How to Survive Turkey Season
Get Plenty of Sleep, Lower Your Resistance and Monitor Your Heart
Editor’s Note: Behold the turkey hunter. Up before first light, coffee in hand and dressed in full camo, he approaches the new day ready to attempt to outsmart one of God's noblest creations. At least, that's how we like to think. But the rest of the world sees the turkey hunter as short-tempered, slow walking, and grumpy with a runny nose and a sore throat who constantly complains about what he has to endure to hunt gobblers and how he's so tired. Most of us have learned we may take gobblers, but the birds will beat us up in the process. We went to the medical community to learn how to survive turkey season. Dr. Robert Sheppard of Carrollton, Alabama – an avid turkey hunter and cardiologist – has researched why gobbler-chasers feel so beaten up during turkey season.
What the Military Has Learned:
"About 30-years ago, the U.S. military studied how much sleep deprivation pilots could withstand before losing the ability to cope with their daily routines," Sheppard reports. "The military deprived the pilots of sleep until they reached the point of emotional breakdown. Throughout the study, the military tested the pilots' motor skills. The research proved that when you don't get at least 6 hours of sleep on a regular basis, you lose the ability to perform daily tasks efficiently." In many turkey-hunting camps, hunters sleep far less than 6 hours every night. Those bull sessions that keep you up until 11:00 p.m. or 12:00 midnight may make you feel like a Mack truck has hit you when your alarm goes off at 3:00 a.m.
How You Lower Your Resistance to Disease:
"A complex system of chemicals known as antibodies exists inthe bloodstream," Sheppard explains. "These antibodies provide your main defense against any foreign organisms that enter the body. Your white blood cells also fight a variety of harmful organisms. When you go without sleep, you weaken your entire body and lower your resistance to disease. Too, turkey hunters deliberately introduce germs into their mouths every day. The mouth diaphragm call hosts more than 47-different types of viruses and bacteria. Because it stays wet for much of the day, the mouth diaphragm acts like a sponge for germs. And when a lack of sleep has weakened your body, you're in the worst possible condition to fight disease." To kill bacteria, Sheppard stores and carries his diaphragm calls in mouthwash. "I leave my mouth calls in a pure mouthwash solution overnight every time I use them," he says. "The mouthwash deteriorates the rubber in the call, but I'd rather pay $4 or $5 for a new call than stay sick for a week and have to buy medicine."
What's Wrong With My Heart?
Sheppard regularly hears hunters complain that they experience irregular heartbeats when hunting turkeys. "Some hunters say their hearts race, others believe their hearts skip beats, and some feel their hearts pounding. Turkey hunting puts stress – both emotional and physical – on the heart. Your heart may or may not be doing what you think, but as you begin to lose sleep, you may experience these abnormal sensations." When Sheppard encounters a hard-headed hunter who won't rest for a day or two during turkey season, he often prescribes a beta-blocker, used to treat high blood pressure. This drug affects the part of the heart that determines the heart rate.
Tomorrow: Dealing with Social Problems, Water and Vitamins and Lyme Disease