore making it much easier to pass through my "clogged arteries". Thus my mentality of saving the beer drinking activities after hunting should possibly be changed to the night before the hunt (I guess this is the perfect reason to mix alcohol and guns, something I was taught well before my drinking years to never do). I am glad to see that CNN and the diehard PETA activists are looking out for my health which will make me a much more productive hunter for a much longer time.


I think its funny that where I live (wisconsin) you cannot find a hunting sign ( like welcome hunters) that doesnt have a Miller picture on it. As far as drinking and hunting go, I would never drink before hunting, but the morning before is a differant story.


Come on guys, it's really not that unheard of for people to drink it up the day/night before the season opens. If you put it into perspective it makes sense. For many people opening day is a vacation day. We take work off, sometimes drive long distances and have been looking forward to the hunt for most of the year. That being said the celebratory drinking the day before the hunt is not like Spring break in Florida. If you binge drink that hard you're not going to make it to your spot before light and not likely to be that alert either. I have a feeling it's only the rookies getting drunk to the point of having additional health risks. Us old timers tend to have a beer or two the night before and probably are more likely to pull beer out of the cooler to make room for a quartered deer.


Heart disease is the leading cause of death for American men and women. It's probably the leading cause of death everywhere. Heart attacks also kill more golfers, skiers and fisherman than golf balls trees or drowning. Who cares! Hunting can be a decent form of excercise- which is a good thing.

NH Philosopher

I can't stop laughing. Two pithy thoughts:

1. Dr. Eric Good has a point on heart disease and increased risk factors associated with seasonal physical exertion, but the link to partying it up the night before opening day is silly. I've been hunting my whole life and never have had or gone to an opening eve kegger.

2. PETA is just being PETA. It's funny how they channel their aggression and project it on hunters. Their members' members must be really small and inadequate. I wonder what the gene looks like for overtly agressive vegans with pent up rage and disassociative behavior?


peta should be outlawed like criminal bike and drug gangs or terrorists .why are they allowed to spew hate against a visible group of hunters . maybe hate crime legislation could jail all of them .
ps there are thousands of things that kill more people every year than legal guns .. hell even illegal guns ..

The article stated that a heart attack is 3 times more likely to kill than a gunshot wound. It didn't say that this statistic referred to the rate of hunters having heart attacks and dieing compared to firearms rates among hunters... just that given a gunshot wound vs. heart attack, the heart attack is harder to survive.

While hunters have been accused of going to the woods to play cards and drink by no less than Mario Cuomo, then governor of NY State, one accusation that appears more founded is that, as a group, we're getting older, and often aren't in great shape. And, yeah, getting drunk the night before does stress your system when you try to do physical activity the next day.

Bottom line is that, taken at face value and near-insults aside, the advice to watch ourselves and take heart attack symptoms seriously isn't bad advice.

Mike Diehl

"I wonder what the gene looks like for overtly agressive vegans with pent up rage and disassociative behavior?"

It's probably really twisted and doubles back on it's own hind end.

Only in the modern world where most of us are completely divorced from the means of food production could there be a niche for PETA types. Was anything to push our economic system back 100 years, PETA types would be extinct.

I consider myself a pretty fit young hunter. 19, play hockey, socker, ultimate frisbey. I bike a few miles 4 times a week, and walk a few miles across campus every day. I'll whoop my Dad's butt on a jog anyday. But last weekend I got my first chance to pack a big steel climber into the woods. I only had about 300 yards in ad 300 yards back out, but my calves were sore all week. I could have however, sat atop my truck and shot at deer as my dogs ran them across the road. Hunting can be as lazy or physical as you make it. I usualy make it tough, but even what sounds easy can be hard. "Just walk 300 yard" sounds easy, but it beat me so much more than a "carry a pound and a half of ammo, a 6# shotgun and walk 4 miles waist deep in mud across the lake bottom" snipe hunt.

Is also in school right now

this idea of hunters dying of heart attacks is well founded but not once have I ever heard of a season opener party that was just a big keg party. I mean yeah we are all hunters but to me this shows some bias to taht all hunters are red necks and don't plan ahead at all..... but once again the fact that hunters do commonly have heart attacks in which some of the fatal kind is still got a good point but I don't think its from drinking

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