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Hunt Doctor – Are You Rescue Ready?

We live in a world where resources are at our fingertips.

But if you are hunting in a remote destination, that statement may not be true. And what do you do if you are ill or injured?

“In a remote setting, the everyday problem is amplified,” said Adam Bardwell, a former U.S. Army Green Beret, Special Operations Combat Medic. “Something that is just a minor incident in everyday life can become catastrophic when you’re unreachable.”

Whether you are on a hunting trip one hour away from your home or 10, nationally or internationally, for a few days or a few weeks, you need to prepare for the worst-case scenario: an emergency evacuation due to injury or illness. 

Here are the most essential safety preparations Global Rescue experts recommend prior to keep yourself rescue ready.

RESEARCH

Jeff Weinstein, a paramedic and a medical operations supervisor for Global Rescue, said anytime he is considering going to a remote area, he looks at weather and does a terrain analysis of the location.

“Do you have to hike in and what is that hike like?” said Weinstein. “What is the closest city? Closest hospital? What are the roads like?” 

Once you’ve gathered that essential info, you need to ask yourself: are you confident you could handle a worst-case scenario if you were to get stuck there? 

“You might find out it is going to be heavy rain season in that location. What happens if your vehicle gets stuck?” Weinstein said. “Do you have a winch, and do you know how to use it? If not, are you physically fit enough to hike out of there on your own? You need to think of the what-ifs posed by the particular location and determine if you can handle them.”

ASSESS THE AMENITIES

Let’s say you’re heading to a remote hunting cabin in the woods. What is the water source (a well, nearby body of water, collected rainwater) and where is it? A heat source (wood-burning stove, propane gas, solar heating)? Solar lights, kerosene lamps or nothing at all for the evening? What about cookware?

“Take a robust inventory of what the site has and doesn’t have,” said Bardwell, the former Green Beret. “Then start making a list of the essentials you need to bring, and what you won’t.” 

FIRST AID

While it is impractical to pack for every single situation you could encounter, it is possible to create a small, packable first aid kit full of highly useful items.

An easy starting point is to purchase an off-the-shelf product. A commercial first aid kit will contain the items you need to treat minor travel illnesses and injuries. Blisters, minor soft tissue injuries (scrapes and cuts), orthopedic injuries (ankle sprains), and animal attacks or insect bites are the more frequently encountered issues on a hunting trip. 

OFF-THE-GRID COMMUNICATION 

If you need rescue, you need a way to communicate your emergency. Whether you’re by yourself or with a group, rescues begin with a distress call. That means you must have the ability to make an emergency outreach.  

“With two-way communication, you can provide additional information, so rescue can organize the most appropriate resources to get to you,” said Weinstein.

Global Rescue recommends using a satellite messaging device capable of two-way communication via satellites to send an email, SMS or SOS message. There are several available devices like the Bivy Stick and Zoleo devices. These devices are easier to use, manage and carry than a satellite phone. They are also significantly less expensive: between $300-$500 versus $1,500 and up for a satellite phone.

The most important aspect of using any communications tool, whether it’s a cell phone or satellite device, is understanding how to operate the equipment. During an emergency, there is a good chance you may be scared or injured. This may affect your ability to operate the device efficiently. It is wise to make certain everyone in your group knows how to use the device.     

“An emergency is not the time to learn how to use a satellite phone,” said Harding Bush, a former Navy SEAL and associate manager of operations for Global Rescue.    

Bush recommends sending a test e-mail from the communication device to Global Rescue at [email protected] When Global Rescue receives that email message, it automatically includes a map with the member’s name and their geographic coordinates.  

“The message also includes a dialog box permitting direct exchanges between the member and the Global Rescue operations team,” he said. “Since we already have a map with your location, you do not need to include it in the body of your email, which is useful since some devices only allow for 160 characters.”    

THE RIGHT INFO

Rescue begins with knowing your location and conditions.

“The ability to communicate with the rescue service allows them to ask you specific questions to help them assemble the most capable or efficient resources,” Bush said. “This includes your location, your physical state, weather conditions and more.”

The more details rescue operation professionals have related to your situation, the better they can facilitate the most appropriate rescue assets for you. Without these details then your rescue can take much longer or be more complicated, or both.   

For example, identifying the physical state of the individual is vital. Knowing whether you’re alone or with someone who can assist, determining if you can walk, or if you have food, water, suitable clothing or shelter are helpful details.

Similarly, sharing the on-the-ground weather and terrain conditions helps tremendously. Our rescue operations team has access to global weather monitoring information and topography maps but gleaning the additional perspective from the individual on the ground is abundantly useful.   

CONTINGENCY PLAN

It isn’t enough to make others aware that you’re going remote. You need to provide details and put action steps into place — specifically the kind laid out in a five-point contingency plan — in order to speed up rescue response should you not return or get in touch within the appropriate time frame. 

Guided by the acronym GOTWA, it’s a brief you create outlining these details:

Going where

Others going with you

Time span you will be gone

What to do if you do not return in that timely manner, and

Actions to take if you do not return. 

“I type up all these details, then disperse it to my friends and family,” Weinstein said.

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