Hunts in the mountains of western North America and in Asia definitely bring with them the possibility of altitude sickness — mild or severe. Some folks can even encounter ill-effects at elevations of just a few thousand feet — especially if they spend most of their time living at sea level or just above. Domestically, goat, sheep, and even elk or deer hunts can find you camped and hunting at 8,000 – 10,000 feet and up. On overseas mountain hunts, you can end up hunting much higher than that.
Hunters don’t need to go to the levels of precaution that trekkers in Tibet often do, but there are some simple things you can do to help you acclimate quickly to altitude and prevent the headaches, queasy stomach, and sleepless nights. Avoiding even mild symptoms of altitude sickness will certainly help you enjoy your hunt more.
Here are some practical tips for hunters:
- be in the best shape you can be in for your hunt. Being physically fit at any altitude is a big help.
- try to arrive at altitude at least 48 hours before you’ll undertake any strenuous physical activity — even horseback riding. The more time you can spend acclimating to the elevation before your hunt begins, the better.
- drink plenty of water. Altitude sickness is often actually simple dehydration. At higher altitudes, water vapor is lost from the lungs more rapidly than at sea level. If you have a headache, drink a liter of water or Gatoraid ant take some asprin or Tylenol. If your headache goes away quickly chances are you’re mostly experiencing dehydration.
- avoid caffeine and alcohol. These can increase the likelihood of dehydration. If it’s humid and you’re losing a lot of water through perspiration, maintain electrolyte balance with sports drinks designed specifically for this purpose.
- take it easy. It is harder to breathe at higher altitude and even if you are fit, you can still feel the effects if you push yourself too hard too quickly. Resting at the altitude at which you became ill is often the most effective remedy.
- if you feel sick to your stomach, focus on objects at your same elevation or above you. Do not focus on your feet or the valley below you. Keep your head up. Breathe deeply, but slowly and steadily.