Every time you go bowhunting, the probability exists that you or someone in your hunting party could have an accident. Statistically the likelihood of an accident occurring at home or in the work place are much greater than while hunting. Experienced, responsible Bowhunters know being prepared to deal with accidents in the field is crucial.

You and the other members of your hunting party should know first aid. First aid classes are available throughout the state. Contact your local fire department, school or county sheriff to learn where first aid classes are available in your area. Ideally all Bowhunters should invest the time and minimal fee to take an American Red Cross First Aid course or similar training seminar. First aid is very similar to survival: Every hunter needs to know something about it.

This article is in no way intended to be a substitute for this type of complete instruction. This article will cover some basic First Aid steps and a few first aid concerns specific to Bowhunting. (The next article will cover Survival Techniques and equipment.)

You've all heard the old cliché or adage, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure". It's right on target applied to Bowhunting and First Aid. Planning ahead will allow you to avoid accidents or to mitigate their consequences.

Accident prevention practices are:

There are two types of first aid situations that hunters should know about: First aid is required in both cases. Usually, first aid is the only requirement for immediate care, and the injured person will survive. Urgent care, however, is life threatening. Qualified medical attention is needed, but it may not be immediately available.

In all first aid situations, the rule of thumb is simple:

There are five basic types of emergencies that you should know about: Always survey the accident scene prior to beginning to administer first aid. Check for potential hazards still remaining, asking yourself if what happened to the victim can happen to you. You will be little help to the injured party if you are hurt yourself while attempting to provide first aid.

All bowhunters should take first aid courses to learn CPR and emergency breathing techniques.


Next attempt to establish communication with the victim, identifying yourself, asking them if they need help, etc.

Now check the victim's A,B,Cs

These are the immediate life maintaining functions that must be guaranteed.

If possible send someone for help if it is necessary.

Secondary injuries

Other injuries should be addressed according to their level of threat to the victim. These could be any of the following:

The most commonly experienced accidents with which a bowhunter should be able to deal with are:

1. Excessive Bleeding. Use direct pressure. Place your finger or fingers directly on or in the wound to close blood vessels and stop the bleeding. With wounds of larger surfaces, fold up your undershirt or other piece of clothing into a pad and apply it directly to the wound. Hold it firmly in place with hands, rope, or bandage. Once pressure by hands or pad is applied, do not remove, as this breaks down the "grid" formed by clotting substances in the body and makes it much harder to get the bleeding stopped. Tourniquets are dangerous and should rarely be applied.

2. Broken Bones. Keep them as they are by applying splints or supports made from your bow, arrows (without points), sticks, or other leg. Transport victim only as far as absolutely necessary. Carry him on your back or improvise a stretcher from two poles and clothing.


If a person is bleeding, you must stop the bleeding as quickly as possible. You may also need to protect the wound from infection and treat the victim for shock.

There are two recommended ways to stop bleeding:

  1. Direct pressure, and
  2. Pressure points.
Direct Pressure
Use direct pressure on all wounds. This is the first choice to stop bleeding. Press hard directly over the wound. Use any available material to press over the wound. A shirt, socks, etc., can all work. Use only your hands if no cloth is available. If possible, elevate the wound above the heart.

Pressure Point
This is not as good as direct pressure in most cases. Using a pressure point stops all circulation to that part of the body. Direct pressure stops circulation only at the wound. When using pressure points, you should first use direct pressure over the wound. Add a pressure point only after you have used direct pressure and bleeding has not stopped. After bleeding has stopped, release the pressure point and maintain direct pressure on the wound.
A tourniquet is not recommended to stop bleeding. The only time a tourniquet should be used is when a limb (such as an arm or leg) must be sacrificed in order to save a person's life.
Clean small wounds with hand soap and water. Do not clean a serious wound after bleeding has stopped! Leave the bandage in place and allow trained medical professionals to clean the wound. If you try to clean a serious wound, you may allow bleeding to start once again.




MOST SIGNIFICANT: Control the bleeding by applying pressure directly over bleeding site. A severed major blood vessel results in loss of large amounts of blood rapidly. Most adults can suffer only one pint (16 ounces) of lost blood without serious repercussions. Any moderately clean cloth or even your hand works as a "pressure dressing". Carefully cut clothing away from wound site if necessary.

Stop bleeding before traveling; if it restarts, stop the trip and control bleeding before resuming journey.


