Hunting Safety Part 4: First Aid in the Field

By: Keith Murray, M.D.

This is the last in a four-part series exploring hunting safety.

The saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” has never been more true than when talking about hunter safety. The more prepared you are for a hunt, the less likely you are to need first aid skills. That’s why I suggest hunting with competent individuals, knowing your gear, sending your itinerary to family and friends, bringing a map/compass, using pre-determined rendezvous points and packing a proper first aid kit.

When I teach wilderness first aid I recommend that you start thinking about your first aid kit in layers.

  • First layer: Keep essential items such as a map/compass, bandana, knife, multi-tool, lighter and your cell phone in a plastic bag and on you at all times in case you somehow become separated from the rest of your gear. These items will help you survive an acute emergency long enough to extricate yourself from a bad situation.
  • Second layer: In a small bag, carry items including water, headlamp, garbage bag, storm matches, paracord, space blanket, whistle, duct tape, safety pins, mole skin, small plastic baggies, a tourniquet, basic wound dressings, energy bars and medications that may be needed in an emergency (epi-pen, benadryl, albuterol MDI).
  • Third layer: This can be kept in a vehicle and is designed for multi-casualty and extended duration survival situations. This layer includes MREs, water, sleeping bag, signal mirror, snare wire, water purification tabs, butane lighter, prescription medications, pen/book, full medical kit, saw, warm clothing, tools, etc.

If you are serious about spending time in the woods, consider taking a wilderness medicine first aid course or a standard basic first aid course. Also, carry a stocked first aid kit into the field with you. And there’s no need to buy prepackaged kits, which are often overpriced and lacking in quality gear.  There are many excellent websites that offer ideas on how to set up a field first aid kit.  It’s worth your time and effort to peruse multiple sites and build a kit that is best for you and your given situation.

What kinds of first aid gear do you carry with you on a hunt? Tell us about it in the comments section below.