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During my 15 seasons as the head coach of the West Virginia University rifle team, I have seen the importance of hunting as a part of West Virginian culture. As our folks prepare to head out for another hunting season, we should all be aware of the potential signs of heart attack and stroke and the importance of having a plan in case of an emergency while in the woods. Let’s keep West Virginia hunters safe this season.

Face drooping, arm weakness or speech difficulty means it is time to call 911 because these are very common symptoms of a stroke. Heart attack symptoms include chest discomfort; discomfort in other areas of the upper body such as your arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach; shortness of breath; breaking out in a cold sweat; nausea; or lightheadedness.

Pay attention to your body and take breaks if you need to. Oftentimes, hunting is a substantial increase over a person’s usual level of activity, so it’s important to pay attention and obtain medical care sooner rather than later. Minutes matter and fast action saves lives, so don’t wait to call 911 if something feels “off.”

Making a plan for your day is also a great idea. Make sure your family and friends know an approximate time that you’re leaving and a timeframe of when they should expect you back home, and make sure they have an estimated area of where you’ll be hunting. If you can, turn on location services on your cell phone so in case of emergency you can be tracked. Charge your phone before you go and take note of the closest hospital and most direct route.

We know that hunting is an important part of many West Virginians’ lives. This year, we hope hunters and their families take time to learn the signs of a stroke and heart attack and make a plan to ensure they make it home safely each night. Happy hunting, West Virginia! And let’s go Mountaineers!

Jon Hammond

West Virginia University

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