The danger of a deep chest wound is collapsing the lungs with may prevent the victim from breathing. Have the victim exhale, blowing out to minimize suction. Cover the wounds with air tight dressing, such as sandwich wrap, piece of space blanket, cellophane from cigarette pack, or hands if nothing else is available, before breathing is resumed.

Have the victim breathe with shallow breaths to avoid excessive suction inside chest.


Normally, the same principles applying to emergency treatment of extremity cuts also apply to abdominal wounds. Bleeding from the skin or muscles under the skin can be controlled by applying pressure.

Deep wounds may enter the abdominal cavity and may lacerate soft abdominal organs, causing excessive bleeding into cavity and little visible bleeding on the surface. Such wounds CANNOT BE CONTROLLED BY PRESSURE. Get the victim to a hospital. Time is of utmost importance. If feasible, use ambulance, trained personnel and special equipment, but DON'T WAIT LONG.

Although these types of wounds are not common, knowing what to do and doing it well can save a life, someone else's or your own.


Shock slows down the heart, lungs, etc., and can cause death. Anybody who has been injured can suffer from shock. The best treatment for shock is to keep the injured person comfortable, arm and dry. Usually, you keep the victim lying down, with feet elevated. Elevate the head and shoulders of a shock victim with a head injury. Also elevate the head and shoulders if the victim has difficulty breathing. Do not elevate both head and feet.


Make a splint for the break or fracture. Do not move a bone, if it is broken. Use sticks, magazines or splint boards to keep the break or fracture from moving. It is sometimes difficult to tell the difference between a sprain and a fracture. Make a splint for a sprain just as you would for a fracture. Try to prevent unnecessary motion.

Do not move a victim with a serious neck or back injury. Send for qualified medical help immediately.


Doctors use 'degrees' to measure the depth of a burn.

  1. First degree burns are on the surface of the skin. They are mild burns. Treat first degree burns by using cold water. Aspirin may help relieve pain from first degree burns.
  2. Second degree burns are deeper, under the skin. They blister and are more serious than first degree burns. Treat second degree burns by covering lightly with dry, sterile bandages. Apply no pressure. Qualified medical personnel should inspect second degree burns.
  3. Third degree burns are the deepest and go through the skin to the flesh. They always require medical attention. The victim may not feel much pain due to nerve damage. Cover third degree burns lightly with dry, sterile bandages and get qualified medical help.
All victims with second and third degree burns should be treated for shock. Loss of body fluids will increase the danger of shock.


How do you know if a victim is not breathing or is unconscious? The easiest way is to tell if a victim is unconscious is to shout at them! If the victim is unconscious or cannot breathe, the victim will not answer.

Remember your ABC's to deal with this situation!

A - Airway

Check that the airway passage is clear of obstructions.

B - Breathe

If a person is not breathing, assist immediately. Once the airway passage is clear, listen and feel to see if the victim is breathing. Wait 5 seconds. If there is no breathing, breathe into the victim. This expands the victims lungs and gives oxygen.

Don't give up breathing into the victim until qualified medical help arrives!

C - Circulation


Hypothermia is the loss of body heat. This happens when the body loses more heat than it can produce. Hypothermia is always dangerous and sometimes fatal.

Hypothermia is usually caused by one of two conditions:

  1. Exposure to body sweat, cold, wet, and wind
  2. Falling into water.
To help prevent hypothermia, Most people suffer from hypothermia on days when the outside air temperatures range between 30 and 50 degrees. It is important that you recognize the symptoms of hypothermia and treat them as soon as possible! Symptoms include: Shivering is the first sign. After violent shivering, the victim will not know that she or he is suffering from hypothermia. In the final stages, the victim appears to be drunk.

Treatment is necessary when people suffer from hypothermia. The treatments below will help raise the core body temperature slowly and evenly. Never give alcohol to a person suffering from hypothermia!

Mild Hypothermia

Severe Hypothermia FIRST AID KIT

You should have a basic first aid kit in your survival pack. Make sure that you know what is in your first aid kit and how to use it. Don't assume that because your friends have a first aid kit, you don't need to carry one!

A basic first aid kit should contain at least the following items:

You can add additional items to your first aid kit such as prescription medicines, water treatment tablets, etc. as needed. Remember to carry your first aid kit with you whenever afield.
If you follow these guidelines, you should hopefully avoid or deal with medical emergencies while hunting. Common sense, Prevention, and Preparedness go a long way toward preventing accidents. Most so called accidents are usually the result of folks just plain forgetting to use their heads!

Until next week, Good Luck, Happy Hunting, and God Bless. . . . . . . . .Stu Keck

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