by: Talon Smith, US NAVY Corpsman

In the last issue of Hook & Barrel, I lightly touched on preparing for the worst case scenario. There is a plethora of knowledge I didn’t hit on and I’m sure a bunch of medical professionals out there were left wanting more or knew about 10 more awesome products that they wanted to see posted. However, my intent was to get a basic kit set up to help out someone who doesn’t have the experience and make sure they could handle the basics.

Now with that said, I mentioned the gear, but what happens when the unthinkable happens and an injury occurs in the wilderness and you happen to be the only person available to give care? How would you react? Do you have training? Well, I want to address that exact situation in a few steps without discussing specific injuries.

“Know your plan, hunt your plan and know your assets timeline, capabilities, location and ensure you tell someone about your plan.”

First, I can not say this enough. Be proactive – not reactive. You may be treating someone not in your hunting party or while you are completely alone. The more knowledge you have the better chance you can save a life. I’ll talk about medical planning in another article but just to touch on it, know your plan, hunt your plan and know your assets timeline, capabilities, location and ensure you tell someone about your plan.

Now onto our worst scenario. Please keep in mind in the scenario you are alone, with no help and in the wilderness and the individual is alone as well.

You are on a hunt, you hear a gunshot and cry for help. What do you do?

First, take a deep breath, remain calm and assess the situation. Your first priority is to make sure the scene is safe so you don’t walk into harm or risk harm of others. While assessing the scene look for clues for what happened. Just because you heard a gunshot doesn’t mean someone was shot, although it’s a good clue, they may have been trying to scare away a bear, so remember stay calm assess the scene and make sure it’s safe.

Next, figure out what happened and if that individual is responsive and look for signs the patient has some life functions(are they visibly moving, can you see there chest rising up and down?). Usually, just call out to them, if they answer you know for that moment in time they are responsive and may be able to help with care. If not you’ll have to continue your assessment of the patient.

Without going into a ton of detail regarding an assessment, there are some basic things you can check for and handle with the basic medical kit we discussed in the last issue (Sept/October). If they are unresponsive and you heard a gun shot, put on your gloves and check for massive bleeding that may not be visible. If you find bleeding, stop it. Is on a limb which you can apply a tourniquet? If so put it high as possible and cinch it down and secure it. If not, apply the gauze and a pressure dressing. After you handle massive bleeding see if the patient has a patent airway. Maybe they choked on beef jerky, maybe they are going through anaphylactic shock. If you don’t check their airway you won’t know. If there airway is clear, make sure they are breathing. Watch the rise and fall of their chest. If they are breathing then you’ll want to look for any additional bleeds or injuries you missed. It may be splinting a fracture or simply dressing a wound. After all this, keep in mind, a patient who has lost blood or is in the wilderness may need to be covered and be warm to prevent hypothermia.

After you treat the patient, you’ll need to think about how you are going to get the patient out of there. First, can you move the patient safely? You may not be able to move them at all based on the injury. If you can’t move them based on your limited knowledge it will make a more complicated situation. This is where your your planning and knowledge of what assets you have, where the extraction platform and how long it will take to get to, can be the difference in life and death. If the injury isn’t severe and you can move the patient you should be prepared to but, remember to consider the terrain and distance to travel. It will help dictate how and if it’s even possible to move them.

Ideally, you’ll have contact to emergency services and they’ll be able to reach you.

If not, and you’ve decided to move the patient, you will need to assess what that looks like. Do you have a poleless litter in your pack? Can you make a litter quickly? If so, go for it.

Worst case scenario is you won’t be able to move the patient, there is nothing more you can do and you’ll have to go get help after you take them to a place you can remember or mark on your gps. I never advocate leaving anyone behind, but in this situation, if it’s your only option to get help you may have to take that into consideration and that’s a decision only you can make.

“I recommend always hunting, in at minimum, buddy pairs, plan the hunt, tell multiple people your plan and then hunt your plan.”

I know this scenario is a lot but it’s something to consider. My recommendation to prevent this is to always prepare. I recommend always hunting in, at minimum, buddy pairs, plan the hunt, tell multiple people your plan and then hunt your plan. Research if you’ll have cell service, research the medical services available and their capabilities. Utilize GPS if possible and as I said before, always be prepared for the worst case scenario. I also recommend taking safety and medical courses that will be prepare you for any and every situation you may face while enjoying the amazing outdoors.

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